A Defining Season?

My old English teachers would take off points if you did not adequately defend your thesis in an essay. Obviously Ned Barnett’s editors do not share that philosophy. Ned claims that this year is a defining season for Sendek, but never really provides adequate justification for that claim. As far as I can tell, the only way that this basketball season is a defining one for Herb Sendek is if it starts a new definition, instead of continuing the one we already have.

“Stalling at pretty good� is a frightenly accurate description of the last four years of State BB. Ned mislabels this perception as a fear of State fans, but I can not think of a more accurate description of the recent past. In fact this definition can be used to divide State fans into three categories:

1) There are some that agree with the definition and are happy with this situation. Removing the ridicule that defined the Les Robinson and early Sendek years satisfies these fans. Unfortunately for me, this group includes Lee Fowler and a number of influential boosters.

2) There are some that would disagree mightily with this definition. This group constantly finds new ways to define success so that they can then claim that State has already achieved it. This group defines success in ways such as:

– Discussing ACC tournament winning percentage instead of ACC championships.
– Defining “competitive” in ways that doesn’t require wins.
– Discussing consecutive years of making the NCAA tournament without discussing how few games have been won there.
– Favoring “consistency” over meaningful accomplishments.

3) The third group is old enough to remember when State routinely competed at the top of the ACC, not just the middle. They remember when State had more ACC championships than Duke or UNC. They are appreciative of what Sendek has accomplished, but are far from satisfied. They are afraid that we have seen the best that Sendek can produce. I don’t know how many of “us� there are, but this is exactly how I feel.

I hope that Barnett is right and this becomes a defining season for NC State and Herb Sendek. Lord knows I have waited long enough for a new definition.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

General NCS Basketball

23 Responses to A Defining Season?

  1. Trout 11/30/2005 at 11:16 AM #

    So do the people in Group 3 want a new basketball coach?

    I consider myself in Group 3 (although I personally don’t remember a time when NC State had more ACC titles than UNC), but I dont think we have seen the best that Sendek can produce. I’m not satisfied, but I’m not ready to replace Sendek either.

  2. Class of '74 11/30/2005 at 11:35 AM #

    Put me in group #3 and I do remember when NCSU had more titles than the other crowd.

    Although I’m no fan of our style of basketball and I’ve not been overly happy with the level of achievement seen under Herb, I don’t feel we should replace him at this time. He’s slowly moving in the right direction and recent recruiting would indicate better times are ahead. Our problem is we are third in our own backyard and quite frankly with K and Roy in place I can’t see us stepping over those guys no matter what we do.

  3. VaWolf82 11/30/2005 at 11:54 AM #

    Speaking only for myself, Group 3 is not defined by their personal feelings about Sendek. I don’t know what will happen in the future and freely admit it. I hope that he can do better in the near future than he has in the recent past, but there is certainly no guarantee. Since I have no control over who coaches at State, I see little value in tilting at that particular windmill.

    State’s recruiting has improved, but is not anywhere close to Duke or UNC, so I don’t expect that State will do substantially better against those two schools. By my count, Herb still has to move past Gary and Skippy before we even need to talk about K and Roy…..but opinions will vary.

    As far as competing with UNC and Duke, State has done it in the past and there is no reason that they could not in the future. However, State will have to have a coach that is on the level of K and Roy before they will. Some think that Herb can “someday” compete with them, some think that State can not or will not hire a coach that can, and some are happy with what Herb has already done. Matt Doh couldn’t compete with K and so UNC found someone that could. State can stick with the coach they have or can go get another one….it’s entirely up to the powers that be (PTB). However, you would have to be absolutely crazy to expect the current PTB to force a change any time soon.

  4. Rick 11/30/2005 at 11:55 AM #

    The recruiting is no better now than it has been in the past.
    The system Herb runs is unproven.
    We have been in a four year rut. We are better than the previous 5 years but none of the past 4 years is much better than any of the others.
    There is little reason (other than plain optimism) to believe we will be any better than we have been. I epxect this year to be on par with the past 4 (some kind of “improvement” in one area and regression or stagnation in others).

