Quote: No Swagger in Sendek

“(N.C. State coach) Herb Sendek has the hangdog look of a coach whose idea of a perfect basketball game is sometimes 1-nil. There is no hint of joy in his wan facade, no sense of elation. His is the look of a person who carries the burden of too many tough losses of the past.

There is no swagger in Sendek, just an expressed desire to play it close, keep it close, because you never know, because one possession here or there, one shot here or there, and the night can be yours. It is a method that sometimes puts everyone to sleep, an incongruent concept for a conference that believes its worst game tops the best of everyone else�s.”

– Columnist Tom Knott, in the Washington Times,
March 2005

General NCS Basketball Quotes of Note

21 Responses to Quote: No Swagger in Sendek

  1. Jamie 01/07/2006 at 5:35 PM #

    I have observed the bloggers on this site for only a few months now, even though I am a lifelong wolfpack fan. At times I have disagreed with many of your opinions, viewing them as pessimist, or, glass half empty kind of views. I have wondered how, maybe if we, as fans, support Herb, things might improve.
    Today, I witnessed the embarrassment of a dunkfest butt whipping, at the hands of the despised you know whos, for the millionth time, and I am seriously questioning the horses that I have my wagon hitched to. Now I know, fan apathy is not good for the program, but it can’t be any worse than coach, AD, and school administration apathy.
    I guess the point is, this is a plea to all the boosters out there. Cut them off. That’s right, just cut them off. Things are obviously not going to change until someone gets their attention, and if we hit them where it hurts (in the wallet) maybe someone will notice.
    What, this has been said before? The big boosters don’t read this site? So what? I am talking about a grass roots effort here. If you aren’t happy with the progress(or lack of) in our programs, don’t spend one more penny on the programs. No more tickets to games, souvenirs, or any funds spent to indicate that there is interest in this shambles of an athletic program. Heck, tell your neices and nephews to go to other colleges.Cut them off.
    As for me and my family, I will not be embarrassed anymore. I am officially unhitching my wagon, until there is a change in personnel, or my team starts winning consistently. Fair weather? Maybe so, but that’s a hell of a lot better than continually being let down by my team. How do those people in Cleveland do it?

  2. Fish 01/07/2006 at 8:53 PM #

    Welcome aboard!

    We all feel your pain. I have just given up. Hopefully in my lifetime, I will see us beat UNC again in something besides cross-country and baseball. I seriously doubt that we will see NCSU win a championship both in football and basketball . We will have better luck winning the soon North Carolina lottery.

  3. Sammy Kent 01/07/2006 at 8:59 PM #

    Rarely do I agree with anything in the Washington Post, but Knott is exactly right. Something else I thought was rather telling this week: I lurked on the Terp boards to see their reaction to local boy Chris Wright committing to the Pack, and it was quite revealing. The posters were almost unanimous in their judgment that it was a good pickup for State. They were also nearly unanimous in their incredulity that a real PG would want to try and work in Herb’s offense. I still cannot believe the blinders some of our fans wear when they look at Herb and our program. Our opponents aren’t fooled by Herb’s attempts to re-invent basketball after 100+ years. Why are so many of our own fans?

  4. TVP 01/07/2006 at 9:08 PM #

    ^So you’re taking anything at all from the reactions of Maryland posters on the boards? Then I guess you must think Philip Rivers sucks and is an asshole, since that is the near unanimous opinion of him over there. Be serious. I couldn’t care less what that group of morons or some hack columnist says – and I think it’s ridiculous to say that Sendek doesn’t have any confidence or fire.

  5. SaccoV 01/07/2006 at 9:58 PM #

    Agreed on this one. I’m critical of Herb in areas that all coaches should be criticized (recruiting, graduation, improvement). To pontificate deeply over Herb’s placid exterior is ludicrous. It’s one thing to say he’s a bad coach; it’s completely assonine to call him bald or calm or pasty or whatever. I’m surprised this same columnist isn’t pointing out Roy Williams’ nearsightedness.

