We're pleased to introduce a new feature--The House of Sparky Roundtable, where the site's staff will debate a pressing issue regarding Sun Devil athletics, and then turn over the discussion to you. It will be a great forum for informed and insightful ASU viewpoints on all sides.
This week's topic: Should head basketball coach Herb Sendek get a mulligan for this season?
Brad Denny: Personally, I do give Sendek a mulligan for 2011-2012. There is no question that this season is nothing short of awful, and a coach is always the man responsible for his team, but I think the cavalcade of circumstances surrounding the team's performance can't fully be pinned on Sendek.
This was poised to be a bounce back season of sorts for Sendek and the program, with top recruit Jahii Carson joining a team with a nice core that was going to push the tempo. But then Carson eligibility drama carried on, injuries to key players struck and then disciplinary issues arose that resulted in suspensions to key players and the dismissal of ASU's most productive player in Keala King. For most of that, I'm not putting on Sendek's shoulders.
I can certainly see why fans are livid with a 6-13 record, but I don't think placing the blame on Sendek is warranted. I actually think that had he not received the contract extension in December amidst this chaos, the heat wouldn't be nearly to this level.
Nikil Selvam: I'm torn on this one, but ultimately I think that this season does fall on Sendek's shoulders. He shouldn't be held accountable for Carson's academic ineligibility, but he does deserve some of the responsibility for the disciplinary actions taken against his players. A coach needs to evaluate his players and find ways to motivate them, and Sendek failed to do so with King as he morphed into a problematic teammate.
Sendek definitely deserves props for taking immediate action with King, thugh. Rather than letting him stick around, Sendek made the wise--and bold--move to cut the team's leading scorer at the time to help his program. For this, he deserves some praise.
But ultimately, it all circles back to the point that Brad made above: ASU has given Sendek a contract extension. The institution believes that he is the coach for years to come, and with that declaration comes heightened responsibility to produce consistent results. He is the reestablished frontman of ASU basketball and the primary figure that will surround future Sun Devil teams. Sendek, poised to be such a huge factor in ASU basketball over the next fews years, deserves responsibility for this season's poor showing due to its possible implications on the team's future success.
Cory Williams: Listen, guys, I appreciate your perspectives on this, but let's be honest -- 2010-2011 was Herb Sendek's mulligan year after Derek Glasser and Eric Boateng left campus. We let him off the hook with a miserable 12-19 record, citing the future as a cure-all for the disastrous results on the court at Wells Fargo Arena.
Lisa Love made a foolish commitment to Sendek with this contract extension, and his teams have done little to prove that he deserves it. Frankly, it's hard to recruit when half of your prior commits have defected to other schools or quit the program altogether.
We're really missing out right now on a few key players that should still be in Tempe. One is Victor Rudd, who is now a starting forward at South Florida, who is averaging nine points per contest and is second on the team in scoring. Demetrius Walker is a useful piece on a very talented New Mexico team, and don't we all agree that Corey Hawkins would be our point guard today?
I gave him a lot of slack but I don't think he deserves it. Outside of Jahii Carson's academic troubles, I put this entire season on Sendek's shoulders.
Cody Ulm: Head coaches are second on the credit pecking order in team sports only to quarterbacks; they often get too much approval when their team is good and not enough trust when their team is bad. In Sendek's case, it would undoubtedly be wrong to put the entire blame on what is currently going on with his program.
Sure, one has to wonder what sort of playing time promises he's offering to recruits that are making them disappointingly transfer essentially on a consistent basis. But Sendek holds firm that no guarantees have ever been made and each player has to work for every opportunity, which is something I think we can all get behind (if it's true).
And yes, some criticism has to be divvied out for ASU's lack of point guard depth but at this point, that seems like a case of 20/20 hindsight. Back in October, Chris Colvin was looking like a promising diamond in the rough, the jury was still out on Carson, and Keala King was just happy to be on the court no matter what position he played. Fast-forward three months, Colvin is dishing out turnovers and racking up suspensions, Carson had the hammer laid down on him by the NCAA and the ever-talented King whined his way out of a roster spot. Even when the consummate professional Trent Lockett stepped up to learn the position on the fly and the offense finally began to click, his ankle swells up to the size of a grapefruit and now the team is back to square one.
