Questions And Answers With Coach Sendek

June 28, 2010

Coach Sendek met with the local media and bought some pizzas (as far as you know, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story) a few weeks ago...here are all his thoughts on subjects that ranged from picking up two newcomers late in recruiting, why kids transfer, his outlook for this year, scheduling...a plethora of things...

ON HIS SEVEN-PLAYER RECRUITING CLASS ENTERING THIS FALL

'We're really excited about our team going into next year. First, we have a cast of returning players, who have experience and who have continued to get better every step of the way. We are looking forward to their continued progress. A really nice nucleus of five players. Then, we have an injection of talent into our program with a really important recruiting class for us. I think we have a group guys who have tremendous character. I think we've made our team more athletic. So, I've been looking forward to working with this group.'

ON GETTING KYLE CAIN AND CARRICK FELIX SO LATE

'It's really unheard of. It was just the convergence of a lot of circumstances that made them available at a later date than usual. We were fortunate to be in a position where we could recruit them and land them.'

ON THE SKILLS OF CAIN AND FELIX

'I think both of those guys bring length, athleticism, and versatility. I think if you look at the athletic quotation of our team across the board we've made some progress in that area. I think we are a longer and more athletic team going into next year'

ABOUT THE RECRUITING CLASS AS A WHOLE

'Going back to the fall signing period, we landed guard Corey Hawkins from the Estrella Foothills. As everyone in our area knows Corey broke Mike Bibby's all time scoring record here for the state of Arizona. Also, in the fall, we picked up Keala King, a very versatile player at about 6'5'. He played for Mater Dei High School this year in California and had an outstanding senior year. Then, our third early signee was Jordan Bachynski. A young man who is over seven feet tall and really has grace and fluidity. I think he has tremendous hands and a nice touch. He hasn't played basketball in two years, so its obviously going to take him some time to get his basketball legs back under him so to speak. Then, in the spring, we picked up Chanse Creekmur from Marshalltown, Iowa. Chanse is an outstanding three point shooter and a tough hard-nose competitor. He played quarterback on his high school football team. Then, we picked Brandon Dunson from Wabash Valley. Brandon is an explosive elite athlete, really sets the mark high with his quickness and jumping ability. I think we will improve our athleticism. Then, we just picked as we just talk about here a week ago, Kyle Cain, about 6-7, from Chicago. A really great competitor, plays hard and really plays with a great motor and high energy. Then, Carrick Felix from right here in Phoenix, 6-7, from the College of Southern Idaho. Athletic versatile player. So, some of the terms that I used for some of those guys are consistent and we welcome those guys onboard.'

ON HAVING A SEVEN-MAN RECRUITING CLASS

'We have in a lot of ways a young team but in some respects its not true that we have a seven man class because we have guys in different classes coming into the group. We don't have seven first-year players or seven freshmen. Then, obviously, we'll have to get those guys up and running and mixed with the guys who are returning. I don't know if we have ever had seven newcomers but we have had six. I think Stanford has seven this year coming in. Its not all together unique.'

ON CHANGING OFFENSE WITH THIS GROUP

'I think our team for next year will require us to really approach the season with an open mind. I think we have to be willing to put a lot different considerations on the table, but unlike any other year, we always try to determine who we have and how do we best take advantage of their strengths. I think this year that is definitely necessary. We're going to take a step back and consider a lot of things both offensively and defensively. We are going to try to put those guys in a position to be successful. I'm really looking forward to that process.'