  6. Sammy Kent 01/07/2006 at 10:38 PM #

    TVP, the only thing that I am taking from that Maryland board is the shame that even people stupid enough to think Philip Rivers sucks can see what so many of our own fans either cannot or will not see. If you folks would read the paragraph again, you’ll see that “hack” columnist was criticizing Herb’s demeanor ONLY IN THE CONTEXT THAT IT PERMEATES HIS COACHING PHILOSOPHY. I quote, “…just an expressed desire to play it close, keep it close, because you never know, because one possession here or there, one shot here or there, and the night can be yours.” Herb has no fire to challenge the big boys on their terms and take them down with their own devices. Scared to attempt to force our will on powerful programs like Carolina and Dook, he’d rather just try and keep it close and hope for fair skies and a good tailwind at the end of the game. Cam Bennerman said he knew the game was lost with two minutes to go. We all did. There’s no way in the world these kids have any confidence in their coach at the end of the game. No possible way. They’ve seen this show too many times, and my guess is they’re tired of being cast in re-runs of the same old tragedy.

  7. SaccoV 01/07/2006 at 11:19 PM #

    ^ Sammy – Everyone for the last nine years has known that Herb has been and will be impertubable. But so what? Do you really think that if Herb yelled more he would win more?

  8. Sammy Kent 01/08/2006 at 1:12 AM #

    ^SaccoV, no I don’t think yelling by itself would produce more wins…although who knows? It might. Who can say? Vic Bubas rarely yelled, but he darn sure won a lot. But Bubas had a gentleman’s way about him that belied a burning passion to not just win, but make his opponents grovel and kiss his shoe sole. What I hear Knott saying, and I agree with him, is that both Herb’s gentlemanly demeanor and his cerebral offense seem to come from the same chromosome as it were. What you see in the man’s face is what you see in the offense…stoic, robotic, methodically and meticulously choreographed to appeal to the intellect. There’s no swagger because there’s no killer instinct. There’s no spoiled brat child deep within that can’t stand to lose and throws a tantrum when stuff doesn’t go his way. There’s nothing unpleasant, confrontational, or vicious about Herb Sendek the man (and I appreciate that)…or his basketball philosophy (and I hate that). He doesn’t want a beatdown. He wants a chess game. He doesn’t want to get even; he doesn’t care about payback. He doesn’t want to send his guys out to run and dunk and jam and thoroughly embarrass you. He wants to outwit you with a splendidly conceived concept…a clever play that will leave you smiling at the wonder of it all.

    Well, whether we like it or not, the great coaches have always had that bratty child within them… an intemperate imp that so hates defeat that he will not live with anything less than total victory and while at it, stomp every opponent into a mudhole and intimidate them down to the size of a pissant for having the audacity to challenge him. Sometimes they let him control the whole man (Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Norm Sloan), and sometimes they keep him hidden behind a dignified facade (Dean Smith, John Wooden, Terry Holland). I really don’t care if Herb yells or not–just find that ill-behaved, defeat-hating intimidating little bully inside himself and let him design the game plan.

  9. SaccoV 01/08/2006 at 12:06 PM #

    ^ Sammy – It’s interesting, only in revealing yourself, that you find this type of behavior warranted, and in fact, preferred in a coach. I think we can all be assured that it wasn’t Herb’s PLAN to lose by 13 and not score in the final two minutes of a game. And again, just because you don’t see it (either from him directly or in your perception of the game his players have) doesn’t mean that his temper doesn’t get the best of him. The real point is, you cannot gameplan for a basketball game with anger. If you do, then you’ll start very quickly and then die with about three minutes left in the first half. You seem to think that sports is based solely on emotion. It’s not. The reason these guys play at that level is because of honing their talents, not because they get mad after a loss. When it comes down to it, you don’t like Herb, which is understandable. But trying to expect something that you’re not going to receive is the true childish behavior. He’s calm and soft-spoken, and I believe that if he were to suddenly erupt (like most of his colleagues), he would only become less than what he is. Stop trying to expect an attitude adjustment or a change of heart when it comes to Herb’s demeanor.

  10. TVP 01/08/2006 at 1:37 PM #

    “the only thing that I am taking from that Maryland board is the shame that even people stupid enough to think Philip Rivers sucks can see what so many of our own fans either cannot or will not see.”


    Spin this however you want, but this commentary (and by extension, the linking of it here) has nothing to do with objective results and facts. It is just a thinly disguised personal attack on the coach (one that, in my opinion, doesn’t have a basis in reality, but that isn’t even the point).

    I’m pretty disappointed to see this on SFN – I like this site even when I don’t always agree with what I see here because you folks try to rationally back up your arguments. This is (hopefully) out of character and just venting after an emotional loss, which is fine – we all do it.

