Packer had Right Idea, Wrong Point

I didn’t get to watch the (so-called) Carolina “game” on television last Wednesday night because I attended the game. (I’ll leave my comments about that decision for a later entry). Therefore, I did not have the opportunity to hear Billy Packer’s comments during the telecast of the game.

Evidently, Packer made multiple points about the Wolfpack’s inability to even attempt to strategically get the ball to Cedric Simmons on offense. Packer called out coach Herb Sendek for failing (again) to effectively utilize the most efficient offensive threat we have – a talented big man shooting 3 feet from the basket with the opportunity to get Carolina’s #1 player into foul trouble. (Most of the HSSS would obviously argue that a 30 foot jumper with a guy in your face is a much more appealing proposition because that is what they have been told to believe. But, we will save that conversation for another day).

Since I didn’t hear Packer’s comments this year, I cannot discuss them with much familiarity. However, I CAN discuss what he said LAST YEAR during Caroina’s visit to Raleigh because I started an entry during that game that I have saved in my draft folder for the last 365 days. (It is odd that last year’s game was also played on February 22nd).

With 17:09 remaining in last year’s State-Carolina match-up in Raleigh, Jefferson-Pilot came out of television break to Billy Packer making some very “interesting” comments. Unfortunately for Lee Fowler and supporters of Herb Sendek, the comments that Packer comprised failed miserably in their original intent to offer support for the status-quo of the ever-divided NC State Basketball Program. Coming out of the commercial break, Packer stated:

I want to throw something out.

Dean Smith lost his first 7 to (Vic) Bubas and 10 of the first 12

Mike Kryzewski lost 8 of 9 when he went up against Dean Smith

Dean Smith beat Norm Sloan 11 of the first 12 times they faced each other

Then Sloan beat him (Smith) 9 in a row.

People that get on these coaches have to let a little time take place.

History will teach some lessons.

I think a TON of Billy Packer as an analyst. I really do. By the same token, I can understand who find reasons not to like Packer. Heck, he has provided enough fodder that ACC Basketblog was able to put together this entire entry on “Hatred for Packer” last year. Hate him all you want, but I challenge you to share ANY color commentator as good as Packer, particularly as good as Packer when it comes to meshing ACC history into his work. There is a reason that this guy does every Final Four — there is no one better.

Having said that, I could not believe that Packer wasn’t astute enough to realize the point that he was truly making last year (and the point that has manifested itself in Sendek/State’s 3 losses to Carolina since) was actually a huge criticism of Coach Sendek.

I ask you to go back and look at the “streaks” that Packer cited again. Surely you notice the REAL TREND that poor Billy overloked?

The examples of Smith, K, & Sloan all followed a pretty consistent and obvious path — Each coach struggled in their first 3 to 5 years against the established program. After the initial 3 to 5 year building period (which was different until the Tournament expanded to 64 in 1985), each coach not only had turned their program into being “competitive” with the program of their rival , but actually established successful streaks of their own!!! If the success had not been achieved by that 3 to 5 year standard (ala Les Robinson vs the Big Four and Bill Guthridge & Matt Doherty vs Duke), then the coach was no longer around to keep trying.

But, Packer’s comments in defense of Herb last year came in the middle of Sendek’s NINTH SEASON!? Sendek has now lost six in a row of his own and has neer beaten Roy Williams. Therefore, I have to ask, ‘Exactly when the F*%$ does ole Billy think that Coach Carnegie Mellon is going to arrive on the same level of Bubas, Smith, Sloan, & Coach K?” How did Packer miss the point that EVERY COACH he mentioned had succeeded in establishing their program both nationally and against their rivals by their 5th year in their job?

I have to wonder if some genius in NC State’s Sports Information Department set up Billy with this “insightful” stat. The information was SO irrelevant and missed the mark SO MUCH that it feels just like something that the blind status-quo lovers and Sunshine Squad members would truly believe made their point as opposed to realizing that it actually proved the OPPOSITE point.

Billy Packer did get one thing one thing right in his diatribe — “History will teach some lessons” (at least to those people willing to learn from it.)

NC State’s historical record (and winning percentage) vs North Carolina was 69-117 (37.1%) prior to the hiring of Herb Sendek. After TEN YEARS of opportunity to build something, Sendek’s overall record (winning percentage) vs North Carolina is 5-17 (22.7%), and his overall record (and winning percentage) against three Carolina coaches not named Matt Doherty is 1-15 (6.3%).

