Don’t Take Advice From Dick

It’s as predictable as Raleigh’s spring pollen: Herb Sendek’s basketball program does its annual swoon, and Big Sports Media does a full court protection press for its favorite no-threat-to-Duke-and-UNC coach.

Take Mr. Annoying himself, Dick Vitale. Dick was in full cry in this week’s column, in which he ranted:

Even worse is the criticism aimed at Herb Sendek. He has North Carolina State at 21-9 and headed to the NCAAs for the fifth consecutive year, a feat matched only by fellow ACC member Duke. The Wolfpack hit a rough spot late and were 10-6 in the ACC, but is this really something to get worked up over? Thank goodness the school administration is backing Sendek.

Four straight losses, including a double-digit thumping by our (purported) archrival at home, plus consecutive double-digit beatings from one of the worst teams in ACC history – and it’s a rough spot? One’s reminded of the All Drug Olympics on Saturday Night Live a few years back: “… And he’s torn his arms off! What a setback for the big Russian! I’ll bet he feels that one in the morning, Rick!� A conference collapse, missing arms … these are nothing to get “worked up over� for the king of Duke and UNC hyperbole. Just, you know, “setbacks.�

And as Dick says, thank goodness the school administration is backing Sendek. Man, I feel better now. Lee Fowler knows best – Sergeant Schultz is guarding Stalag 13, and we all know nothing bad can happen on his watch.


Dick Vitale, John Feinstein (his Washington Post screed this week called State fans “whiners� while paradoxically calling us a program in “disarray�), and the rest of the nation’s “Big Sports� media have as much interest in N.C. State winning championships as terrorists have in a democratic Middle East. Big Sports Media have a vested interest in championship programs remaining championship programs, because they’ve long ago achieved insider status in those programs. If the elite lose media interest, some Big Sports Media lose their meal tickets.

Feinstein, for example, is a Duke graduate who’s made big bucks writing recycled, cliché-ridden sports books, some of which touch on ACC basketball. Guess which ACC programs receive the predictable “legend� treatment in those books? If you can’t, you shouldn’t be reading this column in the first place, so go away.

Feinstein drives most reporters nuts because he’s almost always got the inside track for program access at the perennial championship contenders. What’s his interest in upsetting that status quo? Integer level, I’d say – and I’d be right.

Feinstein is annoying enough for anyone, not least because he gambles (successfully) that his readers aren’t smart enough to recognize recycled, cliché-ridden tripe from the last time they read it, and thus keep buying his books. But he’s nothing compared to Vitale. Here’s Vitale in the same column quoted above:

OK, all you Duke bashers and critics, what say you now? The same folks who won’t give any credit to consistent winners such as Notre Dame’s football program and the New York Yankees have to take a look at these numbers: The Blue Devils have the longest active streak of consecutive trips to the Sweet 16 with eight. Coach K and his team have their routine together: cut down the nets, then [sic] celebrate in private.

Vitale actually claims he isn’t biased in his color commentary, that all he does is praise Duke and (to a lesser extent) UNC. Because, as he says himself: “I am not going to apologize for singing the praises of one of the best programs in the nation over the last 15 years. What’s not to praise when talking about Coach K…?â€? This is a guy who actually danced around with the Duke cheerleaders and dance team once during pre-game warm-ups. Bias? You make the call.

You want to take coaching advice from these guys? What next – military advice from France?

Big Sports media, from ESPN through John Feinstein, have literally millions invested in hyping certain programs as perennial champions. Look at the hype surrounding the Duke/UNC games every year – we’ve gone to war with less media fanfare. Why, one wonders, would a media construct with so much invested want something to come along – like an NC State program that consistently challenges Duke and UNC – and upset the cash-filled applecart?

Naturally they don’t. And what’s worse, they’ve also convinced themselves that their hype, magically, is (through repetition) an eternal truth: NC State not only shouldn’t challenge for ACC supremacy – it CANNOT do so, and thus shouldn’t try.

