This year's monumental conference tourney collapse to the celler dweller Trojans seemed to fit the mold of what Herb Sendek built at Arizona State; a team that inspires during the season and disappoints after. The last time an ASU basketball team advanced past the second round of our respective conference tourney was when James Harden still wore the maroon and gold on game day, back when SB Nation only covered ten universities out west. In fact, that was the last time Arizona State has escaped the second round of any tournament, NCAA, NIT or otherwise.
The '08-'09 Sun Devils, headlined by potential NBA MVP candidate James Harden, Jeff Ayers (Pendergraph), Derek Glasser, and Jamelle McMillian, arguably the best Sun Devil team of the Sendek era, went one and done in the Big Dance.
The 13-14 Sun Devils, featuring Jahii Carson, Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall, went one and done in March Madness AND the conference tournament.
"But, at least we beat the Wildcats right?" When beating your in-state rival is your only benchmark for success, your program tends to run in place, especially when your coach is 68-86 in conference play.
With our football program reaching levels of consistent excellence and traditional basketball schools now succeeding in football (ie. Duke) and vice versa (ie. Notre Dame), Herb Sendek was no where near meeting the new bar set by Ray Anderson and the Sun Devil athletic program. It was finally time for a change and honestly, we should have expected this.
The switch to adidas and the "resignation" of Tim Esmay has shown us Ray Anderson intends to make Arizona State athletics his own, not just replicating the results and/or following in the footsteps of ex-AD Steve Patterson. Sendek was never Ray's hire and was going to keep his job only if he could sustain an acceptable level of success. Obviously, Sendek never quite made the mark.
So, where do we go from here? The rule of thumb in basketball is that you have to be really bad before you can be really good. So let's start there:
Herb's firing, like any firing, caused immediate ripples throughout the team. Freshman Connor MacDougall immediately announced his intention to transfer from the program. The 6'8" center spent the season mostly riding pine and was at one point "indefinitely suspended" which could lead one to believe this would have happened one way or another. Still a key cog of last year's recruiting class, the loss of the Arizona native is still a blow.
4-star recruit Brendan Bailey said, "No thanks," to joining the program's rebuilding plans and has decommitted. He was soon followed by Larry Drew's son, Lindsey Drew, who, at the very least, would have provided an interesting subplot for the Sparky faithful to watch during a time of turnover. Ask Oregon State and Gary Payton II.
The team also graduates senior leader and leading scorer Shaquielle McKissic, someone who could have helped rally the troops around an incoming head coach.
Leading rebounder and UNLV transfer Savon Goodman still has two years left with the university and, at the moment, plans on returning. The junior missed 9 games last season and could become a star player in his last two years, in a fashion similar to Jordan Bachynski.
Savon won't be alone, bringing 3 other starters back with him in Eric Jacobsen, Gerry Blakes and Tra Holder. Jacobsen was a pleasant surprise for the Sun Devils last season, replacing former center Bachynski's rim protection and minimal interior offense as best he could, only a year after his departure. With no huge names on the recruiting list for next year, ASU will need this core to lead them. A year of familiarity will definitely help.
Above all though, Arizona State still remains coach-less at the moment, but notice the organization. Ray Anderson has already said the search will be a long, through process. Anderson has a plan and is sticking to it; nothing wrong with that.
The buzz word around the coaching search recently has been Duke. Currently, Buffalo head coach and former Blue Devil All-American Bobby Hurley has been rumored as a possible candidate. Coach Hurley helped lead Buffalo to their first NCAA tourney this year.
Jeff Capel III, the man who laid down the framework for the success of the Virginia Commonwealth program and who took the Sooners to the Elite 8, has been rumored to the position, with some outlets reporting its his job to lose. The former and current Blue Devil has spent the last four seasons coaching under the great Coach 1K and probably won't be hired until after their tournament comes to a close. All options (realistic) considered, I'd put my money and my hopes here.
Jerry Colangelo, the first Suns' general manager, leader of the D-Back's expansion group and who some call the "Godfather of Arizona Professional Sports", has also been linked to the position. A man known for his high integrity and heavy valley ties would be a popular hire among locals.
Former St. John's coach Steve Lavin has also been linked to the position, since his resignation. Probably the least sexy when compared to Jerry and Jeff, Lavin could be a sleeper choice come hiring time.
The "if we lived in a perfect world" choice would be Archie Miller from Dayton. Yes, the brother of Sean Miller. While some Devil alumni may feel belittled by the choice, a brother v. brother rivalry in the valley is far too cool for me not to secretly root for. Hey, a blogger can dream, right?
To steal a quote from Wisconsin's newest fan, Sun Devil nation needs to R-E-L-A-X. Relax. Some media outlets are counting the days like the apocalypse is nigh. Minutes after Sendek resigned, it sounded like Capel had already inked his deal. The throne was still warm when Tempe Twitter was trying to shove Capel on top of it.
Just like you don't count outs during a perfect game, let Ray Anderson do his work. He's only pitched perfect frames so far; there's not reason to rush it.