Arizona State found a basketball coach Saturday, coming up with a surprise name from a surprise conference.
Herb Sendek, 43, the coach at North Carolina State the past 10 seasons, has reached an agreement to take over the Sun Devils’ program, multiple sources have confirmed.
Sendek ran up a 191-132 overall record at N.C. State, 72-88 in regular season games in the Atlantic Coast Conference (13-10 in conference tournament games), a league that’s generally been considered the nation’s toughest through the years.
Sendek’s teams have rolled up winning records in 12 of his 13 years as a head coach; he coached for three years at Miami (Ohio), where he engineered an upset over Arizona in the 1995 NCAA tournament.
For those who wonder whether ASU -- while trying to jump-start the Sun Devils’ won-loss record — will sacrifice the straight-arrow approach of previous coach Rob Evans, Sendek’s attorney had reassuring words Saturday night:
“The first thing people say about him is that he’s a great guy,” attorney Rees Ivey said. “The next things they say are that his kids graduate and they don’t get in trouble.
“Those are issues that will never come up,” Ivey said.
Sendek is believed to have agreed to a deal that will pay him in the range of about $1 million per season. That would mean he will be paid more than football coach Dirk Koetter, who makes about $780,000 currently, though he will be bumped up to about $1 million in one year.
Ivey confirmed that Sendek’s total package at N.C. State was in the range of $900,000 to $1 million.
To get him to pack up and move across the country, “He’ll surely want to get an increase,” Ivey said.
ASU spokesman Mark Brand had no comment, saying only, “No announcement will come before Monday.”
ASU athletic director Lisa Love, reached at a Sun Devils spring football scrimmage Saturday before news about Sendek broke, declined comment.
Sendek could not be reached — he did not answer the door when a Raleigh, N.C., reporter visited his house — and calls to Lee Fowler, the N.C. State athletic director, went unanswered.
In Sendek, ASU is getting a coach who has made the NCAA tournament five straight years. His past three teams have won at least 21 games.
N.C. State had been ranked in the top 20 for much of this season before dropping four straight down the stretch, two to ACC doormat Wake Forest, before drawing a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Wolfpack beat California, then lost to Texas.
Fans grumbled about the downhill finish, though the Wolfpack’s 22-10 record would be considered a huge triumph at ASU, which went 11-18 this past season.
Fowler issued a statement of support for Sendek two weeks ago. According to the Raleigh News and Observer, Fowler, noting the wins, a solid graduation rate of players and “their integrity and how they represent the university, on and off the court,” praised Sendek and said that N.C. State chancellor James Oblinger offered similar support.
“We strongly support Herb, and we’re moving forward,” Fowler said.
The switch to ASU takes away the pressure of having to beat in-state neighbors Duke and North Carolina, two of the nation’s most prominent programs.
Sendek is known as a topflight bench coach who runs a patient offense. He has been able to recruit international players; this season’s team had players from Bulgaria and Turkey.
“He’s intellectual in his approach,” Ivey said. “He’s detailed in his preparation.”
Sendek isn’t flashy, “And some people hold that against him,” said Ivey, who called Sendek a calm, composed coach.
Sendek grew up in Pittsburgh as a top-drawer student, earning an academic scholarship to Carnegie-Mellon University, where he played basketball and graduated with honors.
He joined Rick Pitino’s staff at Providence College, the start of an 11-year career as a college assistant. He became the head coach at Miami, where he ran up a 63-26 record in three years, then took over at North Carolina State in 1996.
The Wolfpack’s Web site describes Sendek’s office at length, listing various basketball memorabilia. Also, two photos of Sendek’s visit to the Vatican hang on a wall.
“In one he is reverently shaking the hand of the Pope, evidence of the large part that his faith plays in his life,” the Web site says.
“The rest of the office is devoted to his other passion: His family. Photos of his wife, Melanie, and their three daughters, Kristin, Catherine and Kelly, cover the surface of his desk, another table and the back of a credenza. Crayon drawings and notes addressed to ‘Daddy’ hang from the cabinets.
“An aging black-and-white photo shows his father, Herb Sr., with his first college team.
“In other words, when Herb Sendek is in his office, he is surrounded by the three things he cares about the most: Faith, family, basketball.”