Herb Sendek’s contract extension puts ASU basketball at a crossroads

Arizona State men's basketball coach Herb Sendek signed a three year contract extension through the 2018-2019 season. (Photo by Molly J. Smith)

Arizona State men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek signed a three year contract extension through the 2018-2019 season. (Photo by Molly J. Smith)

IanBeck9-2Men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek has signed a contract extension that would keep him at ASU through the 2018-19 season.
Sendek had two seasons left on his current deal and his future was up in the air, leaving him essentially a lame duck, which never helps in terms of recruiting.

Instead, Sendek will be around for at least another four years and will receive a slight pay increase to boot.

At face value, this deal is sort of bland, and that’s in many ways fitting, because the team has been sort of bland under Sendek.

With the exception of superstar James Harden and semi-star Jahii Carson, there hasn’t been any game-changing talent on the ASU roster under Sendek. As a result, there hasn’t been much overall success.

Sendek has taken this team to the NCAA tournament just twice in his eight years in Tempe, with an additional berth in the National Invitational Tournament to boot.

In those two trips to the big dance, Sendek’s teams did not advance past the second round. The highs of this coaching tenure aren’t even all that high.

Overall, Sendek’s teams haven’t ever been all that bad. ASU had a disastrous 2011-12 season in which it won only 10 games, but by and large, Sendek has kept the team fairly steady.

In his eight years as head coach, Sendek has guided the Sun Devils to an average of 17.5 wins per season with just less than 15 average losses.

In terms of conference play, the teams have averaged a slightly less than .500 with 7.6 wins and 8.1 losses per season. Their average finish in the Pac-12 is sixth. In other words, dead average.

It’s easy to argue that ASU has essentially committed to another three years of cripplingly average play. In fact, Michael Hlebasko of Busting Brackets, a Sports Illustrated offshoot, has made just that argument.

I see it in a different light. ASU has wisely positioned itself at a crossroads.

Let’s consider the situation in which the Sun Devils don’t extend Sendek. He goes through the 2014-15 season struggling to overcome the losses of Carson and Jordan Bachynski, the team’s best players from a year ago.

He then enters the final year of his contract as a lame duck, unable to attract any quality recruits and therefore, dooming the team to a lost season.

Whoever replaces Sendek inevitably turns over the roster and rebuilds the program in his image, presumably committing the team to one or two seasons of transition before it’s in a position to succeed.

So without Sendek, ASU is almost guaranteed four years of “bleh.”

With Sendek, however, there is hope for more. Granted, the team could rattle off a few more average seasons during which fans gnaw at their nails while the team exists in March Madness bubble purgatory.

But, Sendek could also capture the magic he had during 2007-10, when his squads rattled off win totals of 21, 25 and 22 wins, finishing no lower than fifth in the Pac-12.

When you look at the rest of the Pac-12 right now, there isn’t a lot to be afraid of. UA had a phenomenal season last year and could very well be one of the nation’s elite teams this year as well.

UCLA and USC are both teams with some potential, though UCLA was recently gutted by players leaving for the NBA.

Sure, the conference had a total of six teams represented in the NCAA tournament last year, but only two were higher than a No. 8 seed (UCLA was the No. 4 seed in the South bracket, UA was No. 1 in the West).

That means this conference is prime for the taking — or at the very least, a high seed.

With renewed job security, Sendek might have what he needs to attract another star recruit like Harden or Carson. A talent like that might very well have ASU at the top of the Pac-12.

So while nothing is guaranteed, by extending Sendek, ASU gave itself the chance to have great success in the coming seasons rather than frustration. By virtue of that opportunity alone, the extension might be worth it.

 

Reach the sports editor at icbeck@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @ICBeck21