And we, fans of that program, should stop whining about Sendek. We get to the Dance, don’t we? That’s all we can realistically expect, because we aren’t Duke, UNC, or other media darlings. The Big Sports media of 2006 reminds me of the British Tory press of the early 1900s, praising the improvement of national school systems but fretting over the “dangers� inherent in educating the lower classes “beyond their station.�

Simply put, if you take the Big Sports Media’s advice on the health of our basketball program, you’ll help ensure that it remains solidly in third place within the borders of the Research Triangle, let alone conference and nationally. And that’s not what any State fan should want.

General Media NCS Basketball

20 Responses to Don’t Take Advice From Dick

  1. BJD95 03/13/2006 at 10:15 AM #

    Amen, Giant. I couldn’t agree more.

  2. Jim 03/13/2006 at 10:21 AM #

    I attended the trainwreck Friday and found myself perversely curious as to what Vitale was screaming about Sendek during that horror-show.

    Did anyone watch/listen to the Vitale version of the game Friday? If so, what comments did he make about Sendek and/or the way we were playing?

    I scored some tickets in the lower level WPC “high roller” area (about 10 rows in front of Fowler’s box even with the baseline.) The people there were at least as pissed off as those in my normal (non high-roller) section of the RBC. I kept looking back at Fowler, who, throughout the game, looked as if he was watching his dog getting run over.

  3. Sam '92 03/13/2006 at 10:27 AM #

    you hit the nail on the head — big media would have us stick with mediocrity

    they figure – hey, 20+ wins and the NCAA, pretty good, stick with it.

    and a number of wolfpackers feel the same way, it seems.

    but also bear in mind that Dick Vitale has nothing to gain from saying “fire Herb Sendek”, so he’ll never say it.

    as far as i’m concerned there is no longer anything to debate. anybody have any ideas on how we can actually get rid of Herb?

  4. choppack 03/13/2006 at 10:39 AM #

    I think in all fairness to the mainstream media – you’ll rarely hear them call for a coaches head. Occasionally, there’s a Rich Kotite hiring or a coach who isn’t media friendly who they hate – for example, Bill Belichick was criticized for years until he gave them no choice but to call him a genius. Heck, did Vitale ever say that Doherty should go?

    Most analysts refuse to blame stuff on a coach. The reason for that isn’t they necessarily want the status quo. IMHO, it’s because was they openly call for a coach to resign, they can be frozen out of the fraternity or at the least, lose key contacts in the coaching world. Think about how well Sendek is connected – he’s a Rick Pitino guy. He was on the staff w/ Donovan and Tubby Smith. I don’t pretend to know what happens in this world, but I imagine if Vitale, Bilas or Feinstein were to go on a tirade about Sendek, they fear that Pitino may not be as accessible in the future.

  5. class of '74 03/13/2006 at 10:39 AM #

    Everyone has favorites and it’s very clear who those favorites are.

    I am so sick of hearing about how fine a person Herb is or he’s gone to five straight NCAAT’s what more could you want? I want this program to play a top 25 OOC schedule annually and win 20+ games a year. Go to the sweet sixteen or better 4 or 5 times per decade and win 2 to 3 ACCT’s per decade. That’s not unreasonable based on history prior to the fools who now occupy our athletic department.

    Let Duke or UNC mimic Herb’s record over the past five years and see what they, the big media, have to say at that point. I can already tell you what they’d say: the game has passed (fill in the blank) by. Well that’s how
    State fans feel too! Unfortunately guys like Vitale feel the need to never say anything harsh about a coach unless he is caught red handed in a cheating scandal. How about some honest reporting and analysis for a change?

  6. Jeff 03/13/2006 at 10:45 AM #

    Vitale will only stay mad at you for as long as your job is open. The moment that you hire someone he immediatley shuts up because he can’t run the risk of offending the guy you just hired.

    Vitale was mildly critical of his love, Notre Dame, when they fired Tyrone Willingham after just 3 years and some pretty good performances on the gridiron. You see how that one played out. Do you hear him complaining now?

    Talk about hypocrisy — 10 years ago when our job was open, Vitale was quoted as calling it a “Sleeping Giant”. Does the last 10 years of performance resemble anything close to Vitale’s expectations of being a “Giant”? Of course not.

