Sick Irony: Exactly Four Years Ago

Life’s little ironies can be very, very cruel. Sometimes, indescribably cruel.

I present the following article run EXACTLY three years ago to the day of last night’s pounding at the hands of Carolina.

February 3, 2001
The News & Observer

Beleaguered Sendek says he won’t resign

Chip Alexander, Staff Writer

RALEIGH — The question was posed during Herb Sendek’s radio call-in show Thursday night, and the N.C. State coach had to know it was coming.

A caller who identified himself as “Shaheen” said that he had seen little improvement in the Wolfpack program and that he had expected more in Sendek’s fifth season. Then, in closing, he abruptly asked if Sendek would resign if the Pack didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year.

There it was – the question.

“I’m not considering stepping down,” Sendek quickly replied, drawing applause from State fans at Crowley’s Courtyard, where his show is held.

On Friday, Sendek was asked about the irate caller, about the remarks, the question. Was he hurt by it? Disappointed? Miffed?

Sendek paused for several seconds, as if choosing his words even more carefully than usual.

“Nobody likes to be confronted that way, so I’m not saying that I liked it,” Sendek said. “But I think on an interpersonal level, at this point I’m able to separate myself from that, I really am.

“I think I have things in enough perspective, and have enough faith, that I’m able to separate or disconnect from that and still stay focused on what’s most important.”

To Sendek, what’s important is today’s 1 p.m. game against 12th-ranked Syracuse (17-3) at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. It’s his players. It’s what he calls a “sense of renewal” for the Pack next week as it heads into the second half of the ACC season.

“I think anything’s possible for this team,” he said. “I want us to take inventory of the good we have done – and we’ve played well and done some good things – and not let that be lost or discounted. At the same time, I want us to take a good, hard look in the mirror at the things we’ve got to do a better job of.

“I’ve been so proud of the bounce-back this team has had. I think guys with lesser constitutions would have had ample reason not to compete or play as hard as they have.”

Sendek apparently is so intent on game preparation, so consumed with basketball tunnel vision, that he was not aware NCSU’s student newspaper, The Technician, recently conducted a poll on whether he should be fired. Of the almost 500 respondents, 87 percent favored a dismissal.

“I can’t control that,” Sendek said. “I can only focus on the things I can [control] each day. If I was going to stop and answer every critic, every poll, I think that would make doing my job much more difficult.”

Not to say Sendek doesn’t have his supporters. Before Thursday’s radio show ended, former Gov. Jim Hunt called in to praise Sendek. “As a longtime Wolfpacker, I’m behind you 100 percent,” said Hunt, an NCSU graduate who some believe could one day be chancellor. Hunt cited the effort given by the Pack in recent losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest and said Sendek had done a “great job.”

Sendek, whose contract extends through 2005, says he also appreciated a strong show of support by NCSU athletic director Lee Fowler. After the Pack’s 0-3 start in the ACC, Fowler publicly asked State fans for patience, saying he believed Sendek was building a program, athletically and academically, that would have staying power once fully in place.

Nor is Fowler deviating from that stance with State now 10-9 overall and 2-6 in the conference.

“I have no question Herb will be a successful coach,” Fowler said Thursday. “He’s a quality, really good guy. Still, you have to produce and he knows that.”

Fowler played college basketball at Vanderbilt and later coached. He says he likes the way Sendek has gone about his business and handled himself, even with some of the State faithful beginning to grumble.

“He doesn’t get rattled,” Fowler said. “When I ask him how he’s doing, he says, ‘I’m focused, I’m looking down at the ground, I work hard every day and I’ll look up in March.’

“That’s the way you have to do it. You have to believe you can win the close ones just like you lost them, that you can get on a four- or five-game win streak and everything turns around.”

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, for one, sees a Wolfpack team that appears very dangerous, that’s hungry for a big, juicy win. He sees a team that pushed Duke to the final minutes, that could have beaten UNC or Wake Forest – or both.

“What’s that, three teams in the top 12?” Boeheim said. “They couldn’t quite do it, but I’m not sure we could have played that well against those three teams.

“N.C. State came away with nothing but they’re close. You can tell they’re that close.”

The Pack’s Damon Thornton isn’t happy with the team’s record, which he calls deceiving. He knows Sendek is being criticized and it bothers him. But Thornton, a fifth-year senior, who was a freshman on Sendek’s first Wolfpack team, believes his coach is laying the foundation for a strong program.

“We had two seniors last year that came in with Coach Sendek who graduated,” Thornton said. “Our seniors this year will all graduate. The quality of players coming in, the potential of the team, it’s obvious. You can see the difference between when I first came and now, and I think it’s in a lot better shape.”

Copyright 2001 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.

Flashback General NCS Basketball

7 Responses to Sick Irony: Exactly Four Years Ago

  1. Bullish 02/04/2005 at 10:13 AM #

    Where is Shaheen when you need him? LOL

  2. WTNY 02/04/2005 at 4:01 PM #

    Speaking of Shaheen, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him (or others willing to express Shaheen’s viewpoint) call in to Coach Sendek’s show next week — especially if the Pack falters against UVa.

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