  5. st0rmin 11/30/2005 at 11:58 AM #

    I am in group #3 as well. I appreciate everything that Herb has done and believe we are solid on and off the court; however, I do fear that we can’t win championships (a trademark of Case, Sloan, V – e.g. remember when we use to laugh Dean for not winning championships) with the talent we are getting. This year’s freshmen class had 1 McDonald AA, a top 50-60 player, and a top 100 player. Next years, one top 75, 1 top 150, and 1 top 250. UNC has 3 in the top ten. Everytime I hear our offense compared to Princeton, I shake my head. Even the most optmistic fans would have a hard time (with a straight face) saying that we can take less athletic players and beat, consistently, UNC/Duke whom will have future NBA players. I watched UNC play Illnois last night and was mesmerized at the speed of the game. We have a different style, but can we get to where we need to be? Last year, we were 7-9 in the ACC. We won 4 out of the last five to get to the NCAA. We upset Conn and reached the Sweet 16. Successful Season? Yes, because the end results were okay. Now, can we continue it? I ask would 16 more years of a replication of the last 4 be okay? In other words, 20 straight NCAAs, 4 Sweet 16, no acc titles, no ncaa titles? NO!

  6. Trout 11/30/2005 at 12:04 PM #

    “Speaking only for myself, Group 3 is not defined by their personal feelings about Sendek.”

    Personal feelings have nothing to do with it. I like Coach Sendek, but that wouldn’t prevent me from saying we needed a change. The question is, if you put yourself in Group 3, do you feel NC State should make a change in the head coaching position?

    And I agree, the PTB’s are not going to make a change, but what is wrong with saying that one feels a change should be made?

  7. Class of '74 11/30/2005 at 12:10 PM #

    Take Herb out of the discussion, who could we get that can beat K and Roy on a consistant basis? I do not think that coach exists at this time. Those two are 1A and 1B in college basketball.
    College basketball historically is about: 1. Head Coach 2. Guards 3. Luck.

  8. Jim 11/30/2005 at 12:10 PM #

    I think Rick and Stormin have it about right, and Barnett does too, actually. As long as Herb runs that offense we will be no better than we have been for the past few seasons — which is just “pretty good”. With Herb this program is mired in mediocrity. I am in group 3, and I am tired of settling for what we have as the best we can do. Here’s to hoping I am wrong.

  9. BJD95 11/30/2005 at 1:02 PM #

    I’m in Group 3, and don’t think he should be removed NOW. I think Sendek has shown enough to stick around for awhile longer. But if he can never top what he’s done in the past four years, then he should be encouraged to leave (not necessarily get fired).

    We have to make a move out of the “pretty good” realm in the near future. I think the next 2-3 seasons will be quite telling.

  10. TVP 11/30/2005 at 1:05 PM #

    This season won’t define anything, unless we somehow miss the NCAAs or have an absolute monster year. I don’t think another year of winning 20 or so games and getting a mid-seed in the tournament this particular year means anything one way or the other. This game, in particular, doesn’t mean anything other than whether we’ll be ranked for the next few weeks or not.

    And I think we absolutely can beat Duke and UNC recruiting at our current level, just not on an every year basis. A team of experienced guys from Top 15 type recruiting classes can and will beat a team of inexperienced McD’s players. The problem, of course, is you aren’t going to beat a team of super talented players who hang around for several years (see UNC last year, Duke this year).

    Finally, I think we are creeping slowly back to a more “mainstream” offense every year. If you compare what we run this year to 2001, it looks different. There is a consistent post presence. There are hardly any backdoors (though the D still has to respect the threat).

  11. VaWolf82 11/30/2005 at 1:18 PM #

    There are basically three reasons for firing a coach:
    1) Improprieties of some type
    2) Losing too much
    3) Not winning enough

    Let me define #2 as every Duke football coach since Spurrier and #3 as Frank Solich, Ty Willingham, and Ron Zook. It all depends on the expectations (requirements) placed on a program by the powers that be. When you make a change, sometimes you end up like Nebraska and sometimes like Notre Dame. This is the risk you must be willing to take when a change becomes necessary to move a program further than the present coach is capable of.

    For me, “pretty good” is okay for a while, but I want more than Sendek has produced over the last four years. That doesn’t mean that I think he should be dismissed after taking State to its first Sweet 16 in nearly forever. But he needs to do more…and sooner rather than later. WTNY has gotten really, really old.

    There is one particular poster at Pack Pride that likes to compare Sendek to John Wooden. Heck, right now Sendek doesn’t even compare to Gene Keady….and I want alot more than Gene ever delivered at Purdue.

