When Herb Sendek looks across the bench Thursday night, he will see a familiar face. Actually, he will see a close friend. Sendek and Texas head coach Rick Barnes met in 1978 and worked together in the 1980's.
"I worked for Rick Barnes at Providence as an assistant," said Sendek. "He's somebody who I consider a great friend. He's a tremendous person, so I have a ton of respect for coach."
Sendek spent five years as an assistant coach at Providence before moving on to join Rick Pitino's staff at Kentucky in 1989. Sendek coached under Barnes for one season, 1988-1989, in which the Fryers went 18-11 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"He's somebody who is not only a great basketball coach, but a better person," Sendek said of Barnes. "He's the kind of man who if you have a son, you want him to play for him."
Barnes spent six seasons at Providence, reaching the NCAA Tournament twice and finishing with a record of 108-76. After leaving Providence, he went to Clemson, where he reached the NCAA Tournament three times in four years.
In 1998, Barnes left Clemson and took the Texas head coaching position. He led the Longhorns to the Big Dance in his first 14 seasons as head coach, reaching the Sweet 16 five times and the Final Four in 2003. Texas missed the tournament for the first time under Barnes last season, when it finished 16-18.
"I actually met Herb in 1978 when I was just out of college looking to get into coaching," Barnes said. "He was the one person who stayed with me from the previous staff (at Providence), he was relentless, he worked."
Even though Sendek and Barnes coached together for a season, their teams could not be more different. Arizona State relies on its perimeter shooting to beat teams, while Texas focuses on its rebounding and play inside.
The Longhorns rank fourth in the nation in rebounding and lead the Big 12 in offensive rebounding. Arizona State ranked last in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding.
"I think every team knows that their opponent wouldn't be in this tournament if they didn't have weapons," Barnes said. "They (Arizona State) have a terrific shot blocker and a terrific point guard that creates and gets down the floor and does a lot of great things for his team."
Texas has its own speedy point guard in Javon Felix. The sophomore stands just 5-foot-11 but averages 11.8 PPG and 2.9 APG. Freshman Isaiah Taylor (6-foot-1) is second on Texas with 12.5 PPG and leads the Longhorns 3.9 APG.
Despite the many unknowns on how the game will play out Thursday night, one thing is clear. There will be a mutual admiration between the two head coaches.
"Everybody loves Herb because of he's always positive and upbeat," Barnes said. "Everybody knew quickly how intelligent he was, he worked around the clock and is very loyal. I have nothing but wonderful thoughts about Herb."