ON THE OFFENSIVE AND DEFENSIVE PHILOSOPHY

'We'll keep all our options open. Always what we try to do is function of who we have. We play a version of the Princeton System when I was at NC State because of the timing, of the uniqueness, and the personnel we had. Then, we came here and remember that first year we were together, we ran flex and held the ball and hoped to bank one in at the end to escape with a one point win. Then, with James and Jeff did a lot of two-man stuff. We had two NBA players and we tried to start and end a lot of possessions with those two guys working together or creating offense for other players. Then, last year I thought it was important take some of the burden off of Derek and not put him in a position where he had to monopolize the ball as much as we were early in the season for him. So, we gravitated toward a true motion offense that was more much equal opportunity than when we had James and Jeff working together. To answer your question, I'm always looking at who we have. At NC State, we had a young man, Ilian Evtimov. We put him in the post on that you guys call the Princeton Offense. We put him in the side post, the high post. He made us go with that. It was great. Even though it was the Princeton Offense my final season, we were the top three in the league in scoring with Duke and North Carolina in league play. So much for all the fact of it being a slow down. When I was at NC State, we played 99 percent man-to-man, 99.6 percent maybe. But when we came here once again that first year almost out of necessity we thought we had to do something to give our guys a better chance so we threw out the zone. Having no idea what we were doing as coaches with it. Making it up as we went. Now the thing has taken root and we continued to massage it and improve it and make it better and its probably been one of the reasons why we'd been as competitive as we been the last few years.'

ON THE FUN OF RECRUITING

'Recruiting isn't drafting. If I could hand pick whom we wanted, it may be a simpler process, but it on where you are in recruiting and what stage your program is. Sometimes you get the best guys available and you work around their strengths and that's the position we've been in here especially through our first few years at Arizona State. But it is fun. I think it's the most fun I have as a coach sometimes is in spring when I can study other teams, when I can talk to other coaches because no matter how many years you do it, there always more to learn. Just when you think you found the way you realize there's a better way or another way for your team. It is like reading a really good book if you read it again different things reveal themselves to you. You pick up things the first read you didn't get or see the same thing in a different way. I think that is what coaching is like for me. The more I watch film, the more I talk to people, it allows you to see things differently.'

ON THE JOB ALVIN GENTRY DID WITH THE SUNS

'Coach Gentry did a great job all season long. Clearly, that was one of the best coaching jobs that I've seen. I give him a lot of credit for the way he really fostered confidence and bought his bench along. At the end of the year, those guys were real difference makers and he had the foresight in the conviction to bring them along the way he did. I thought he did a great job.'

HOW WILL JAMELLE DO WITH DEREK GONE?

`Jamelle basically has been a starter. He has played together with Derek a lot. It is impossible to put a value on experience and leadership and Jamelle brings both of those to the table, as his leadership has be big for us and it will continue to be. With so many new guys on our team this year, leadership will once again be at a very high premium.'

CAN THE NEW PLAYERS MAKE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT?

'I think we have guys who are going to need to make an impact, just from a sheer numbers stand point. I think we'll have guys in the group that can do that. How will it all shuffle out? Obviously, it is premature right now. I have confident in this group and likewise I have tremendous confident in our returning players. The danger is some when you have a recruiting class that is as recognized as this one is for us that somehow the guys who are with you all of sudden aren't talk about as much. They're receiving the same attention. From my standpoint, I'm really relying on those returning players with their talent, experience, and leadership to help drive this engine. I'm really excited about the five returning players. Just like this time of year...everybody is anxious to meet the new guys and excited about them. I certainly am but those returning players are awfully important to us.'

ON WHETHER THIS IS AN ISSUE IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL WITH PLAYERS LEAVING PROGRAMS

'I don't think it's a negative thing if they're able to leave. In other words, I don't know that if you ever see a rule go in place that says you can't leave or if you leave the penalty is stricter. I don't see us going down that road on the basics on student athlete well-being. I think as in once again as in most things sports reflect our society. Now people not only change jobs, they change careers multiple times by the time they're thirty sometimes. You know Roberto Clemente was always to going to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Barry Bonds wasn't. So College Athletics mirrors and reflects what's happening in our society and guys want to play. If guys don't see a way for them to get themselves to get to the court, then there is probably a pretty good chance they're going to look for opportunities at another level or another place. I don't know if that's always a bad thing. Sometimes the real answer for them is to get better. To have a little perseverance and stick with it and get better. Sometimes maybe the answer is to go to another place where they are a better fit or they have a better chance of playing.'