  12. Trout 11/30/2005 at 1:33 PM #

    “For me, “pretty goodâ€? is okay for a while, but I want more than Sendek has produced over the last four years.”

    Agree. A mediocre season for us, going forward, should be just making the NCAAs. Good seasons would be Top 3-4 ACC finish, Sweet 16. Great seasons would be an ACC title (regular or tourney – personally, I’d almost prefer regular because it would mean a top 1-3 NCAA seed) and/or Final 4 appearance.

    I do think if NC State and Sendek ever part, #3 in your equation above will be the reason. It may not happen by a “firing” of the PTBs, but Sendek and NC State parting ways will be because of #3, and not #1 or #2.

  13. BJD95 11/30/2005 at 1:34 PM #

    ^ I think the Gene Keady analogy is quite apt. I have a friend who is a Purdue fan, and he pointed to Keady-level success as the worst of all worlds – never bad enough to get fired (and start again fresh, with enthusiasm and hope for the future), and never good enough to have any hope of turning the corner.

  14. BJD95 11/30/2005 at 1:36 PM #

    Agree with Trout – it would never be a dismissal, but more of a nudge to be looking. There were some rumblings that we were almost at that point last season, but I have no idea how far that got kicked down the road.

  15. Rick 11/30/2005 at 2:41 PM #

    I think Trout hit the nail on the head.

    I do not think Fowler realizes sometimes you have to take a chance on getting worse so that you have a chance to get better.

  16. site admin 11/30/2005 at 2:58 PM #

    Even if Sendek didn’t make the NCAA’s (which I don’t think would happen) he wouldn’t get fired. This season won’t define anything unless we win something

  17. hhb 11/30/2005 at 4:44 PM #

    While I agree that we can and should be doing better, I think that you all fail to remember some key issues. First, Sendek has had some great recruiting years only to have key injuries or poor decisions (Powell) hurt the team. While Sendek has had improved recruits in recent years, I believe that the true test is the number of quality players on the team. This years team appears to have a number of quality players to step in at multiple possitions to include a true inside/out threat. Tonights game will provide a true test of what we should expect for the coming year. I for one will be surprised if we do not improve substantially over last year.

  18. scott 12/01/2005 at 12:35 AM #

    I’m definitely in Group 3, and I think Barnett’s description of the status of Sendek’s program is quite accurate, although I don’t think this can be called a “defining” season since Lee won’t fire Herb even if he goes 15-16. The comparison of Herb to Keady is much more appropriate than a comparison to Wooden, which is just plain silly. JW was very successful at UCLA from his very first year (22-7) w/numerous conference championships & one of the best won/lost coaching percentages in the country BEFORE he won his 1st NCAA title…Herb’s no where near that.

  19. Class of '74 12/01/2005 at 6:15 AM #

    If last night is the definiton the word is: ugly.

  20. blpack 12/01/2005 at 7:17 AM #

    Good morning. Smelling coffee? Two teams that went after each in a hard fought, ugly, turn over filled game. Didn’t even sniff 50 points. Our preseason fears of no go-to guy, lack of rebounding, no floor leader, etc. are all there. On nights when the shots are not falling like rain, we will be a painful team to watch, just like the seasons before. It’s a shame and I’m tired of it, but it is December & our team has the most of the season left to get its act together. Can only get better from here.

  21. arw 12/02/2005 at 12:55 PM #

    Folks, I don’t agree that a change is needed.
    1. I think the program is going in the right direction. Graduation rates and wins are coming up.
    2. We must start to beat Duke ,C.H., and Wake, and that is a must in all of our sports programs. At least go 50% against them.
    3. I really like the quality of young men the BB staff is recruiting.
    4. Case and Sloan did real well, but our league is quite different now. But we must start to really win some ACC titles in all of our programs if we are to continue to recieve the present high level of Fan and Donor support.
    I truly believe that all of our coaches and the AD realize that we must move foreward on all fronts.We the Supporters are going to live forever.

  22. Jeff 12/03/2005 at 6:32 PM #

    The perspective that runs through many of these comments are that things are:
    – improving
    – moving in the right direction
    – showing progress
    – coming up

    Since when is friggin “improvement” the reason that the

    If we didn’t STINK for so *&)^ long, we wouldn’t need improvement! How do you give so much credit for “improvement” to the guy that was steering the ship when it was so bad that it created the low baseline from which we are ‘improving’?