For me, that just seems like a lot of bad luck as Arizona State's point guard woes has been the main culprit in them leading the Pac-12 in turnovers and having no consistency on either end of the court. Not even Bobby Knight can succeed without the talent being there.
Brad: Don't get me wrong, he's not above the serious criticisms that have been levied against him. Sendek can try to explain away the rash of recent transfers as the norm in the NCAA, but the numbers are still disturbing...as is the win-loss numbers over the last two years.
I don't know that I'd call 2010-2011 a mulligan year as Cory did. The expectation was to struggle in the wake of key departures, whereas there was legitimate (to some degree) optimism surrounding this season. The switch to a new system seemed to me largely predicated around the dynamic skills of Carson, and when that drama unfolded, it threw the entire team off-kilter. Some have made the argument that it is on Sendek to get his player's academics in order, but I'm not one of those. That problem is on Carson.
As for the disciplinary issues, like Nikil I give tremendous credit to Sendek for his decisive actions and I actually think that helps the "mulligan" argument. We call this players "kids", but at the end of the day, they are adults and need to be accountable. If not, there's the door.
I also will reiterate that I think his contract extension--yes, the latest in a long line of Lisa Love errors--is skewing the perception of Sendek this season. But again, can't fault him for signing it.
So basically, this was to be a transition year that went awry to do ineligibility, discipline and injuries, things I don't think were the result of any of Sendek's actions. However, while he gets a pass from me this year, 2012-2013 is a make-or-break, no excuses left type year for Herb.
Nikil: Sendek has certainly been a victim of circumstance in recent years, as Brad stated, dating back to last season's poor 12-19 record. However, his renewed importance to the basketball program with this contract extension makes his situation hard to forgive.
Put simply, he has failed to put a winning product on the floor this year. Wouldn't things be better right now if Sendek had done a better job on the recruiting front, perhaps by persuading some of the players that Cory cited above to come to ASU? Yes, Carson wasn't able to play this year, but it would have been nice to have another impact freshman who could have stepped in and absorbed the brunt of the loss. This marks one of a few deficiencies that merely can't be overlooked when you're critiquing a coach that figures to stick around for awhile.
Sendek deserves responsibility for this season, but not enough to permanently damage his trust with Sun Devil Nation. If he can put together a productive year in 2012-2013, we will all magically forget about this dreadful two-season stretch and praise Love for extending him. This long-term contract really works two ways: right now, it's killing him, but it could turn into a blessing in disguise if Sendek can post wins next year with Carson running the point.
Cody: The others are right though; just because he has been a victim of circumstance doesn't mean he's above criticism. Truly, I do believe that Sendek would be the first to tell you that he's disappointed in his coaching as well this year.
Really though, I think a majority of his negative assessment lies solely in the timing of his extension. Without question, it was odd but I genuinely believe that Sendek is the best coach that this university can get for its basketball program. I feel everyone involved realized that as Sendek said that this was something in the works for a few years now.
If attitude was the reason the Devils were losing, I'd be calling for his head. Instead, Sendek consistently claims (and more importantly the players reemphasize) that if you were to close your eyes and listen to the team speak in practice, walkthroughs, and meetings; you'd think you were listening to a Kentucky or Ohio State. Sendek puts this team in the right state of mind and in the best position to win week in and week out.
Still, I'm not one for mulligans in sports. It's easy to be upset as I too thought there would be a slight improvement from last year. I'm just saying let's hold off on passing judgment until next year when Sendek has more to work with. I think we will all be happy he stayed when "the talent quota", as Sendek likes to call it, improves next year because he is the coach that will find the most effective way to maximize it.
Cory: At this point, it's self-defeating to speak ill of the guy, as the administration clearly believes he is the man for the job and has rewarded him with a big contract. Rewarding lackluster results is hard for me to swallow, but if Jahii Carson is as good as people claim, all should be forgiven.
But really, pinning your season on a short point guard is a huge risk. If I don't see a real center get recruited soon, I am going to flip out. Herb doesn't get a mulligan, but they'll let him swing again next season no matter what.
You've heard our points, now it's your turn. Post your thoughts on whether Sendek deserves a pass for the team's struggles this season or whether he deserves the business end of a pitchfork in the Comments section below.
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