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My How Times Change… Or, The Curious Case Of Jim Boeheim And Lisa Love

December 14, 2011

In a search for an old Jim Boeheim quote and the news of today, I was struck by an odd confluence in the recent history of Boeheim and embattled Arizona State athletic director Lisa Love.  

On March 21, 2009, in the midst of the NCAA Tournament and leading up to a matchup between #3 Syracuse and #6 Arizona State, Pete Thamel of the NY Times wrote this piece for the Times' excellent college sports blog known as The Quad.

The piece details the relationship between Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and Arizona State head man Herb Sendek. The piece concludes thusly:

But when it came to more serious matters, Boeheim sent a more piercing shot toward the administration at North Carolina State. Sendek led the N.C. State to five consecutive N.C.A.A. tournament bids but was constantly badgered by a fan base that always wanted more. After Sendek left, N.C. State conducted a dysfunctional coaching search that has become a gold standard in college basketball circles for ineptitude. They settled on an alum, Sidney Lowe, who hasn’t led them to any N.C.A.A. tournaments. He hasn’t even won more than six games in the A.C.C.

So when asked what he thought about Arizona State hiring Sendek, Boeheim’s final jab of the day wasn’t so good humored.

“I thought somebody was pretty stupid and somebody was pretty smart,” Boeheim said. “I’m not going to mention which one.”

If you need help to figure out which school he’s referring to, check which one isn’t in your N.C.A.A. bracket.

The tone of the piece certainly stung from a State fan's perspective. The tone of the comments below is even worse (but we're talking about Internet People here; it's to be expected).

By just about everyone's viewpoint other than our own, it sure looked damaging to the competency of State's administration and a brilliant move on the part of the ASU AD. She'd "stolen" away Sendek from an unappreciative fanbase and was reaping the rewards. State, on the other hand, had fallen flat on its face trying to replace him and still foundering to get off the floor.

Flash forward almost three years…

State faces off against #1 Syracuse this weekend at the RBC Center, the Orange(men) still coached by the man who went to bat for Sendek and trashed State in the process. But if we could ask him the same question he was asked in 2009, would he still call us "stupid" and Lisa Love "smart?"

Probably not today, I'm guessing. At least not with the full conviction he had that day.

The oh-so-"smart" Lisa Love just concluded her own dysfunctional coaching search, one that perhaps Pete Thamel would agree qualifies as the new gold standard for ineptitude among college football coaching circles. In the interest of brevity, I won't retell the whole charade but internet is full of folks with a strong opinion of how it all went down. Just imagine Lee Fowler running a football coaching search with the kind of brazen recklessness he showed in 2006.

While Love was flailing about trying to land a football coach, you might've missed the news she granted Herb Sendek a two-year coaching extension in the midst of that tempest–much to the chagrin of many ASU alums have watched the Sun Devils crumble from the "height" of that 2009 second-round NCAA berth to where they are now: 4-5 overall with losses to Fairfield, Depaul and Pepperdine. Those darn impatient Sun Devil fans–in year five mind you–have already had enough of Sendek and expect more out of him than a string of transfers and one lone NCAA tournament appearance. His recruiting has trailed off greatly from the superclass with James Harden that led him to that 2009 tournament, so there doesn't seem to be much hope on the horizon.

And yet, despite all that and the fact she was conducting a horribly run football coaching search, Love decides to extend Sendek's contract? Why? Or better yet, why now and not at the end of the year when he and the program can be better evaluated? Is pulling the trigger 1/3 of the way into the season the move of a "smart" AD?

Please don't mistake this as a slam piece against Sendek. My ire has never been with him personally, and I hoped at the time that he and Lowe would both succeed so we could bury the trend of comparison pieces like Thamel's above.

However, hit pieces like Thamel's hurt. Quotes from elite coaches calling your school's administration "stupid" hurt. They were meant to hurt at the time, and they were effective in painting State and its fans like a bumbling bunch of idiots.

The internet never forgets, however, and with hindsight being 20/20 (for the most part), Thamel's piece now takes on a different light.

I don't think anyone would challenge Boeheim's notion that Lee Fowler admirably filled the role of "Stupid," but Folwer's gone now, replaced by a chancellor intent on building NC State's brand with an AD who is no-nonsense rather than laid back and a coach's friend. She expects results, and things look promising.

And what about the AD playing the role of "Smart?" I don't think you can say that of Love, not in the here-and-now. I doubt even Pete Thamel could justify echoing Boeheim's sentiments about her from 2009 after her disastrous month of December.

Do I expect Thamel to be right 100% of the time, or for the opinions of Thamel and Boeheim to hold up ad infinitem? Of course not. Sportswriting is probably the most error-filled form of media around, perhaps slightly behind weather forecasting. People are entitled to be wrong. There's evidence that suggests I could very well be wrong about my opinions of Debbie Yow as they certainly conflict with those of Maryland fans who–like State fans to Sendek–were happy to see her go.

But as brash and confident as Thamel and Boeheim came across in their opinions at the time, things can change wildly in a matter of years. It'd be fun to revisit their opinions on the matter should State shock the college basketball world on Saturday.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jared_dad2000 permalink
    December 16, 2011 1:43 pm

    Great piece.

    • Anonymous permalink*
      December 17, 2011 9:57 pm

      Thanks, and thanks for reading!

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