Most HSSSers complain whenever I cite Sendek’s record “against coaches not named Matt Doherty”. As you can see from the real record, the numbers still are not acceptable if you include Sendek’s four wins vs Doherty or not. But, it DOES MATTER if you are trying to extrapolate what to expect in the future from Coach Sendek since “History will teach some lessons.” That is, of course, unless someone named Matt Doherty is suddenly going to start coaching Carolina.

I will sign off from this entry by quoting one of my friends’ comments that I think expresses my feelings better than I could:

The case could be made that State fans just have to be happy with what we have and can’t always compare ourselves to Carolina and Duke. I respect that point of view, but don’t agree with it. I don’t think it is realistic, given the proximity of the three schools and how all three fanbases have historically interacted with each other. When you see you “neighbor” succeeding, you want the same thing.

And when you can never get it, it hurts, especially after having had it. Crunch the numbers all you want. Norm Sloan and Jimmy V may have had their own losing records against Carolina and Duke, but we could always compete on a given day, thus making us feel like we were still in the game with a chance to surpass. But currently, Sendek’s three best teams in a decade are no where close to being in games against Carolina and are losing by double figures averages.

So why put yourself through something that isn’t really enjoyable? And it’s not just b-ball. The same thing applies for football. Rabid fans of teams want to have pride in their teams’ accomplishments. There’s not much pride to be had in mediocrity.

General Media NCS Basketball

24 Responses to Packer had Right Idea, Wrong Point

  1. BJD95 03/03/2006 at 9:02 AM #

    Great stuff. I wonder how last week’s beatdown has colored Packer’s overall impression of Sendek?

  2. HeelsFan 03/03/2006 at 9:12 AM #

    Jeff, you are exactly right about the points Packer was making in the State-Carolina game last week. Packer was “begging” Herb to post up Simmons down near the basket, especially when Hansbrough had two fouls.

    Packer said and I paraphrase, “If State wants get Hansbrough to the bench they have to go Simmons down low, I just don’t understand it, Simmons is NOT just an ordinary player”

    I would question Roy or K if they put either Hansbrough or Sheldon Williams 20 feet out on almost every play. State has a player of THAT caliber!

  3. Matt E. 03/03/2006 at 9:17 AM #

    Packer is full of ideas but he never says how to get it done. I agree with him that “we” should have gotten the ball down low to Ced more often. However, I think it would have been worthwhile for him to mention how we could do this with Ced failing to establish position well enough for us to do so.

    That’s one of my biggest beefs with announcers is that they state the obvious, “gee they should try and stop xyx from doing xyx,” but they never give any ideas on how to do so. If you’re going to tell any coach what they should do you might want to mention how, but that’s just my $0.02.

  4. class of '74 03/03/2006 at 9:17 AM #

    Love him or hate him Packer is as good as there is doing basketball. But he, like all in the business, is reluctant to call out a coach on anything beyond game strategy.

  5. Grumpy Llama 03/03/2006 at 9:28 AM #

    I’m with you on the timeline idea. I think that’s where the real division stands in the fan base. Those that think Herb’s had enough time to establish his program, and those that want to give hime more. I imagine there’s not a single fan who’d be happy if we go another ten years with only one more S16 appearance. I’m not making a prediction. I’m merely saying that if the next ten years look like the first ten (or even the last five) no one will be happy. I know I’m assuming no ACCT Championship of Final Four this year, and maybe I’m wrong (I certainly hope so). There will be a point when we’re all in agreement (IF we get no championships). I just think for some, that point is already passed.

  6. WTNY 03/03/2006 at 9:35 AM #

    *”…how we could do this with Ced failing to establish position well enough for us to do so.”*

    I want to hijack your point for a second, Matt.

    IMO the reason Ced doesn’t do well establishing his position is because he doesn’t spend the necessary time working on it. How much time does he spend in practice at the top of the 3point line? At least put Evtimov at that position so Ced has more chances to be down low.

  7. Zahadum 03/03/2006 at 9:37 AM #

    Packer’s comments about Ced sort of irritated me, not because he was wrong, but because he was too narrowly focused. I can’t think of another announcer who is as hooked on the idea of ‘go at player X to get them in foul trouble’. That is the 2nd quickest way I know of to destroy your offensive rhythm, the first being going to stall ball too soon.

    But the part that really got me was that if, as Packer said and I agree, Ced is not an average player, then he should be looked to and should provide more than just scoring. In a game where we were being downright abused on the boards, for him to have less rebounds than 2 of UNC’s perimeters players was totally unacceptable.

  8. Matt E. 03/03/2006 at 10:03 AM #


    Hard for any of us to know what gets worked on in practice as none of us are there.

