There is life after Hodge, but is there life after Hunter?

The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy submitted an entry in his blog on Thursday that focused on the NC State Basketball program that was quite optimistic about the Wolfpack’s season despite the loss of Julius Hodge.

After touting Hodge’s impact in Raleigh, DeCourcy focused on the Wolfpack’s depth of talent and versatility, highlighting Andrew Brackman and Cedric Simmons in addition to mentioning Ilian Evitmov and Gavin Grant. The following are some selected comments from DeCourcy:

No player dominated any program during the previous four years as obviously as Hodge did NC State. He led the Wolfpack in scoring three times, in rebounding twice and assists twice. The Pack made the NCAA Tournament in every one of his four seasons — after enduring an 11-year absence from the event.

This program would prefer not to spend another decade on the outside. Hodge’s departure does not make that inevitable.

Few programs have as many players who can catch, handle, pass and shoot. It’s what Herb Sendek’s version of the Princeton offense demands — and rewards.

There are a few teams stranded outside TSN’s top 25 that could — to stretch the point a bit — embarrass us. NC State will compete with such teams as Indiana, LSU, Charlotte, George Washington and Kansas to be ranked at the top of that list.

In addition to Julius Hodge, there is another significant piece of the Wolfpack’s basketball program that no longer resides in Raleigh after four years of positive impact — that piece is named Larry Hunter. If you have the ACCAreaSportsJournal’s premium subscription, you can view their take on Hunter’s departure by clicking here.

The ACCASJ believes that Hunter’s departure will “test” Herb Sendek significantly more than many people seem to realize. For starters, the ACCASJ says “Do the math”; something that a certain subset of the Wolfpack’s fan base has never been able to do when the name Herb Sendek is involved.

“Sendek was 86-74 in his first five seasons at State, and he was coming off a 13-16 campaign when Hunter – fired by Ohio University after a 19-11 effort in 2000-01 – came aboard. Sendek went 83-48 over the next four years, with four straight invitations to the NCAA Tournament, including a Sweet 16 trip this season.

Hunter wasn’t the only reason for that, of course. A guy named Julius Hodge also arrived on the scene in 2001 and had something to do with it, as did Marcus Melvin, Ilian Evtimov and others. But the contrast in numbers with and without Hunter on the bench is startling, and it is not merely a coincidence.

The 86-74 pre-Hunter record computes to a winning percentage of .537. The 83-48 with Hunter computes to .633. In basketball land, that’s the leap from bad to good.

Hunter was the calm, collected voice of experience and a voice of reason on the bench alongside Sendek. One of Hunter’s biggest assets was game-planning and his ability to make adjustments during games.

Some State insiders point to the Wolfpack’s loss to Wisconsin in the 2005 NCAA Regional semifinals as an example of how valuable a role Hunter played as a strategist. The coach became ill at the team’s pregame meal. The game plan was set and the preparation had been done by that point, of course, and it was solid. State dominated the first half and jumped to a 30-21 halftime lead.

At halftime, when Hunter normally would be making adjustments, he was too ill to be helpful. Wisconsin roared back, outscored State 44-26 in the second half and won 65-56. Again, there were many other factors, including Hodge’s four-of-16 shooting, but you get the picture.

So, what do you think? How much will the significant talent that remains in the Wolfpack’s stable be able to compensate for the loss of Julius Hodge & Larry Hunter? Our comments function is turned on and we’d love to hear what you think.

General NCS Football

12 Responses to There is life after Hodge, but is there life after Hunter?

  1. newswolf 10/28/2005 at 7:59 AM #

    I think we will be ok w/o Hunter. I am more worried about the loss of Hodge. I don’t want this to another post-losing rivers.

  2. st0rmin 10/28/2005 at 8:01 AM #

    I think this article addresses an often forgotten point with respect our BB program. Coach Hunter should be praised for his contribution. As you may recall, Coach Sendek hired Hunter “to examine every facet of our program”. We will now see where we go from here. To be honest with you, there is a time and place for an elder coach to be on staff (ala, Pete Gaudet at Duke) and a time for him to leave. We will see in our situation this year.

  3. BJD95 10/28/2005 at 8:02 AM #

    The question is whether Sendek has learned sufficiently from Hunter and/or 4 years of head coaching experience to withstand it. Agree with newswolf that losing Hodge is more important, in that he gave the team the vocal leadership that it needed. With him gone, is it going to just be a bunch of cerebral guys at a shootaround, playing with no fire or passion? I guess we’ll see.

  4. Jeff 10/28/2005 at 9:29 AM #

    Sendek, and his staffs, have historically gotten an A+ on single-game preparation. I believe this is why we typically do so well in the first game of most tournaments.

    Conversely, I think that he is a horrible game-coach and fails to make major adjustments in-game, especially on defense. He is DEFINITELY NOT known for creativity and innovation. It is almost subbornness that is rooted in, “This is what we do…so this is what we will do…and we can’t deviate from the system”. You rarely see surprises from State. (To be fair, he has at least changed up some defenses and surprises in the last year or two).

    Stormin makes a great point about bringing in an experienced Head Coach to assess the whole program. IMHO, this has been one of Chuck’s biggest weaknesses on the football side — he doesn’t want to hear anything bad from anyone. It is his program and it is right and that is the way it is going to be done. We see the long term effects of this in coaching turnover and now performance.

    In basketball, we will miss Hodge in the “go to situation”. Our offense creates major problems for the team in those “got to have a basket situations” Even Hodge was miserable at executing in the “need to score at the end of the half/game.” People remember UConn and seem to have forgotten the dozens of other games that we totally bombed in those situations even with Julius. I am very scared how we will execute without him.

