On Saturday, The News & Observer‘s Caulton Tudor authored a really good look at the currently vacant assistant coaching position within NC State’s basketball program created by the departure of Larry Hunter.
Tudor’s article flows nicely from (a) discussing Hunter to (b)providing historical perspective on his arrival at State to (c) highlighting his impact on the program to (d) looking at what State and Sendek need to do with the open position.
Tudor’s opinions are summarized in the following:
To catch up with the top programs, though, Sendek needs more productive recruiting. At this point, he needs an assistant coach as accomplished at selling the program as Hunter was at helping to draw the blueprint.
Throughout this period of improvement, State’s players have been good but not quite great. Even as the ACC player of the year in 2004, Julius Hodge was never a true game-breaker.
As this past season ended with a loss to Wisconsin, no one could pull the Pack out of its second-half shooting slump. A lack of effort, know-how or coaching didn’t stop State. It was the absence of enough raw talent to overcome eight to 10 minutes of sour shooting.
This staff opening provides Sendek with an opportunity to address the program’s changing needs. Hunter helped rebuild the team’s engine. Now, the Wolfpack needs someone who specializes in finding more horsepower.
Need to Elevate To Final Four Level Talent
I completely agree with Tudor’s concluding statement: “This staff opening provides Sendek with an opportunity to address the program’s changing needs. Hunter helped rebuild the team’s engine. Now, the Wolfpack needs someone who specializes in finding more horsepower.”
Tudor is 100% accurate that, despite “competitive talent”, Sendek’s program has never succeeded in attracting true “Final Four-level talent”. Call it whatever you want — “top talent”, “nationally competitive talent”, “Top 10 Talent”… I don’t really care. We all intuitively know the difference between the kind of talent that separates the programs that inhabit the Top Ten and those that are just happy to sneak into the Sweet 16 once every decade or so.
Of course, not all teams that make the Final Four necessarily have “Final Four Talent”…and in a tournament format not all teams with “Final Four Talent” make the Final Four. Although nothing is guaranteed, common sense dictates that a program’s chances of post season success are heightened by the level of talent that also produces stellar regular season results.
Question: HOW does NC State’s program succeed in elevating its level of talent from “better than average” to that of “ACC and national contender”?
Answer: Just as Caulton Tudor proposed, the primary characteristic of Herb Sendek’s choice should be to add a resource to the program that can achieve this needed improvement in recruiting.
Final Four Talent = NBA Talent
If you are going to win Championships in college basketball today, then you must do it with NBA-level talent. This has not always been the case. But, there is no denying the recent shift in the college game. Just take a quick snapshot at the last five NCAA Champions to understand my point:
|Year||Champion||Current NBA Players / (Projected Players)|
|2001||Duke||Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon|
|2002||Maryland||Juan Dixon, Chris Wilcox, Lonnie Baxter|
|2003||Syracuse||Carmelo Anthony, (Hakim Warrick)|
|2004||UConn||Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, (Rashad Anderson), (Charlie Villanueva), (Josh Boone)|
|2005||North Carolina||(Sean May, Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, Jawad Williams)|
Every recent National Championship squad has been comprised of not just one, but MULTIPLE NBA players. That said, Herb Sendek has coached at NC Sate for nine years and is yet to watch a single one of his recruits matriculate through his program into the NBA. Julius Hodge will be the first player to do so this year.
Do Something About It!!
NC State. Herb Sendek. Nine years. One (potential) NBA player.
The last four National Champions have AVERAGED approximately four NBA players in the single season that they won the title. It isn’t rocket science. And, burying your head in the sand and blindly hoping that that Ilian Evtimov and Engin Atsur are going to compete with the Sean Mays and Rashad McCants of the world is going only produce more 7-9 ACC seasons and NCAA bubbles identical to 3 of our 4 tournament berths in a row.
NC State has two primary problems that are both a component of a single, larger issue – The NBA:
(#1) It takes NBA-level talent to compete on a national level in today’s college basketball and NC State hasn’t succeeded in recruiting or developing this type of talent since Jim Valvano left when NC State ranked in the Top 3 of alums playing in the NBA.