    I dont mind Ced handling the ball at the top of the key because that’s part of the triangle that big men try and work, block to high post to block, and when he comes off from the high post he usually has a one on one oppertunity to gain position against his man. He just has trouble getting that position against the stronger centers right now. He did well against Sheldon but if you watch him play he doesnt really fight over top of the offensive player. Hopefully another offseason of lifting like last summer will give him more stregnth to do this better.

  9. ncsslim 03/03/2006 at 11:01 AM #

    Somewhat off subject, but….. I honestly don’t understand the appreciation for Billy. I find him intolerable. I think he is one of the luckiest men alive; if he hadn’t found this niche, he would be working at a car lot. He gets trivial points on his mind and will not let up. He turns complete shades of gray, into vivid black and white (“that was a charge”, “that was a block”, “that was a walk”, ect, ect…) and is absolutely incorrect a good percentage of the time. His ego is insurmountable. I find Dookie V more tolerable (to a minor degree) because I at least think Dookie’s actually playing a role (again, to a minor degree), where Packer take himself as serious as a heart attack. I think that was why he and McGuire clicked so well early on; McGuire knowing full of shit and Packer dead serious. Ironically, McGuire was the hall of fame coach and Packer an absolute wannabee, who’s now riched that God (see “luckiest man alive” comment). Damn, I wish the radio would synch better with the picture!

  10. Eric 03/03/2006 at 11:02 AM #

    Can we get some kind of season long chart on Ced’s point and rebounding numbers (a la the RPI graphs?) I’d like to see if there’s been a steady decline since the Duke game.

    I’d also be interested in the game stats from the other centers he’s faced since then. The last game I was able to watch was the Maryland game (damn Fox Sports Southwest) and he looked good defensively in that, but i can’t recall reading about any great blocking or boarding he’s done since then.

    If someone else will do the research while I sit and eat cheetos that’d be great.

  11. Cardiac95 03/03/2006 at 11:14 AM #

    To borrow a few theme’s from “Wild at Heart”, NC State Basketball has been completely emasculated over the last 16 years. We have been lead to believe that we do not measure up with the duke’s & carolina’s of the world…..that we do not have what it takes.

    So its not hard to figure out why we struggle so greatly to compete against them or why so many fans & alumni are so fearful of admitting that the competition even exists. Its a fear of failure, plain & simple. If we deny that we can compete with them, we have no sense of failure when the inevitable happens.

    *all credit given to John Eldredge

  12. BJD95 03/03/2006 at 11:16 AM #

    I am a Billy Packer fan, b/c he’s not so relentlessly “positive.” And very much unlike the major announcers (especially Vitale – did you hear his rant about how “sick” it makes him to hear people complain about the likes of Duke and the Yankees during the Duke/FSU broadcast?), he doesn’t kiss the rear end of the frontrunners. He calls them like he sees them. He does get stuff wrong sometimes, but at least he TRIES to add value to the broadcast other than just babble about nothing or spout platitudes. He’s an entertaining, often (but not always) insightful grumpy old man.

    That said, a UNC fan friend of mine e-mailed me this a few weeks ago (apparently from a UNC message board), and it’s hilarious:

    Being Billy Packer
    6:30am: Alarm goes off.

    6:45am: I walk downstairs to get a cup of coffee. Coffee’s cold. If I were making coffee it would be hotter. Flavor’s off a little too.

    7:00am: Paper boy threw paper onto lawn again. He’s got poor form, and lacks heart. He needs to work on his release.

    7:15am: Take dog for walk. My dog is walking at a poor pace, not using his body well as all. He really needs to concentrate more, and explode with the back legs…

  13. Jeff 03/03/2006 at 11:39 AM #


    When the other team’s focus (and ultimate success) revolves so heavily around a single player, then I think that it is more than appropriate to focus on neutralizing that threat.

    IMHO, this is one of Sendek’s primary deficiencies as a coach — his inability or unwillingness to craft game-specific strategies and particularly adjust in a game are horrible.

    I understand his general philosophy (shared so often) that “we have to focus on what we do and not worry about others…etc, etc”. But, I don’t necessarily buy that in an actual game situation. What if “what we do well” still doesn’t get us over the hump? We never seem to find ways to take advantage of individual match-ups to generate single-game successes. We can “do what we do” fantastically one night and still not win because the other team does what they do better.

