Tar Heel Fan

Sunday, April 02, 2006

State Fans Looking For Justification

Now that the anti-Herb faction of Wolfpack nation has succeeded in creating a hostile enough environment to push Herb Sendek inyo taking the Arizona St. job the opinions addressed on the Pack Pride message board range from estatic to well estatic. A lot people over there are very happy tonight and there are also some people over there who are completely delusional. Now, I have written two posts about Herb Sendek and why I thought he should leave and why I thought the motivations in Wolfpack nation to get rid of Sendek were wrong. Some fans at NC State operate on the mentaility that NC State is entitled to elite program status irregardless of the teams performance in reality. They cite the two national titles as proof that NC State exists on the same plane as UNC and Duke. The other aspect of the State fan neurosis is the "Jimmy V effect" which I have written about before. It may also be referred to as the "Chuck Amato effect." Both "effects" simply equate fan support with the personality and antics of the coaches in question with little consideration to actual win totals. Valvano was successful to a point and had some good tournament runs while winning a national title. Valvano's longest NCAA Tournament streak was five seasons the same as Sendek and for the most part his win total is roughly the same as Sendek's. Now that Sendek is out the neurosis has taken a different turn. Wolfpack fans are now attacking anyone who criticizes for they way they have acted or questions their motivations for wanting Sendek out. When WRAL announced the news after the Final Four, sportscaster Bob Holliday commented that the behavior of Wolfpack nation towards Sendek as well as their expectations could be a problem in finding a new coach. Wolfpack fans immediately called foul and even accused WRAL and Holiday of being pro-UNC. There is truth in what Holliday said however. If you are a coach and you interview for the NC State job the biggest question you have to ask is why the previous coach was so hated by the fans even though he had gone to five straight NCAA Tournaments and averaged 19 wins a season? If I am a coach, especially an unproven one, I am going to ask that question. Let's face it, no big name coach is going to leave Memphis, Texas, Gonzaga, Florida or Louisville to come to NC State so the only option they have is a mid-major coach who is unproven on the big stage of the ACC and who has never been in the shadow of two perenniel powers like UNC and Duke. It is absolutely a tough job in terms of coaching in the ACC and playing those two powers each season. Couple that with the behavior of fans who seem completely unsatisfied with winning seasons, NCAA Tournament appearances, and a clean program you have a situation which is fraught with danger. So for State fans to pretend that ostricizing Sendek will have no bearing on current coaching propects is tatamount to outright stupidity. Any coach that gets hired should show up to the press conference with cool sunglasses, red shoes, and a pocket full of cute sound bites because if he does not he will already be behind the eight ball. The other cry being made on the State message board is that UNC fans have no credibility in criticizing State fans because of the Matt Doherty debacle in 2003. Just for review Matt Doherty was a member of the 1982 National Championship team and in 2000 was a first year head coach at Notre Dame. That same year Bill Guthridge announced his retirement after three years, having succeeded Dean Smith as a transistion head coach. The plan was for Roy Williams to come from Kansas at that point, but Roy felt loyalty to his players was more important and stayed. This kicked off a national embarassment as UNC AD Dick Braddour floundered around looking for someone in the UNC "family" to hire. Doherty was about seventh on the list and the only available candidate. I had mixed feelings about it at the time but after one season in which the Heels were ranked #1 at one point before losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to Penn St. it seemed like a good move. However, bad recruiting by Guthridge had depleted the ranks and an 8-20 season followed. 2002-03 was better with the Heels going 19-17 while beating Duke in Chapel Hill. Doherty had also stocked the pantry with great players so there was nothing but upside in Chapel Hill. Then all hell broke loose. Rumors began flying that Doherty was verbally abusive to the players and as a result key individuals were floating the idea of transferring. A full blown player revolt ensued and Braddour being the "capable" administrator he is saw fit to force Doherty out. Overtures were then made a second time to Roy Williams who accepted the post, leaving Kansas after a tough title game loss. I was living in MA at the time, so I missed the media onslaught. I gathered from recent discussions on the Inside Carolina message board that the UNC fan based was deeply divided over Doherty much the same as Wolfpack nation was over Sendek. I personally had no problem with Doherty and thought he should have been give a couple of more seasons to see his prime recruiting class through, if any of them stayed. That was ultimately the sticking point in that Doherty was liked but there were also questions about his intensity and how he related to the players. The only reason I raise this brief history lesson is that Wolfpack fans now are using the Doherty situation as a point of deflection on any criticism directed at them for their behavior. Since I am now on record as a UNC fan who was somewhat neutral in the whole Doherty debacle I am under no such restrictions in much the same way I bear no guilty conscience for slavery because my ancestors never owned slaves. One part of this is the reality that this is how fans act, period. State fans were probably ripping UNC fans left and right in 2003 for their behavior so in one way this is payback and in another way this is a fundamental part of how the system operates. Hypocrisy is an element of fan wars(and politics) among rivals so to say that UNC fans are in no position to criticize State fans is idiotic since that is simply how it is done. The other part of the equation is the actual reasons why UNC fans were upset at Doherty versus why State fans are upset at Sendek. In UNC's case, fans were not really that upset about the losing season and missing two straight NCAA Tournaments. The players were in place and there were no real issues with Doherty as a game coach. His intensity on the other hand was the dividing point. Some liked it, thought it brought a fire to UNC that had been absent under Dean and Guthridge but others, players included, saw it as crossing the line. The player interaction and the rumors of player transfers stirred the based into a frenzy and Braddour was put in a bad spot. As a matter of principle I think Braddour was wrong and as my late father said Braddour let the inmates run the asylum. This is not the NBA, the players do not get to decide who the coach is and the AD should have stood beside Doherty and called the bluff of these players threatening to transfer(and I believe it was a bluff orschestrated by Sean May's father Scott May. Does anyone really believe Rashad McCants and Sean May were really going to sit for one year somewhere else thus delaying their NBA careers?) In the case of NC State fans, the best as I can tell their chief complaints about Herb Sendek is not his winning or losing, his ability to go to the NCAA Tournament, or even that he is running a bad program. The problems they have with Sendek is his personality, the style of offense he coaches, and his failure to beat UNC and Duke more consistently even though no other State coach since Everett Case with perhaps exception of Norm Sloan in the early 1970's have done that. So, yes UNC fans complained about Doherty, but I tend to think that an inability to comminicate effectively with the players to the point they are threatening to transfer is a bigger deal than wanting Sendek to leave because he is too quiet or he is not running a flashy offense. And even if I accept that both lines of protest are equally moronic my first point applies. Criticizing a rival school is what fans are supposed to do. I think the deeper issue here is that Wolfpack fans either feel guilty now that Sendek is leaving or they realize that pushing him out is probably a mistake. Why else would they be so defensive in the face of criticism? I personally think they are protesting way too much for a group of people who believed themselves to be on the right side of this issue. If you think you are right about something and in this case if State fans honestly believe that Sendek leaving in favor of a new coach is the best move for them, then who cares what other people are saying. Ignore them or better yet come up with a better response than: "I know you are, but what am I!" Copyright 2006, BCB

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