North Carolina State fans got what they wanted. The media covering N.C. State got what it wanted. Herb Sendek is gone, and now, I'm going to get what I've wanted:
Vindication for Herb Sendek.
Here's how it's going to happen. With Sendek gone to Arizona State, unless N.C. State can pull a Rick Barnes out of its hat, Wolfpack basketball will go down the toilet. Maybe then -- only then, apparently -- will the unrealistic N.C. State fan base and juvenile N.C. State media understand what they had in Sendek.
They didn't have a comedian. They didn't have a motivational speaker. They didn't have a guy who was going to win over media by filling their notepads with one-liners, or win over fans by making snide comments about Duke or North Carolina.
|Herb Sendek was hounded by fans and media while in Raleigh. (Getty Images)|
But now, after being made so miserable at N.C. State that he jumped to Arizona State, Sendek is gone. And soon, if there is a God in that Carolina blue heaven, Wolfpack basketball will follow.
Forget what you hear about N.C. State basketball being a great job. It's not. It would be a great job if it weren't for Duke and North Carolina. But Duke and North Carolina are rolling along, and the kinds of players who can beat Duke and North Carolina are instead going to Duke and North Carolina. Which means N.C. State -- even with that nice arena, that great conference affiliation, those two national championships and that passionate fan base -- is not a great job.
And actually, the passionate fan base is part of the problem. Who wants the N.C. State job now? Coaches around the country are talking about what happened to Sendek, and their position is pretty unanimous: Wolfpack fans should be ashamed. In a day and age where coaches outright cheat or clandestinely cut so many corners that emergency ethics meetings are called, Sendek was honorable. For a guy as smart as he was, he was too dumb to cheat, too naïve to know that you almost can't win at a place like N.C. State without looking the other way. But he was such a good coach, he won in spite of himself.
Around the country, coaches know. Sendek was treated shabbily by Wolfpack nation -- by sniping fans, reader-pandering media and an administration that never once stood up and said ENOUGH! -- and all Sendek did was go to five straight NCAA Tournaments despite the presence of Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Skip Prosser in his own state, and Gary Williams and Paul Hewitt and Al Skinner elsewhere in his league.
Someone will take this job. Wolfpack fans had better hope that someone is Barnes, who has always wanted to return to his home state and who knows the only ACC job he'll ever get there is in Raleigh. But Barnes has it rolling so good at Texas, why would he leave for N.C. State? That's a question only he and his family can answer.
If Barnes says no, the Wolfpack's options will be limited. For some reason Frank Haith of Miami seems to be a candidate. Haith gets credited for being a great recruiter when he worked for Barnes at Texas. Funny, no one talked about Haith's recruiting genius when he was with Dave Odom at Wake Forest. And has anyone asked why Miami, with a good center and a three-guard lineup to match almost any in America, couldn't capitalize on a down year for the ACC this season? Who cares. Let's hire him! ESPN says he'd be good!
N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler is a smart basketball guy. He's a former coach, a former head of the NCAA Tournament selection committee. A guy like Fowler seems smart enough to recognize the genius down the road at Charlotte, Bobby Lutz, who rose above his mid-level job in Conference USA to reach five NCAA Tournaments in seven years and win as many as he lost against the biggest names in the league: Bob Huggins, Rick Pitino and John Calipari. Wolfpack fans probably wouldn't embrace the homespun Lutz, but Wolfpack fans didn't embrace the intellectual Sendek, either. Fowler can't let Wolfpack fans make this hire, like he let Wolfpack fans run his last coach out of town.
This is a dangerous time for Wolfpack basketball. Dangerous. Already two recruits, including likely 2007 McDonald's All-American point guard Chris Wright, have backed off their commitments. The fan base is unreasonable. The Raleigh media is laughable.
A word about the media, many of whom I know, and who know me: You are what you are. What are you? You're the dog being wagged by the tail. You're columnists saying Sendek and N.C. State aren't right for each other, when what you really mean is, Sendek and the N.C. State media aren't right for each other. You're reporters skulking around the 2001 ACC Tournament, when N.C. State was getting destroyed in a quarterfinal by eventual national champion Duke, asking Wolfpack boosters if they'd be interested in buying out Sendek's contract, turning fiction into news.
You know who you are. And Sendek knows who he is -- someone who's too good for N.C. State basketball. Unless something radical changes among the Wolfpack fan base and those who would fan its flames, most star coaches are too good for N.C. State basketball.
Don't be mad at me, Wolfpack fans. Be happy. You got what you wanted. Sendek's gone.
Now live with the consequences.