  11. Sammy Kent 01/08/2006 at 2:27 PM #

    Well, Sacco, I think you have misunderstood me. It’s wrong to say that I don’t like Herb. I can tell you many things about Herb that I like and admire. I want him to succeed beyond my wildest dreams. I simply don’t think he can be a championship caliber coach. Let me paste what I think is my main point:

    There’s nothing unpleasant, confrontational, or vicious about Herb Sendek the man (and I appreciate that)…or his basketball philosophy (and I hate that).

    I’m not talking about wanting to see Herb act like a child. I think both Knight and Kersherooski are class 1 a-holes. I love the fact that Herb is a dignified gentleman of impeccable integrity. But I think a successful coach has to have some part of his psyche that views his sport as a 40-minute life and death war more than a game, and he can have that whether he visibly explodes (Knight) or remains calm and soft-spoken (Wooden). If Herb is calm and soft-spoken, that’s fine. I’m talking about having within himself an alter-ego if you will, that so despises losing and so wants to annihilate all opposition that he would rather die than lose. That coach stops at nothing in his preparation of himself and his players to achieve victory. That coach seeks and creates every advantage for his cause within the rules and spirit of the game. And in the heat of battle, he doesn’t give one crap about how bad the opponent has to suffer until victory is ensured.

    Back in ’01, we trailed Dook by 20 at halftime. Dook came out and started the second half in FULL COURT PRESS, harder than what they had done the whole first half. They could have beaten us without that. They already had us by 20. Coach K could have been a little more sporty, a little more gentlemanly if you will. But he wasn’t even going to give us a chance to get off the floor. He was going to get the thing out of reach right then and there, break our will to compete, and then and ONLY THEN call off the dogs. And it worked. Dook went from a 20 point lead to a 30 point lead in about two minutes, and the game was over. We were whipped. I don’t think Herb would ever do that, even though he would never have to change anything about his gentlemanly behavior in order TO do that. But it’s exactly the kind of mentality a championship coach has to have. Is the goal to compete and may the best team win? Or is it to BE the best team and leave no one in doubt?

    It doesn’t make one any less honorable as a person. To a man Vince Lombardi’s players say he was the greatest MAN they ever knew…an even greater man than a coach. He taught them more about honor, life, integrity, honesty, fair play, and responsibility than he taught them about football. Yet he’s the one that said “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” He said, “If you can accept losing you can’t win.” He said, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” And (according to Jerry Kramer and Paul Hornung) he really did say “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the ONLY thing.”

  12. SaccoV 01/08/2006 at 4:45 PM #

    Comparisons to Lombardi aren’t relevant to our discussion of Herb because in Lombardi’s case, he coached PROFESSIONAL football, he had a plethora of great players in a league filled with them, and he was the most egocentric coach of his day. Lots of other coaches, like George Allen, Don Shula, Hank Stram had similar successes without the hot air associated. Regardless, Lombardi is the measuring stone for coaching PROFESSIONAL football. Wooden, Smith, and K are now the measuring sticks for college basketball, and Herb’s record doesn’t approach those greats, and we are all well-aware of his results AS A COACH. But discussing his personality as reflective of his coaching shortcomings is silly. Trust me when I tell you that Herb Sendek DOES NOT accept losing, and you would be hard-pressed to find any coach in any sport that does. Because he doesn’t explode into tirades this somehow in your mind is a detriment that permeates his coaching ability and/or the team’s success. Bull. He carries himself as he’s always carried himself. He should be even more respected for his calm disposition despite being constantly criticized (much of which is deserved because of his team’s performance). Dean Smith admitted early on in his career that he yelled all the time and went bananas on his team to no real success. Once he calmed down, he became Dean Smith. This discussion we’re having is a tertiary one which is in no way relevant to his team’s success or failure. It’s insulting to think that our discussion of any coach comes down to personality or looks or demeanor or ANYTHING relating to physical appearance or a perception of the success an extroverted nature.

  13. Sammy Kent 01/08/2006 at 10:38 PM #

    “But discussing his personality as reflective of his coaching shortcomings is silly. Trust me when I tell you that Herb Sendek DOES NOT accept losing, and you would be hard-pressed to find any coach in any sport that does. Because he doesn’t explode into tirades this somehow in your mind is a detriment that permeates his coaching ability and/or the team’s success.”

    Sacco, I just don’t know how I can explain any clearer that I don’t care if Herb explodes into tirades or not. I just think that while sometimes a calm demeanor masks a vicious butt-whuppin’ bully inside, in Herb’s case it doesn’t, and it shows. He schemes for elegance, not for power. He want to outwit, not beat down his opponent. He’s like a guy that enters a toughman contest and brings his chess set into the ring.

