Team preview: Arizona State
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
Not surprisingly, Herb Sendek has said all the right things about his decision to leave NC State for Tempe.
"It just seems like, for all the right reasons, this is the perfect time to be making this move for myself and my family," Sendek said. "This seems like a limitless world."
Ask him 23 different ways about being underappreciated at NC State and never being able to fulfill the legacies of Everett Case, Norm Sloan and especially Jim Valvano -- in terms of both personality as much as wins and losses -- and the Arizona State job being his chance to be judged upon his own merits, and Sendek's answers offer nothing more than, "No matter where you're at, people are going to want more success. I'm excited for the opportunity here, it's fantastic, and I'm grateful to everyone at NC State." Eventually, the folks at Arizona State will be grateful to NC State as well.
"A steal. It's a complete steal for Arizona State," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenburg said. "I'm sitting in these league meetings with Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski and [Sendek] is by far the brightest guy in the room. He always sees things from a unique angle, an intelligent light."
While the results weren't enough for some of the NC State faithful and even a local media member or two, Sendek's decade-long run in Raleigh was an impressive one. Having inherited a program in shambles in 1996, Sendek produced the Wolfpack's first winning record in six years, with 17 wins and an NIT berth. Over his tenure, NC State won 191 games and qualified for postseason play 9-of-10 seasons. Only two ACC teams played in the last five NCAA Tournaments. Duke is one. The Wolfpack was the other.
"I hope the people at Arizona State realize what just happened," said Florida coach Billy Donovan who worked with Sendek when both were assistants to Rick Pitino at Kentucky. "When you talk about the complete and total package of a coach, he's it."
Sendek's latest rebuilding job won't be as tough as his last. Sure, the Sun Devils finished 11-17 and tied for eighth in the conference at 5-13 in former coach Rob Evans' eighth and final season. And, their leading scorer and without debate best all-around player, guard Kevin Kruger (15.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 81 three-pointers) took advantage of a new NCAA rule and transferred to UNLV, to play for his father Lon. The new rule allows a player who graduates with a year of eligibility remaining to transfer without sitting a season out.
"Kevin spoke to me about his desire to play for his father, and with the passing of a new proposal that option became available to him quickly," Sendek said. "We'll continue to develop the players we have, make adjustments and keep working hard towards our goals."
The Sun Devils aren't far removed from a couple of solid seasons. They won 18 games in 2004-05 and 20 in 2002-03.
Six of last season's seven leading scorers return, with Kruger the lone exception. And already, within his first few months on campus, Sendek showed his merit as one of the top recruiters nationally, landing Duke transfer Eric Boateng.
After sitting out the upcoming season, the 6-10 center will have three seasons of eligibility remaining. Coming out of high school, Boateng, who enrolled at ASU over the summer, was ranked as the No. 3 center in the country and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was reportedly not pleased at the McDonald's All-American's decision to depart Durham. The native of England, who weighs 255 pounds, saw limited action with the Blue Devils last winter but was expected to challenge for a starting job this year.
"Absolutely, signing Eric helps us credibility wise, it shows we can bring that top player here to Arizona State," Sendek said. "I was ecstatic; it's a tremendous lightning rod for our program. For him to leave Duke and come here, that sends everyone in the country a message."
Sendek has an atypical mindset about the players he inherited.
"The players on this team are our guys," Sendek said. "You always hear coaches take a new job and talk about needing a few years to recruit your guys, well that's not the case here. The minute I took this job, these guys were my guys."
Sendek has fond memories of his first NC State team in 1996-97 that was picked to finish in the lower regions of the ACC standings, started off miserably and won 8-of-11 to close the season including an upset of Duke in the ACC Tournament. As in that instance, Sendek plans on starting anew with his roster and probably won't watch any film from last season.
"It's a new beginning for everyone, we're going to bring in a different style and it's a chance for all of us to move forward," Sendek said. "I'm in the beginning stages of learning the Pac-10 as it's been pretty hectic since coming out here. I was by myself this spring, but after the school year, my wife and three daughters moved out and the reception has been overwhelmingly kind. The campus is beautiful and really, this entire area is gorgeous."