    We don’t seem to ever account or adjust for specific game situations. It’s like the Duke game last year…the general feeling from the team and the fans was likw, “oh well…we played well…but they just played better…what else can you ask? They are Duke. We couldn’t have done anything else”

    This “philosophy” manifests itself in every thing we do. When Andrew Brackman is hot as a firecracker and is the only person playing well on the floor, he gets taken out of the game because the ‘plan/system’ says it is time for him to come out. When Lonnie Baxter?/Ekezie? is scoring a lay up on six consecutive possessions in the ACC Torunament semi-finals because we only play man to man and his defender has 4 fouls…we do nothing different to stop him because, “that’s the defense that we play”.

    That’s crap. And that is a primary reason why we haven’t more success over the last decade.

    Conversely, I think that Herb has historically done an above average job in GENERALLY “preparing” his teams for games/tournaments. But, that only goes so far.

    Fans talk about “talent” being a problem for us, in particular as it compares to Duke and Carolina. But, after a decade that included at least 7 top 25 recruiting classes (and has yielded 2 Top 25 finishes), I don’t buy it. We have enough talent to be “so close”, yet not enough to win the games? No way.

  14. Zahadum 03/03/2006 at 12:07 PM #


    Yes, but it needs to be done intelligently, not by forcing it. We force way too many things on offense already. If Hansbourough had 4 fouls in that situation, ok, go for it a few times. But with him having only 2 fouls well into the second half, that’s not a smart strategy. Ced has a world of talent, but he still lacks savvy, and he’s still earning respect from the refs. Following Packer’s advice at that point would have been just as likely to result in offensive fouls on Ced as to cause any trouble for Hansborough, who does not attempt to block that many shots. Plus, it was Noel and Terry that were killing us.

    Now if the question is “should Ced get more touches on a regular basis as part of the normal offensive flow”, then I’m in total agreement. Absolutely he should. And that point by Packer was spot on, that UNC always looks at Hansborough at least once every time down court, whereas sometimes we look at Ced and sometimes we act like he’s invisible.

  15. BJD95 03/03/2006 at 12:17 PM #

    I’m pretty certain that Hansbrough had those 2 fouls with much time left in the FIRST HALF. Getting a 3rd on him would have been critical, especially since the man most likely to give Hansbrough “help” defense would have been David Noel, also with 2 fouls (and blistering hot).

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it really seemed that earlier in the year, we ran more plays to get Ced the ball in the low post.

  16. RickJ 03/03/2006 at 12:25 PM #

    “IMHO, this is one of Sendek’s primary deficiencies as a coach — his inability or unwillingness to craft game-specific strategies and particularly adjust in a game are horrible. ” This, in a nut shell, best explains the difference in success levels of V & Herb.

  17. Zahadum 03/03/2006 at 12:30 PM #

    BJD95, you may well be right. But Packer’s comments were in the 2nd half.

    Curious to see what Herb’s strategy is tomorrow. Going against someone as notoriously foul prone as E. Williams, Ced needs to get lots more touches in the paint. But consistently over all 40 minutes, not just as a point of emphasis for four or five possessions.

  18. Jeff 03/03/2006 at 2:17 PM #

    ^ I guess it just depends on “if that is something that we like to do” every game.

  19. Clarksa 03/03/2006 at 2:59 PM #

    It seems to me that Ced works his arse off to try and establish himself in the post and a lot of that work goes un-rewarded because the team won’t pass him the ball on the blocks…What I don’t know is if that is coaching, or if it is the players that don’t want to pass it into the post…could be some of both.

    Sidenote: Cam (hammy) and Illian (foot) have not practiced all week.

  20. WTNY 03/03/2006 at 3:31 PM #

    ^ Once again bitten by both the injury and depth bugs.

  21. Jeff 03/03/2006 at 5:11 PM #

    ^ It’s uncanny how that happens to us and nobody else.

    By the way…congratulations to LSU who won the SEC West Title after experiencing 2 injuries to key players this year – one of whom will be in the NBA.

    Oh yes…and to Villanova for putting together a Top 5 season despite losing starting senior big man, Curtis Sumpter before the season even began.

  22. Kingfish 03/04/2006 at 9:42 AM #


    Great article. “…but because he was too narrowly focused” sounds like something from a Herb Zendeck quote.

    Your long reply was great. Zendeck has no ability to game coach.

  23. Galactica 03/04/2006 at 10:09 AM #

    The reason for our injuries are simple. Herb practices the team as hard at the end of the year as he does at the beginning. Injuries will pile up on body parts that take a pounding relentlessly. Feet and ankles are our injuries yearly, coincidence?

  24. Fish 03/04/2006 at 11:22 AM #

    Sendek should be an English Professor or a coach somewhere else. Not NC State’s coach.

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