clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ASU Basketball: Why it was time to move on from Herb Sendek

Herb Sendek accomplished quite a lot during is tenure in Tempe, but it was time to move on.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing I want to say is Herb Sendek is a very good basketball coach. He is one of the most respected coaches in the country, and on top of that he's just a nice person. Aside from that, Sendek actually accomplished a good deal while in Tempe.

Consider that in the 20 seasons prior to Sendek, the ASU basketball program won 20 games just five times. In his nine seasons, they won 20 games five times. His predecessor Rob Evans finished under .500 in five of his eight seasons as the head coach of ASU. Sendek has finished under .500 just three times in nine seasons.

However, it was time to make a change. The program had grown stale and the energy levels were at an all-time low. ASU basketball has operated in this vicious circle for the last 20 or so years. The program brings in an elite player, they make an NCAA Tournament appearance, that player leaves and the program goes back to mediocrity.

Think Eddie House, Ike Diogu, James Harden and Jahii Carson. All great Sun Devils, with average supporting casts. That next great player looked like it was going to be Markus Howard of Perry High School, until he decommitted from ASU a few weeks ago. Maybe he saw what was coming.

There is also the fact that despite his success, Sendek's teams have constantly underperformed. He was only able to make one NCAA Tournament appearance with James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. In two seasons with Jahii Carson, he was only able to make one tournament appearance. In nine seasons, he made two trips to the big dance and four trips to the NIT.

He was never able to take the next step with the ASU basketball program. He was never able to build a consistent tournament team. Like the Phoenix Suns, the ASU basketball program was usually just on the outside looking in when it came to the postseason discussion.

This season was curious as they came in regards to Sendek. ASU losts its three best players from last year's squad. With a freshman point guard and seven new players, Sendek finished fifth in the Pac-12, won 18 games and his team seemed to improve heading into the Pac-12 Tournament.

Then in Las Vegas, like it does for most people, reality came crashing down. The Sun Devils collapsed down the stretch in their opening round game, surrendering a 21-4 run to end the game and losing to the worst team in the Pac-12. Following the game, the media, the players and Sendek himself looked in shock. They didn't have any answers, and the improvement that took place over the course of the season was quickly forgotten.

Sendek lost the fans a while ago. While there is so much optimism surrounding football, women's basketball, baseball and softball (all of which are ranked programs) there is none for men's basketball. The average attendance fell from 6,687 in 2013-2014 to 5,895 this season.

Every article posted on this site surrounding the men's basketball team, resulted in numerous comments asking for the firing of Sendek or reflecting disapproval of the state of the basketball program. While that shouldn't be a major factor in the decision to fire a coach, boosters, donations and fans are what drive an athletic department. Clearly, their voice was heard.

Ray Anderson has proven two things during his tenure at ASU: He isn't afraid to push the status quo, and he does not accept mediocrity. The renovations to Sun Devil Stadium are finally underway and when Tim Esmay wasn't getting ASU to Omaha, he was let go.

It would have been easy for Anderson to give Sendek another year. He could have pointed to the improvements made over the course of the year, players returning next year or even the large buyout Sendek has to be given (reportedly close to $3 million). However, Anderson once again proves his commitment to excellence as ASU's Vice President of Athletics.

It remains to be seen if ASU find a better coach than Sendek to lead its basketball program. But, one thing is clear: It was time to try.