Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chris Karpman: History Lesson/Reminder

The best reporting of the coaching search has come from Well worth the price of a subscription. (And no, I don't get a cut!) Chris Karpman posted this to The Gold Rush message board on Tuesday 12/6 and kindly agreed to allow me to share it for all to read.

People here know that I've been around the Herb Sendek program for 5 years and what that means. It's with that knowledge that I'd like to pass along this story, which is absolutely true in its details according to multiple direct participants I have spoken with subsequent to the initial reporting those 5 years ago.

When ASU fired Rob Evans Lisa Love immediately targeted Pitt coach Jamie Dixon and did the hypothetical offer dance ('We'd probably consider an offer at X if you were willing to accept an offer at X, hypothetically'), Dixon played it for all it was worth, teased ASU badly with his expression of interest only to use the opportunity to renegotiate with Pitt.

Subsequent to that, Love made a strong play for Rick Majerus and even made a tentative offer subject to his passing a physical, which he did not pass and is the reason he didn't end up coaching at ASU (he was coming off leg surgery, travel was a major problem for recruiting etc., plus his weight/heart issues, which he fully admitted to after the fact).

These things were reported by us at the time, some conventional media scoffed at it, but they were very true and people who were here on the site remember this probably or do now after having their memory jogged by this re-telling.

At any rate, ASU was using a head hunter at the time (a different one, not the one being used in this search) and it was the head hunter who made contact with Sendek and only then did Sendek decide that he was willing to considering jumping ship. It was kind of a quick thing that happened and was an emotional type of thing. He was dramatically under-appreciated at NC State in his estimation and others who coached with him at the time. In his last season at the school they'd gone 22-10 and 10-6 in the ACC and there was a large segment of the community that wanted him fired. And this was upon his fifth straight NCAA post-season berth.

So Lisa Love did not target Sendek, far from it. She became alerted to his availability only after the search had begun and only after she'd struck out with Dixon and Majerus -- though Majerus wasn't her fault in one sense (health) even though someone could argue he shouldn't have been a target for that reason in the first place.

When Love was at the press conference announcing Sendek's hiring, she said that Sendek was the first coach she offered the job to -- among other things -- which may have been factually true, but didn't speak to the chaotic nature of the search. It was an effort -- and this of course is what an athletic director would do -- to make everything appear as if it had gone smoothly and been under control.

It really wasn't though.

The reason I tell this story is two-fold. One, it's to show that no matter what Love or the others might say at the end of this process, it doesn't necessarily mean that's the reality of how things actually transpired in a literal sense. Perhaps more importantly, two, it tells me that not enough was learned by Love via that experience given the way this coaching search has unfolded.

When you're doing this job extremely well as athletic director, you are constantly researching prospective candidates, keeping files on guys, talking to coaches around the country, asking them who the best coaches are, the best bright minds, the things it takes to succeed. You're talking to the assistant coaches that have been in your program and left and the reasons why, the past head coaches not just when you were the AD but even before that to understand the destabilizing dynamics involved and what needs to happen to address them in the future.

And most importantly, when you have all that knowledge in front of you in your files and you know all of the top candidates you'd like to target should you elect to make a move on your job, you know their buyout status, their willingness to leave their job for your and how you can achieve that aim through direct and indirect means. You have your target list clearly delineated, your goals well articulated and understood by yourself and those you're working with.

It's readily apparent to me that there is no such level of comprehension and diligence that has been made by her or in the athletic department on her behalf in this instance -- and this is clear in a multitude of ways -- and when that's the case, there is assurance that your job of finding the next coach will be less inclined to success than if the preparation is excellent.

Where we are at here is a guy ASU brought into the equation who is a true outsider -- headhunter Bob Beaudine -- in terms of real understanding of ASU's culture and what the program truly needs in the wake of Dennis Erickson's dismissal. Yes, he knows several people on high close to the athletic department well who also went to SMU, and maybe they can tell Beaudine their view of what's going on, but it's not the same. It is not nearly the same.

You can't know the smell of the air based on how someone describes it to be. You have to go and smell the air yourself.

Lisa Love seemingly does not understand that history must be learned from. Steve Patterson is not to blame. He's not been here long and isn't a football guy who should be responsible for knowing all these things and the culture of ASU. Michael Crow is responsible because he has to ensure that plan of attack has been in place in the event of this for not just days, not just weeks, not just months, but years.

Have the target list. Know whom you can get at a bare minimum and how that can be accomplished and make sure that it's someone who embodies the characteristics and traits that you profess to want -- June Jones is a person I've spoken with many coaches about in recent days and the positives are clear and the negatives are as well, and many of the negatives are the same things that would be in the Dennis Erickson category; the things that Love has professed to want to not worry about with the next coach -- and know your approach and order and how the candidates would be responded to by the community you're responsible for selling him to.

Smell the air around this community and you know that Jones isn't the hire that would in any way resonate with your booster support or strongly address your stated goals in terms of addressing the cultural issues that ultimately derailed Erickson's tenure.

In short, know the smell of the wind and the way that it blows or it just might catch you under your sails and sweep you right out of town.

This article ©2011 Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved.

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