Herb Sendek wants you to know his offense isn’t a dull-as-mashed-potatoes bore. As he sets up shop in a crowded sports market, the new ASU basketball coach seems to know that 58-53 games — which aren’t unheard of in college basketball — aren’t going to sell tickets.
Based on his experience, this shouldn’t be the case for the Sun Devil basketball team.
Some people have wondered about this, though, because his offense has its roots in the fabled “Princeton system,” known for elaborate back-door cuts and for moving as fast as a wagon train.
Sendek’s NCAA tournament team at North Carolina State this past season sported an efficient offense that scored 76 points per game.
That ranked the Wolfpack third in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was only two fewer points per game than Washington, which was perceived as the Pac-10’s fast-paced, powerhouse offense.
At N.C. State, “There were games where we took 40 3-pointers,” Sendek said. “Who does that?”
Not even the Phoenix Suns – who shoot more 3s than anybody — ever have done that.
Sendek, permitting himself a play on words, said, “The devil is in the details.” He acknowledged that, “Because of the connection to Princeton, people make the quantum leap to ‘deliberate.’ ”
A number of NBA teams have adopted parts of the Princeton offense, including the Sacramento Kings (where former Princeton coach Pete Carril is employed as an assistant coach). “Are they deliberate?” Sendek said of the Kings.
Sendek has been on the job for three weeks now, long enough to have started moving belongings into his office. His wife and three daughters will move to Arizona once school is out.
When the search for a coach began in March, athletic director Lisa Love said that West Coast experience would be a factor.
But when she hired Sendek — who grew up in Pittsburgh and became a head coach at Miami (Ohio) and N.C. State — she waved this off.
“Maybe she changed her mind,” Sendek said.
The new coach said, “The basketball fraternity is closer than ever,” and that players from the East and West coasts head cross country nowadays and more players come from foreign countries.
That said, “I think most of our recruiting will be on the West Coast.”
Sendek’s lead assistant, Larry Harris, who carries the title of associate head coach, has worked at Washington State and Oregon State, he pointed out.
Sendek indicated he’ll continue the recruiting philosophy he developed in 10 years at N.C. State.
“We tried to recruit young men of excellent character, young men who could do the job in the classroom, who had the talent to make an excellent run in the ACC and who fit our system.”
At N.C. State, Sendek produced four NBA players: Julius Hodge (Denver Nuggets); Josh Powell (Dallas Mavericks); Anthony Grandy (Atlanta Hawks); and Damien Wilkins (Seattle Sonics).
At ASU, “We want to recruit the best people for the university, for our program and our system. We want to recruit to meet that criteria.”
To succeed, Sendek knows he needs the support of the university and surrounding community.
So far, he says he’s been well received.
“I look forward to the challenge . . . It will take a united effort to move forward. “I sense an eagerness to do that.”