    He and Lee Fowler share this trait in common — say whatever you want and never expect to be held against the standard of what you say.

  7. SaccoV 03/13/2006 at 10:59 AM #

    Vitale is the worst traitor among coaches period. I’m not sure if anyone else remembers the absolutely unprovoked tirade he unleashed upon Bruce Pearl last year when Pearl’s team (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) made it to the dance. I personally counted four occasions in which Vitale took potshots at Pearl for when he was an assistant at Iowa and he ratted out some other Big Ten schools for recruiting violations. It was dispicable. Not to mention Vitale’s refusal to support Valvano for his academic shortcomings and yet assisting K in helping Valvano to the stage to give his famous speech. Dick Vitale is a disgraceful human being and the fact that he has a job will tell you how ludicrous ESPN really is.

  8. Jeff 03/13/2006 at 11:04 AM #

    This is why we chronicle things on this blog when we get the chance.

    Take a look at Vitale’s comments in early December:

    “In ACC country, all the talk has been about the Duke Blue Devils, but keep an eye on Herb Sendek’s Wolfpack. Despite the loss to Iowa Wednesday, NC State has a variety of weapons, including the three-point shooting and passing ability of Ilian Evtimov.”

    Vitale was choosing us to challenge Duke, and instead we finished 4th in the league with the 4th easiest ACC schedule and a 105 record vs the Top 25. Nowhere close. We finished outside the Top 50 in the RPI. Yep!! “Keep your eye on NC State”

    I’m looking forward to Vitale’s admission that State failed to live up to his expectations.

  9. Jeff 03/13/2006 at 11:10 AM #

    You want more hypocrisy?

    Take a look at Vitale’s comments last year in the ACC Tournament about schools setting a standard of only 3 years for coaches in today’s world:

    “…not only (does Tom Butters deserve credit for) hiring him (Coach K) but what about keeping him after three years when he was under .500? In today’s mentality that exists when you have 3 years in a visible program like Duke, you’re getting the ziggy man. You’re gone. So, one of the most valuable players for Duke is Tom Butters.�

    So, we have given Sendek 10 years and he is yet to provide a single season that ranks in the Top 15 of the history of NC State. Maybe the Top 20.

    Instead of praising us for giving Herb TEN YEARS of opportunity against his expected standard of Three years…he criticizes the fans for their abnormally long waiting period?

    Nothing surprises me.

  10. class of '74 03/13/2006 at 11:10 AM #

    ^ You’ll see Hamas and the Israel smoke a peacepipe before you see that admission.

  11. choppack 03/13/2006 at 11:12 AM #

    SaccoV – I don’t think Pearl is popular amongst coaches, so he is an exception to the rule. Of course, if Pearl keeps it up, Vitale we change his tune.

    I have another theory:

    Analysts dismiss almost any criticism of a coach as “irrational rants.” Lord knows they hear them all the time – heck, anyone who listens to talk radio or goes on the internet hears them all of the time. As a result, they dismiss almost any criticism of a coach. They figure a) they are smarter than the regular fans, after they are a college basketball analyst b) they have insite that these folks don’t have.

    Like I said, find any other coach in the ACC being criticized right now. Did Vitale criticize Doherty in Chapel Hill? As Jeff stated, he even criticized Notre Dame for firing Willingham. (Of course, Willingham only did at Notre Dame what he did at Stanford. Anyone who followed his career woudn’t be shocked.) It would be like us hiring Barnes, but then firing Barnes for going 0-3 in ACC Championship games.

  12. scott 03/13/2006 at 12:57 PM #

    Interesting stat: Herb’s overall record in his first 4 years was 73-58, while his record in the last 4 is 81-46 & most likely, soon to be 81-47. Just 2-3 games per year difference in NIT vs. lower-seeded NCAA. I’m sure Vitale would call this a big improvement in the program.

  13. ncsumatman 03/13/2006 at 1:21 PM #

    Just took part in the ESPN poll for the Atlanta region. The question, which double digit seed is most likely to be a bracket buster? NCSU was 2nd, behind Texas A&M. Keep up the good work Herb.