  14. SaccoV 01/09/2006 at 12:30 AM #

    So the George Washington game was NOT evidence of some killer mentality?

  15. Sammy Kent 01/09/2006 at 8:13 AM #

    You know, I thought the George Washington game was evidence of a lot of things. I try every way to give Herb the benefit of the doubt. At the slightest sliver of light I’m ready to forget the decade of darkness. There’s still time for Herb to truly shift paradigms–to take the strategy, tempo, and attitude of the GW game and replicate it every night. But so far the GW game is the exception in Herb’s ten years, not the dawning of a new rule. If GW was supposed to represent a killer instinct, the Carolina game more closely resembled Maryland and Vandy except that instead of blowing a 12 point lead in the last three minutes to lose by one, we just lost by 13.

  16. SaccoV 01/09/2006 at 9:40 AM #

    Again, your comparisons aren’t related. You can’t compare games in tournaments where we’ve blown a substantial lead to the UNC game this weekend. We lost the game in Chapel Hill because of execution, not because we were trying to keep it close and hope for the best at the end. Your logic doesn’t play here because you assume that the mentality of Herb in a game is to keep it close and win at the end. Had this coach won more close games in his career, I would say that would be an accurate assessment, but he hasn’t. So I can’t agree with any aspect of the column or your support of it. He hasn’t won many close games so why would he gameplan to keep it close? That would assume that he’s unaware of his record which isn’t true. Also, the part you’ve left out about Vandy and about Duke in the ACC final three years ago is that key fouls put our top defenders out of the game (Hodge against Vandy and Crawford against Duke). Those two items alone led to comebacks. As for Maryland, it was blown completely. Unexcusable. To compare colossal collapses with a tough game on the road in conference as indicative of a lacking killer instinct is dumb. Yes, we had a 11-0 lead but you can’t expect any lead during the first minute of the game to hold up entirely.

  17. Sammy Kent 01/09/2006 at 12:28 PM #

    “You can’t compare games in tournaments where we’ve blown a substantial lead to the UNC game this weekend.”

    Sure I can. The only difference is what was the score and time remaining when the opponent went on its late-game scoring tear, and our guys began to look like cowling puppy dogs. That’s the only variable. It happens in the regular season, ACC Tournament, NCAA tournament, against rival and OOC foe alike, home, away, neutral, game we should lose on paper, game we should win on paper, hurt and sick lineup, healthy and strong lineup, you name it. Like I said somewhere else, as long as you keep every individual game in its own daytight compartment you’ll never see how remarkably similar they are.

  18. Black Cat Bone 01/20/2006 at 4:31 PM #

    Per the “Rock Professor,” it is my somewhat educated opinion that the “Princeton-style Offense” was devised as a tactic to neutralize the superior athleticism of the opposing team. One may assume that to be the case the way our European and Turkish allies seem to falter and fade away when the poopie hits the fan….however, the other three or four on the floor may deserve a second look,,,dem boys are pretty darned tuff and athletic if you ask me. One can say that Herb doggedly hangs on to this offense as a defeatist. Instead of playing to win, he plays not to lose. His lack of confidence in his players is shown by his tireless insistence in standing/pacing and micromanage every breathe his players take. The winningest coaches sit and watch their gameplan unfold. They bust ass during time outs, then back to the bench with patience during play (w/ many exceptions, of course). Which leads to the following: our last two losses pitted mutiple-time NCAA coaches of the year vs average at best.

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  20. Timmy T 02/22/2006 at 11:47 PM #

    I’ve been a wolfpack fan for a loong time, yes, I mean a loong, loong time. Sad to say, but in my best observation, I believe it’s time for our dear old Herb to take his “arms crossed across his chest’ and his “I’m very sorry for you’r loss”, emotional, non-existent expression either to Brown-Wynne where he will excel, or haul ass back to Princeton. We’ve had to much talent that’s been wasted. Hey Bobby Knight, can you here me HOLLER. If not, how ’bout that chair throwing Lefty? NC State needs some FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Timmy T 02/23/2006 at 12:01 AM #

    One Final thought, If I were Herb Sendek, during tonights game, at one of the time outs during our ass waxing, I believe that I would of had my assisstants set our little chairs on the floor facing that damn herd of blue that was kicking our ass at our house, tell our boys to look down there and, well enough said… Seeya

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