ASU Basketball: Coaching Search Continues


By now, Arizona State University Athletic Director Ray Anderson is one week into his search for a new men’s basketball coach.  At this point, the speculation is at its zenith with rumors swirling about Steve Lavin, Jeff Capel and Josh Pastner.

Devils in Detail (along with everybody else) is in the dark about who ASU is truly pursuing for their next coach.  There are many reporters/insiders that claim to have a source that all three of the above candidates are interested and have been in discussions with ASU.  Devils in Detail believes that nobody really knows.

Some other goings on have added a recent twist.  St. John’s has reportedly offered their basketball job to former player and NBA great Chris Mullin.  Buffalo re-signed Bobby Hurley as their coach.  And yesterday, Texas fired Rick Barnes after 17 seasons.  Hurley was mentioned as a possible candidate for ASU.  The reality is that Hurley is an East coast guy and wants to stay out there.  Once St. Johns showed no interest, he quickly signed an extension with Buffalo.

The availability of Rick Barnes is worth noting, and ASU athletic director Ray Anderson would be foolish not to look into that possibility.  But listening to Ray Anderson describe his ideal coach for the Sun Devils, it seems that Barnes is not quite what he is looking for.  Anderson was very specific in what he wants; an outgoing coach that will energize the fan base, generate excitement and convince great players to come to ASU.

It makes sense.  ASU is not a “destination” basketball program.  Fans and alumni need to be honest about that.  Yes, Tempe is a beautiful campus.  Yes, Phoenix is a big city.  And yes, the weather is nice.  But ASU historically is a football and baseball school.  There’s no getting around that.  Even when ASU basketball was successful, the campus and the city never really embraced the basketball program.

Part of the reason is because of the variety of sports here in the Valley.  It’s a saturated market with the Cardinals, Suns, Diamondbacks.  Fans and alumni can get excited about ASU football games every Saturday, but apparently, asking them to get excited about basketball games on Wednesdays and Sundays is too much.  Because of that, the ASU basketball players and thus, the potential recruits, don’t get a whole lot of “love” from the students and fans.

Compare that situation to the U of A down in Tucson.  They are the only game in town, literally.  U of A sports is all there is in the Old Pueblo.  The basketball tradition that Lute Olsen built is a big part of that equation, but nevertheless, when highly rated recruits visit a U of A game, they are treated to a sold out arena and showered with attention.  That’s what happens at programs where basketball is “King”. (Kansas, Kentucky, Indiana, etc)

Basketball is not “King” at ASU.  That makes it a challenge to recruit top talent, which makes it more difficult to win here.  So, AD Ray Anderson’s assertion that he is looking for an energizing force that can recruit makes total sense.

However, Devils in Detail believes that concept might be a little overdone.  Yes, it’s important for the head coach to be affable, outgoing, comfortable with the media and excitable.  But in the end, what counts is winning games.  People will put up with a coach that is short with the media or awkward on TV if he puts a good product on the floor.  If a coach could do both of those things, (e.g. ASU Football coach Todd Graham) well that would be even better.

Devils in Detail is not a big fan of Steve Lavin, who is reportedly very interested in the ASU job.  Lavin has had success at UCLA and St. John’s.  But it is our opinion that his teams under-achieved.  The successes he generated at both schools were the result of recruiting some good players.  But he couldn’t quite “coach them up” or develop them individually or as a team.  While he is very out-going and a proven recruiter, Lavin would not be our choice.

As for the other two, (Capel and Pastner), Devils in Detail is undecided.  Both could be good fits here.  Both might fail miserably.  Whoever Anderson hires better be aware that they are going to have to earn their pay, so to speak.  It won’t be easy.  The last 3 coaches here were Coach of the Year in their previous conferences before coming to ASU.  (Frieder-Big 10, Evans-SEC, Sendek-ACC)

Speaking of Sendek, Devils in Detail has nothing but respect for the work he did here in Tempe.  For being in a tough place to win, he put quality teams on the floor.  Furthermore, he had some success beating the U of A, which is hugely important to Sun Devil fans.  Sendek has nothing to be ashamed about.

Stay tuned for more developments in this pursuit of a new head coach.  Devils in Detail is impressed with AD Ray Anderson’s first hire of baseball coach, Tracy Smith.  Hopefully, he’ll make another good decision for a basketball coach.