    And, how in God’s name were last season’s results an “improvement”? An improvement from what? We won ONE GAME against UConn to move us into the Sweet 16 and people forget that we were once 4-7 in the ACC and finished 7th in the conference with a 7-9 record? That one game was definitely nice…it was also a product of the fact that we had such a bad season that we couldn’t muster a decent enough seed in the Tournament to avoid such a difficult 2nd round game.

  23. VaWolf82 03/20/2006 at 10:10 PM #

    Original article for archives:

    Published: Nov 30, 2005 12:30 AM
    Modified: Nov 30, 2005 04:33 AM

    Sendek’s tenure at State faces defining season
    NED BARNETT, Staff Writer

    Of all the stats that surround the N.C. State men’s basketball team, none is more surprising than the number next to Herb Sendek’s coaching tenure.

    This is his 10th season.

    After all the negative e-mails, letters and radio calls in Sendek’s lowest moments, he remains in his job and unchanged in his manner — pleasant, calm and deliberate. He has survived by winning when he had to win. He gained solid footing by reaching the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 16 last season and has opened this year 5-0 and ranked No. 24.

    Tonight in Iowa, Wolfpack fans will get their first real measure of whether Sendek has the Pack truly back. A win over No. 14 Iowa will announce that Sendek — with the team and playing the style he wants — may have State playing consistently at a level fans expect.

    A lopsided loss will stir the grumbling that follows every Sendek stumble. It will suggest again that the Pack is good, but not really good. And that it is as good as it’s going to get.

    The fans’ fear of stalling at “pretty good” is what lingers behind the symbolism of Sendek reaching this milestone season.

    Can a system and a style developed to get State off the bottom also get it to the top?

    He has gotten this far by winning some big ones, making the NCAA Tournament four years in a row and keeping alive the hope that the Pack’s glory days are not confined to its glorious past.

    But 10 years into State’s restoration, the Wolfpack is a star-less team of interchangeable parts. It follows a system that keeps scoring low and passing high.

    It was a good fix for the past, but is it a foundation for the future?
    Sendek’s tenure has always been seen in the light of what happened before him. There were the triumphs of Norm Sloan, the dominance of David Thompson and the magic of Jim Valvano. And there was the turmoil of Valvano’s departure under the cloud of an NCAA investigation and the grim losing seasons that followed like a period of atonement.

    Sendek arrived in April 1996 to restore State’s respect, not only as a team, but as a program. In that, he has been an unqualified success. He runs a clean program. He stresses academics. He recruits players of good character.

    On the court, Sendek has found a way to win beyond what his players’ talent would seem to allow. In many respects, Sendek has accomplished what he was brought here to do. He has stabilized the program and polished its image.

    That took 10 years. Now what? If Sendek has put the past in the past, what kind of a future will he make?

    That is the question that goes with him to Iowa and will be answered by the end of this season.

    Sendek knows about getting more out of less, but can he get more from more? His system attracts players who like the opportunity to play interchangeable roles, but does it appeal to franchise players who are good enough to have a system revolve around them?

    Sendek knows how to keep the score down, but can his team score in bunches and come back to win?

    The issue with Sendek has never been his determination. It’s his flexibility. It’s clear he can bear down and survive. But can he adjust? Can he let go of the system that saved him once his players’ talent outgrows it? Can he recruit such talent, or will he continue to assemble teams of passers and cutters who are hard to beat, but lack the ability to surge through a season and the NCAA Tournament?

    Such questions will come into interesting focus in Iowa given the contrast between Sendek and Hawkeyes coach Steve Alford.

    Sendek got into coaching after being cut by a new coach at Carnegie Mellon. Through a mix of intelligence, integrity and persistence he worked his way up to Rick Pitino’s side at Providence and Kentucky.

    Alford came into coaching after being a celebrated player who took Indiana to the 1987 national championship.

    Alford brought flair and scoring to his work. Sendek brings intelligence and a respect for incremental gains.

    In his seventh season at Iowa, Alford needs a good season after going 41-55 in the Big Ten. In Raleigh, fans are satisfied with Sendek, but wondering when the fun begins.

    Maybe tonight, they’ll begin to see. The Star vs. The Striver. Which is the better way to the top?

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