DO YOU TAKE IT PERSONALLY AT ALL?

'No, I don't. Not at all. No different than. I want everybody who comes into our program to be successful and to do well. If that's the path they have to take to be successful and do well then I'm supportive of that.'

ON WHAT HE TOOK AWAY FROM THE FINAL TWO LOSSES

'I don't know if I can draw any conclusions. Obviously, we didn't play well against Stanford and we lost. Stanford played a heck of a game against us. Landry Fields was a hand full. They played well and we lost the game. Then on Selection Sunday even though at that point I don't know if we expected to get in, but the reality of not getting in hit home was a tough swallow for our guys, even though I think the guys said the right things. To come back in the next two days and play against Jacksonville...having just been back in this building for the highs of beating USC and beating UCLA the last week of the season...to all of a sudden be right back here playing...that was tough. Even though our guys are saying all the right things, I don't know we put together the kind of game we needed to beat a pretty darn good Jacksonville team. Then, obviously a number of things happen down the stretch of that game that a great sequence for them and we got beat again. I don't know if I spend a lot mental energy trying to read too much into it. At this point giving the fact A: it's over and B: we got such a different team moving forward but I think the obvious explanation is just that. I think our guys won 12 games in the Pac-10. They finished a game behind Cal. Really had a heck of a run when you consider we were 0-2 and then won 12 of 16 games in the Pac-10. The guys had a heck of a conference season. After we got through that first weekend and dusted ourselves off, we won 12 of 16 games. You play a team the third time. You play a good team and you get beat. Basic on all the commentary about the Pac-10, our guys knew for all intensive purposes they weren't going to the tournament. I know you suppose to be mentally above that and you're suppose rise to the challenge and all those things but I just think coming back into this building after the great high of knocking off USC and UCLA. Then, coming back down that ramp, I think it was a hard thing for our guys to do and obviously it was. Even if it wasn't, we still might have got beat and that's the nature of college basketball. We saw it even in the other tournament.'

'I don't think so. One thing I would like to see is the regular season champions from each conference receive the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as suppose to the conference champion. I think the conference champion should receive an automatic bid to the NIT and then go from there. It is inevitable that there is going to be come upsets in conference tournaments sometimes by lower seeds. Not that that is an amazing feat, but I don't know that should displace what just happen over a 16 or 18 game conference season. Maybe someday we'll be the recipeint of the conference tournament and that will allow us to get a bid. It works both way. I think that's a consideration. The conference tournament is played sometimes on team's home courts. Some tournaments' top seeds get byes into the semi-finals. Some conferences not all the teams go to the tournament. There's such a hodge podge for that to be the automatic qualifier. It just seems to me it would be better serve if we said, 'ok, everybody is playing a 16 or 18 game conference schedule and if you're the regular season champ, you got the automatic bid.' Now you got to work through ties, I understand that. Maybe, that's a consideration. The conference tournament typically plays into whoever has the greatest depth. It's not the same as the conference season. Sometimes you have less than 24 hours between games.'

'I think it speaks to what we always talk about in terms of the parity of college basketball. Especially, when you get into the NCAA tournament sometimes. You look at the tournament, not to take away anything from the teams that advanced because they advanced. You go back to those games and it's a free throw here, a shot here, and the destiny of everything is altered. If you talk to the Murray State people, they be telling you that Butler was fortunate to escape an early round game. Look at the shot Michigan State needed to beat Maryland. They had several one point wins and there in the final four. The difference is sometimes being out the first or second round and all of a sudden, we're still playing could be free throw or a shot. You look at the shot the young guy made from Northern Iowa to beat Kansas or to help beat Kansas. That's just the nature of our game. It's so exciting. A single game elimination tournament. A lot of things happen. I remember when we were at Providence back in '87, we had UAB the first round and it was on UAB's court. That's when you were still allow to play at home and even though we were the sixth seed and I think they were the eleventh seed, we knocked off UAB. In our bracket, the next game was a tremendous Illinois team. I think they had Kendall Gill and Stephen Bardo. This team was tremendous but in our bracket, Austin Peay knocks off Illinois and then we beat Austin Peay. We had to come from behind. We were down ten with five to go. I don't know if we played Illinois, we still might be trying to beat them. That's March Madness. The thing you have to respect so much about Butler, its not just they advanced through this tournament the way they did. I didn't mean that commentary to take anything away from them. I was just talking about the mad part of the tournament. The more significantly with me for Butler is their ability to constant excellence year in year out year in year out going back to Barry Collier, Todd Lickliter, and Brad Stevens. It just seems that there're one of those places that they are engineered to win basketball games and the have a program that has stood the test of time.'