  14. choppack 03/13/2006 at 1:24 PM #

    Scott – what’s the difference in the conference record?

  15. Jeff 03/13/2006 at 1:53 PM #

    The conference record is definitely different. As is the composition of the conference.

  16. 4NCST8 03/13/2006 at 2:02 PM #

    Analysts will not criticize head coaches. They are positive by nature. But when Vitale starts bashing NC State fans, for wanting a man out after ten years who has won no ACC titles, then he’s off his rocker. Dick, get a grip! It’s past time for NC State to return to the national scene! Bring Rick Barnes to Raleigh! ABHS: Anybody but Herb Sendek!

    It doesn’t sit well with State fans: losing at home to UNC by 24 points, Sendek downplaying the current bad play of his team following two consecutive losses to ACC cellar dweller Wake Forest, continuing to put up with a coach who is way out of touch with the NC State fanbase.

    It was time five years ago and the bumbling administration dropped the ball.

    It’s still time. Five years later.

    Next year . . . ABHS.

  17. Rick 03/13/2006 at 2:33 PM #

    “I kept looking back at Fowler, who, throughout the game, looked as if he was watching his dog getting run over”

    Did he leave early or did he hav e the cajones to endure that trainwreck?
    Did anyone look like they were telling him what he should be told?

  18. Waxhaw 03/13/2006 at 3:43 PM #

    1/2 of those 21 wins came versus inferior competition (100+ RPI rankings).

  19. choppack 03/13/2006 at 5:46 PM #

    “The conference record is definitely different. As is the composition of the conference.”

    I agree to a point…in the last 2 years, he’s had the benefit of not playing Duke twice. But even in those first 3 years, he’s improved.

    I said this to someone else and I’ll say it again.

    Sendek’s head is in the nuese because – like MOC – he couldn’t beat his rivals and (I agree w/ Featherton on this) because he didn’t accomplish much his first 5 years. In essence, Fowler has asked us to forget about them. That would possible, even likely, if we didn’t a collapse that continues to repeat itself. Early in Sendek’s tenure, he didn’t have the talent, experience and system to overcome his obvious defencies to produce anything defensable. The last 5 years, he’s produced overall results that are adequate, and would probably be viewed positively by most Division 1-A schools in America. But most schools don’t have 2 NCAA championships. Most schools don’t have our tradition, facilities and profit.

    Do I think what Sendek is goin gthrough right now is fair? Not necessarily. But then again, is it fair that Sendek makes more $$ than our chancellor?

    I hate that this has come to what it’s come to – but this end was forseeable and even likely when Sendek was given a repreive by Fowler. Exceptional results were going to be required to get back a significant % of the fans. The sad thing for all parties is that we were on the cusp this year and we haven’t done it. There’s still at least one game to be played – and Herb and the players have control over whether or not the atmosphere will repeat itself.

    Of course, I think we as fans have to realize what we are demanding. We’re saying that we don’t 9-7 or 10-6. We want more. There aren’t a lot of coaches out there who can give us what we want – or actually have produced it.

  20. SaccoV 03/13/2006 at 8:03 PM #

    Regardless of his position on Pearl, Vitale is the most sanctimonious a-hole on television. Case in point, the Billy Packer exchange on Outside the Lines (unfortunately, the greatest moment on ESPN television). Billy, whom I don’t necessarily care for, told Vitale personally that VITALE is the worst type of hype-generator, worse even for some college basketball players than the family-members and friends who are riding their coattails for a trip to the big-time. And naturally, Vitale backed off and denied any possible involvement in making more of a kid’s talent than even the kid himself. And this coming from Packer who said that Billy Thompson at Louisville would be a four-time All-American. Either way, Dick Vitale’s constant cheerleading for guys like K, Roy, Knight, etc should have had him fired long ago. No other color commentator wastes more breath on how great the WINNING TEAM is for winning. Ridiculous and I’m about to have a damn heart attack just thinking about that windbag.

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