(#2) Herb Sendek’s nine year tenure of failing to gather and develop NBA-talent serves as a competitive disadvantage to him gathering this kind of national talent in the future.
Lee Fowler and Herb Sendek may not like it…but, this NBA issue is a prime example of why the first five years of Herb Sendek’s career in Raleigh actually matter. – Opposing coaches use these this glaring hole in Sendek’s resume against him and the program.
For example, I know for a fact that when NC State thought we had John Gilchrist’s commitment wrapped up (for months), Gary Williams was hammering one point into the high school star — “Herb Sendek can’t develop you like I can”. When you consider Williams’ track record of developing unknown players into great teams and solid players into members of the NBA there isn’t a lot of arguing that NC State can do to the point. Hence, Sendek�s problem personified.
On February 22nd of this year, in one of his many, many, many media interviews, Lee Fowler whined to the Charlotte Observer saying, “I think it�s unfair to go back nine years but it justifies their position, so that�s why they go back nine years.�
You mean like Gary Williams having the gall to use Sendek’s ENTIRE body of work against him? How dare this competitor use facts and figures to �justify his position� to seek an obvious advantage against us? What is Fowler going to do remedy this problem? Maybe he and Sendek should call every recruit in the country and cry to them that Gary, and Roy, and Hewitt, and Prosser, and K, and everyone else are just “justifying their position”.
Of COURSE they are justifying their position!!! It�s not a real hard thing to do. And, NC State seems content on making it all too easy for them, don’t we? Instead of ever doing much to correct our short comings…it seems that many in our program simply resort to whining and wishing that things were different. Instead of arguing with human nature, instead of trying to change actual world events, and instead of wishing things were different because that is the way it �should be� in an ideal world�how about DOING something to remedy the problem?
Just like Sendek�s astute hiring of Larry Hunter four years ago, TODAY Sendek and Lee Fowler have been given a GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY to help fix a glaring shortcoming in our program. They can effectively and efficiently combat this NBA issue in the strategic hiring of the right man who has the right set of skills and pedigree to help our program the most.
My Choice = Sidney Lowe
StatefansNation has already shared some thoughts on the opening and readers are sharing some of their thoughts. I really enjoyed the perspective of Stormin and many readers discussed in this entry.
Now that I’ve had some time to think about this…I am convinced the IDEAL candidate for the current open position on the staff is Sidney Lowe.
I’ve heard some rumblings that Lowe may be interested in the position, but I admittedly do not feel as confident in these sources as many. Regardless of Lowe’s current level interest, I think that it would be a huge mistake not to aggressively reach out to the one time Wolfpacker for the current job.
Lowe is the IDEAL candidate for the current opening because he adds the most strength to most parts of Sendek’s program that are the weakest. He seems to be a perfect complement across many parts of the program — the most important of which would be adding some NBA luster to Sendek’s resume that is woefully short on professional-level success.
Outside of Nate McMillan, Sidney Lowe is as NBA-centric as anyone directly related to the NC State program. Lowe played in the NBA for six years prior to making a move into coaching. He has been the head coach of two different NBA franchises and is currently an assistant for the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team he once guided as head coach.
Sidney is a natural link to NC State’s championship tradition, he is loved by Wolfpackers and has a reputation in basketball circles as a likeable personality with an easy-going demeanor. If one of the most popular players who ever donned a uniform for the venerable Morgan Wooten AND Jim Valvano can’t build relationships with key high school coaches and top talent, then I’m not sure anyone can.
Maybe you are (unfortunately) like so many around the once proud NC State program that only want a “competitive program” that is “really good” (but not necessarily competitive in our own state). Or, maybe some subjective criteria like “improvement” is more your style. If the program continues to evolve toward these supposed goals, then it will be fun to see what obscure assistant who re-inforces Sendek�s already low national profile is hired to help bring some hidden gem of a prospect to Raleigh from Turkmanistan.
If not, and NC State finally shifts gears toward legitimately attempting to compete with top national competition, then we will see Sidney Lowe (or someone that offers a similar kind of resume) sitting next to Larry Harris and contributing to the re-emergence of the Wolfpack program.
What do you think? Share your comments below.