Well let’s start with a recap:
First State fans are attacked with a mini-tsunami of ignorant analyses. Then the local media responds to the inane utterances with a little rational discussion based on actual facts. (Yea I know. Hard to believe, huh?)
I especially appreciated Al Featherston’s approach of presenting State’s history to defend the conclusion that State should strive to compete with the top teams in the ACC, not just be satisfied with squeaking into the NCAAT. It seems like Jeff has made that same argument here at least a half-dozen times during the marvelous five years of Sendek-ball. It’s always nice when someone provides a nice foundation that we can continue to build on.
How each State fan remembers and categorizes the Sendek era is an extremely personal one…even if you stay grounded in facts. For instance, the numbers 8-38 are presented by some as the most damning piece of evidence on the Sendek era. However, those numbers never represented the same kind of power to me. I never bothered keeping up with Valvano’s record versus Dean…so why would I keep up with Sendek’s versus UNC/Duke?
To me, the most damning evidence on the Sendek era starts with the fact that big-time college basketball is a national game played out on a national stage. Yes State competes with the other two schools in the Triangle. But so does every other school that aspires to compete for a national championship.
The NCAAT crowns exactly one national champion each year. However, there a number of lesser milestones that are coveted each year…Final Fours, Elite Eights, Sweet 16’s, Regular Season championships, and Conference Tournament championships. So what bothered me the most (other than the Herb Sendek Sunshine Squad) about the Sendek era?
10 years, $10 million dollars, and 1 Sweet 16.
SIDE RANT: Why has someone never told UConn, Georgetown, Ohio State, etc that they shouldn’t try and compete with Duke/UNC? Maybe Tom Izzo, Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, et al should just retire or take a leave of absence for a few more years. The sheer stupidity displayed in the national media recently (as well as during the last coaching search) just boggles the mind.
If you look at that list of milestones to strive for, they all have one thing in common….YOU HAVE TO ACTUALLY BEAT GOOD TEAMS TO ACHIEVE THEM. (Don’t quibble about the S-16.)
This is where the unhappiness with Sendek really started. Herb always struggled against any team that could be considered good. Did you know that during the only five years that the HSSS squad remembers (which now apparently includes the national media), that he never had a winning record versus the RPI Top 50? Now much like Featherston’s article, we need to put that into perspective with other schools in the ACC:
Before we go any further, we need to set the proper perspective for this table. The years examined are arbitrary for every team/coach except for Herb. THESE WERE HERB’S BEST YEARS AT STATE (and so far, for his entire career). The story only gets worse when you expand the context of any comparison.
As you might suspect from this table, Herb struggled with far more than just UNC and Duke. Here is Herb’s head-to-head record against the ACC coaches that took at least one team to the NCAAT during his magical five-year run:
No matter how many times we refute it, some people will forever-more incorrectly claim that State fans shouldn’t expect to compete with UNC and Duke. If that argument is used in your presence, especially in conjunction with Sendek, ask them if it’s OK to want a coach that can compete with WF, UMD, and BC?
Here’s one last table that summarizes Herb’s futility against decent competition:
Even Herb’s whipping boy, Paul Hewitt, manages to pass up Herb here. Just in case anyone wants to bring up the specious claim that State was still improving under Herb, here’s one last table:
The last table helps illustrate my feeling of utter hopelessness that I felt in the spring of 2006. This was supposed to have been Herb’s year with a combination of returning experienced players and personnel losses at other schools. But the season ended with State simply extending the plateau by losing five of the last six games (including two games to last place WF) to go along with a blow-out home loss to UNC. 2007 was going to be much worse with a depleted line-up and 2008 was only going to be as good as freshman PG Chris Wright (assuming that he followed through with his verbal) turned out to be.
The present was bleak and the future looked even worse. In a strange twist of irony, the seasons since 2006 turned out to be worse than I ever imagined. However, I have never wished for a single moment that Sendek had stayed at State.
Scott Fowler (Charlotte Observer) perfectly summarized the Sendek era at State after his departure to the desert in 2006:
Sendek won bunches of C-level games and a good many B-level ones, but you could count the A-plus wins he had on one hand.
This conclusion is so obvious, that I’m absolutely amazed we are even having this conversation five years later. But of course too many in the national media believe that only certain programs should actually expect to have any A-plus wins. Let me extend my thanks to Al Featherston and Brett Friedlander for speaking out against that type of ignorance.