You know what grinds Arizona State coach Herb Sendek's gears? When people say he runs the Princeton offense.
It's not that Sendek is anti-Princeton, of course. The coach has run variants of the fabled style throughout his career, including in the past four years at Arizona State. But he's not running it anymore -- or, at the very least, he's not running it all the time. So, Sendek asks, could people please stop telling recruits he is? From the Arizona Republic (hat tip: The Dagger):
"It's actually kind of funny," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "We ran it my last year at NC State and we ran our own version of it. What people typically like to do is they like to say we ran it and we played slow. Yet my last year at NC State, we were in the top three in the league in scoring with Duke and North Carolina. And now we're not running it at all. ... It's actually amazing. [In recruiting], schools really try to use it against us."
Why the stylistic sensitivity? Doug Haller, the author of the Republic's post, leads with a story about other schools using the system as a way to convince recruits they don't want to play for Sendek at Arizona State:
At a recent AAU tournament, an Arizona State assistant coach bumped into a family friend of a standout player. "You got to get after him," the friend told the ASU coach, "but you can't play slow. You can't play that Princeton stuff."
The ASU assistant practically rolled his eyes. The Sun Devils haven't run a true version of the Princeton offense in almost three years, and yet, the Princeton label remains attached to them like a postage stamp. When it comes to recruiting, it's become the program's biggest hurdle, "the elephant in the room," as one source put it.
There are a couple of interesting points here. The first: Apparently, recruits don't like the Princeton offense. This is a little bit surprising. Maybe high school kids in 2010 dislike traditionalism. Maybe they're wary of a grind-it-out style. Maybe "Princeton offense" doesn't sound like much fun. Whatever the vague associations therein, you'd think Arizona State's other natural recruiting advantages -- the fact that you're recruiting to Tempe, Ariz., one of the best college towns in the world, for one -- would be enough to outweigh them.
More than anything, though, it's safe to bet recruits just don't want to play slow basketball. Princeton or not, this is where they have a point. Arizona State has been brutally slow since Sendek took over. To wit:
2006-07 Arizona State adjusted tempo: 59.2 possessions per game. Rank: No. 329.
2007-08: 62.3 possessions per game. Rank: No. 315.
2008-09: 60.0 possessions per game. Rank: No. 333.
2009-10: 62.5 possessions per game. Rank: No. 326.
If schools are recruiting against Arizona State's style, the Princeton offense is probably nothing more than a convenient name. What schools are really recruiting against is Sendek's brand of methodical slow-down play. In that case, nefarious as that type of negative recruiting is, at least ASU's opponents' claims are grounded in reality. Sendek's teams are slow. Very much so.
Whether that's enough to keep big-time recruits away seems doubtful, but if the concern has made it this far, it's real enough for the Sun Devils. Sendek will have to overcome it.
Fortunately, he's got plenty of selling points at his disposal, not least of which is, you know, the fact that he coaches at Arizona State. Have you ever even been to Tempe? For all of the college-choice-type reasons you might think, it's magnificent. It's so nice, people pay to vacation there. Some spend their entire lives saving enough money to retire in its vicinity! Why wouldn't you want to live there full-time?
And there you have it: A viable Arizona State recruiting pitch, same as it ever was. Own your collegiate timeshare in beautiful Tempe, Ariz.! If that can't beat the "they play slow" trope, nothing will.