ON OPENING THE SEASON AT NEW MEXICO

'We were just feeling crazy this spring. We were just having fun. We put together this incredible schedule. I'm sure we'll wondering what we did come November and December because we play a very challenging schedule especially for the team we have that we are putting together for next year. That first week we are at New Mexico. We come home and play UAB. We go up to Alaska and we come back and go at Baylor and we have Richmond in here. It is just every single game we're going to have to play at our best to have a chance to win. Instead of being accused of not having a strong enough schedule, we maybe accused of insanity with at least 16 games away from home.'

TALKING ABOUT THE SCHEDULE

'I just think its what our program needs now to continue to elevate our stature to create a mind set with our Sun Devil community and our players. It's what we need now. It may not been what we needed last week or last year or two years ago but as we got through this evolution together. I think it Is just what the Arizona State basketball program needs now. We just need to be in the company of a really good schedule. We made great process. I'm completely confident that in the very near future you will have a difficult time getting a ticket.'

ON PUTTING TOGETHER THIS YEAR'S SCHEDULE

'Basically, looking at the decision the committee has made, it seems like playing the tough schedule is the way to go but you got to win a lot of games. I'm still not convinced that everybody fully gets how hard it is to make the NCAA tournament. Take Illinois last year, they won at Clemson. They beat Michigan State twice or once. They beat Wisconsin. They have a bunch of wins like that. I'm probably missing some and they didn't go. That's why I like for the conference tournament champion to get the automatic bid to the NIT. There are good teams in the NIT. Teams that won 20, 25 games are in the NIT. We almost have 350 schools playing division I basketball right now and its just not the BCS schools like in football that have good basketball programs. Because you do have Butler, you do have Gonzaga, you do have Xavier, you do have Davidson. You have good schools across the board in college basketball. When you take away the 30 plus automatic bids and you are dealing with a very small faction of at large bids. To get into that tournament you have to not only play a really good schedule but you have to have a really good team. You have to win a lot of games.'

WERE YOU IN FAVOR OF EXPANDING THE NCAA TOURNAMENT?

'I think we need to continue to evaluate it moving forward. If we do it, I like the way it was done this spring. Maybe in small increments but continue to keep an open mind with it. I would like at some point, not that I expect it to happen, for it to be a recognition that the teams in the NIT by large had a pretty good seasons. No different then maybe you don't go to a BCS bowl but there are some pretty bowl games that have good college football teams that would be on the same line of achievement if relative to basketball.'

THOUGHTS ON RELATIONSHIPS WITH PLAYERS (BASED ON ALL THE THINGS SAID ABOUT THE LATE JOHN WOODEN)

'I think we do aspire to have that kind of connection and relationship with our players to make a difference for them beyond basketball. Sometimes that doesn't come into complete focus until years later but I think that is a goal we all have as coaches or that I have as a coach certainly.'

THOUGHTS ON THE JOB TIM ESMAY AND THE JOB HE DID WITH ASU BASEBALL

'Awesome. To go into the situation like he did and hit the field running and have the number seed in the tournament and advance to the Super Regionals...he has done a great job. I'm very happy to see him be awarded with the job full-time moving forward.'

ARE YOU ENJOYING THE SUMMER?

'I am very much so, as it has been a good summer. It's a good time of year. We have a number of our guys here in summer school. So we are able to stay connected with them and things are going well.'

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