  5. Rick 10/28/2005 at 10:40 AM #

    When I was able to watch, Hunter always seemed to do the talking in the huddle. I was under the impression he was the vocal one.
    I personally feel his loss combined with JH will be a bigger blow than many realize.
    But like someone said, if Herb has learned from hunter then maybe it is not an issue.

  6. TVP 10/28/2005 at 5:26 PM #

    “People remember UConn and seem to have forgotten the dozens of other games that we totally bombed in those situations even with Julius.”

    Yep. Frankly, I’m not sure we can do much worse than we already did.

    “At halftime, when Hunter normally would be making adjustments, he was too ill to be helpful. Wisconsin roared back, outscored State 44-26 in the second half and won 65-56.”

    I’m not sure I buy this. There were plenty of games we blew leads in even with Hunter on the sideline (Maryland 2004 ACC tournament, anyone?). Wisconsin was simply a better team than we were and better teams usually win.

    I have no idea how well this team will perform sans Hodge/Hunter, but I’m excited to see it. The sky is the limit really – the talent mix is potentially explosive. And if we perform poorly (and I don’t think we will) then there will be no doubt as to where to assign fault.

  7. Fred McCulloch 10/29/2005 at 9:13 AM #

    For all of the talk about JH as the vocal leader of the team, Marcus Melvin was a much more effective leader for the team during the previous season. He wasn’t the player JH was, but he was definitely a better leader for the team. Etimov will fill the role this year on the floor. We will have to wait and see how much Herb learned from Hunter.

  8. Eric Smith '93 10/30/2005 at 6:41 AM #

    I remember thinking after our first year with coach Hunter that he was the answer to coach Sendek’s inability to coach. When Hunter was hired, we essentially had two head coaches on our bench. Sendek has a gift for recruiting, but does not seem able to make on-the-court decisions. Whether or not Hunter added that ability will be seen this year without him on the sidelines. Sure, the players were part of the reason we won games — this is a team effort after all. But I have a feeling that the loss of Hunter will impact us more than some think.

  9. Jeff 10/30/2005 at 5:28 PM #

    “Wisconsin was simply a better team than we were and better teams usually win.”

    Respectfully, I can’t buy that in any way shape or form. The only place that they were better than us was the coach on their bench.

    The week before the Sweet 16, the Sporting News ranked the 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament. NC State was #15. Wisconsin was #16. Certainly not a compelling argument to propose that Wisconsin was undoubtedly the “better team”.

    Wisconsin didn’t have a single recruiting class on their team that was ranked higher than the four classes comprising last year’s Wolfpack. We could not have asked for a better opportunity to advance to the Elite Eight.

    I just went back to an old entry about the State-Wisconsin game (the Blog is AWESOME for archiving history)

    “Consider these notes on Wisconsin’s comeback after trailing 30-21 at the half.

    Previous to meeting State, the low-scoring Badgers were 1-6 when trailing at halftime this season. Their comeback from nine points down was their biggest of the season.

    State gave up 44 points in the second half to a team that scores 67 per game.

    And here’s the big note: It was the first time in 25 years that State lost an NCAA Tournament game in which it led at the half…

    …Still, State’s woeful show on a gloomy Good Friday evening squandered most of the respect it gained by getting here. The game was ridiculed as an ugly mess. It was. Wisconsin completed the first half with 11 turnovers and no assists. A team that set a school record for 3-pointers didn’t hit one in the first 20 minutes.

    State should have pounded the Badgers and ended the half leading by 20. Wisconsin was that bad, but State had another half to be even worse.

    The price of this loss will be heavy. The buzz building around State’s run died. Grumbling about coach Herb Sendek revived. And an opportunity State may not see again for years was missed.”

  10. Mr. O 10/31/2005 at 11:38 AM #

    Didn’t Larry Hunter cause a lot of our mid-season chemistry issues last season?

    I was impressed by our collection of talent on Saturday. We have more quality basketball players than I have ever seen on a Sendek team. We won’t run teams off the court like UNC did last year, but I don’t think we are lacking athleticism at all.

    We should be a really good team next year. Even our rebounding may improve this year.

  11. TVP 11/02/2005 at 4:38 PM #

    I’m not disputing that we had a great opportunity to win and blew it. I’m just saying that I think Hunter’s absence had little if anything to do with it.

    As for Wisconsin being the better team, they were a 6 seed versus our 10. Tucker is at least as good a player as Hodge. They obviously had a much better regular season than us. They came within a inch of beating UNC. Furthermore, they’ve made the tournament something like seven years running.

    The comeback had less to do with Hunter’s absence and more to do with 1) our inability to open up more than an 11 point lead at the half despite Wisconsin playing about as badly as humanly possible in the first and 2) an inevitable recovery by Wisconsin from said bad half of basketball.

    This is off topic, but I’d also disagree with the characterization from the earlier piece that “the buzz from State’s run has died.” I’ve seen the Sweet 16 trip mentioned in virtually every preseason article written about the team and based on observation it seems much of the fan base feels better about the season and has higher expectations because of last March.

  12. Jeff 11/05/2005 at 12:30 PM #

    Seth Davis, of Sports Illustrated:

    N.C. State: Will losing Julius Hodge be addition by subtraction?

    “My opinion of Hodge vacillated from year to year, game to game and sometimes from possession to possession. While Hodge’s versatility and talent cannot be questioned (his winning drive in the second-round against UConn last year was the program’s biggest bucket in more than a decade), the Wolfpack suffered when his teammates relegated themselves to bystanders. Now all hands must be on deck in Raleigh, and the ‘Pack has some pretty good paws — most notably those belonging to 6-10 sophomore center Andrew Brackman. N.C. State doesn’t have any player as talented as Hodge was, but its whole may wind up exceeding the sum of his parts.”

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