For years we’ve heard Lee Fowler yap and yap and yap about how well-respected and how valued Coach Herb Sendek is throughout the world of college basketball.
Well, this year we are all finding out just how valued Sendek is on the open market as multiple jobs are being filled without the first mention of interest in Sendek despite his interest in finding a new position.
Three years ago, Ben Howland left Pitt to become the Head Coach of UCLA. At the time, Coach Sendek was coming off his 2nd straight NCAA Tournament Appearance while compiling less than impressive numbers and had lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Cal.
Lee Fowler and other members of Team Sendek chose to use the open Pitt job as an opportunity to tout how attractive Herb Sendek was to the overall market and started telling the world that Pitt wanted Coach Sendek.
The truth to the Pitt rumors could never be confirmed, in large part because of the nature of how coaching ‘searches’ and conversations take place. The best that we have been able to piece together was that Team Sendek told the world that “Pitt offered Herb and he turned it down”. (We don’t know if a true offer ever officially came from the school or if conversations where being had with mutual representatives. )
But, Team Sendek failed to share that the REASON Coach Sendek decided he was not interested in the pursuing job –beacuse the financial package tied to the position was approximately $500k-$600k. Sendek, who is notoriously frugal and values money with much greater priority than is recognized publicly, was not interested in taking the job for less money even if it meant re-setting his clock at Pitt.
We thought that we would link this up since this topic has new relevance in light of the current situation at NC State. The following are some excerpts from an April 7, 2003 piece in the ACC Area Sports Journal titled “Wolfpack: AD Exaggerating Sendek Image?.
Fowler’s recent comments about his own candidacy for the AD job at Tennessee and Sendek’s candidacy for the open Pittsburgh job were kind of funny.
Fowler essentially used a public forum to advance his own aspirations, saying he was one of five finalists for the Tennessee job even though he said he had not officially talked to the school. He had, however, talked with the private firm that was conducting the search for the Volunteers, according to the Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel. Still, that wasn?t a big deal. State’s AD is willing to talk about just about anything, good and bad, and that?s one of his characteristics that most media members and many fans hope never changes.
The real head-shaker was Fowler’s gleeful admission that Pittsburgh was truly interested in hiring Sendek away. The Wolfpack coach’s name was thrown into the hat in various media reports, primarily because he is a native of the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, and in part because the Pitt job might be a position that?s attractive to him. At the time of Fowler’s initial comments, the only contact between Sendek and Pitt was of an unofficial nature, reportedly initiated by a prominent supporter of the Panthers program.
So, does Sendek really have a great reputation nationally?
“He’s a good coach, but he’s not someone whose name comes up (in discussions with coaches and other athletic directors) very often” one non-ACC athletic director from an East Coast school told the Sports Journal. I’ve always heard good things about him. He knows the game. He’s a good teacher. He does things the right way. He’s very quietly done some good things, but I can’t tell you that he would be on my short list if I was conducting a search right now. He’s just not someone whose name I hear very often. He’s not really on my radar, and he’s not on the radar of the people I talk with on a regular basis. But that doesn’t make him a bad coach.”
According to media reports and sources close to the Pittsburgh program, Sendek was third or fourth in line (at best) for the Pittsburgh opening at press time. But that didn?t stop Fowler from giving his coach a broad, unsolicited endorsement.
“We want to keep Herb Sendek,” Fowler told the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer. “I don’t know what interest there is, from either side, at this point in time. He’s got four starters back from a (9-7) ACC team, a great program next year and down the road. Where the program came from seven years ago to where it stands now, I can understand why people would be interested. Herb’s a winner, and he stands for all the right things.”
It was almost as if Fowler was trying to convince Wolfpack fans, especially that vocal portion that is always questioning Sendek?s future in Raleigh, that the school has an asset that others covet, an asset of which they should be proud. To that particular crowd, though, it was an extremely difficult product line to sell.