How dangerous is it to try to report on the coaching carousel while it's still spinning? Well, I spent much of Monday on the phone chasing down rumors about who was going to get the vacant Virginia job. Most people "in the know" told me it was down to Tubby Smith or Sean Miller, and two reputable sources told me that Arizona State coach Herb Sendek was trying to get into the mix.SI.com article, with a H/T to Joe Ovies at 850 for bringing it to my attention.
Wow. I figured Herb might get a look as a potential candidate, but it's interesting that Herb was the one to put out feelers to the UVa folks. Had Sendek been hired by UVa, there's no telling what sort of storylines would've been written for years to come each time State and Virginia tipped off.
That Craig Littlepage passed on Herb -- while opting for a lesser-known coach that runs an even SLOWER offense than does Herb -- is somewhat telling. Perhaps Herb's asking price was too much for Littlepage's tastes, or maybe it's further confirmation of something I think we all know but that the media and coaching community refuse to acknowledge: Herb, as a coach, has a limited and well defined ceiling for success.
When faced with two options -- Herb, or recently hired Tony Bennett from Washington State -- they opted for the relatively unknown commodity rather than the proven one. Herb's a good coach; there's no doubt about it. He can bring a program quickly up to a competitive level, just as he did at State in the 90s. But his ceiling falls short of the level all ADs and fans ultimately strive for.
This is, again, not to denigrate Herb as a person or coach -- he's a good coach and an even better person. But after years of articles from the media about how foolish State fans were to let him go, it's worth noting that when two major coaching vacancies presented themselves this offseason he didn't get a look at one where he was employed previously as an assistant (Kentucky) and couldn't even interject himself into the running for another (Virginia).
The interest level the actively hiring ADs have of him as a coach is a small measure of validation that Herb's departure from State was ultimately the right thing for both parties.