Hey, Herb. Welcome to McKale Center. It seems as if you’re treading lightly, coach Sendek. Maintaining a sense of humor. Not making any bold predictions about the long-term future of your Arizona State basketball team.
It’s 0-8 in the Pac-10 and has to play Arizona in Tucson tonight.
Good luck with that.
You might want to know that the man you replaced after last season, Rob Evans, got a little too blustery after his first taste of the rivalry. It was Jan. 14, 1999, when UA escaped Tempe with a one-point victory.
“I can tell you that this series will be a competitive series,” Evans proclaimed. He went 1-16 against the Wildcats.
Herb, this isn’t Tobacco Road. Your teams at North Carolina State had Duke and North Carolina and Wake Forest to worry about right there in your little corner of the world, mixed with all that tradition and crazy fans.
As far as rivalries go, Arizona has been busy with UCLA and Stanford and, lately, Washington.
Even though the UA-ASU rivalry is not anywhere on the national radar, Herb, it can get ugly. Really ugly.
True story: ASU guard Eddie House nearly came to blows with UA players outside the locker rooms before the 1998 game in Tempe. House was screaming, “I am a warrior. I am a warrior.”There was pushing, shoving. No punches.
A week later, the teams were in Oregon on road trips, each having dinner at a Eugene restaurant on Friday night. This time, there was an incident between House and UA center A.J. Bramlett.
It ended with House on the ground and Bramlett delivering the classic line, “You want more of this national championship ring?”
In 2001, UA center Loren Woods, saying he had been elbowed in the face by Chad Prewitt, kicked the ASU big man, drawing a technical foul.
In 2002, ASU guard Kyle Dodd was ejected from a game here for throwing a punch in a pileup. A year later, the McKale crowd booed every time he touched the ball.
A few years ago, in Tempe, the UA locker room was moved to the other side of the arena to avoid any conflicts between the teams as they entered and exited through the same tunnel.
The Wildcats, having to walk by the student section, were pelted by candy both ways.
They were moved back to the regular visitor locker rooms the next year.
In 2004, Lute Olson, with the Wildcats holding a huge lead late in the game in Tempe and tiring of the ASU student section, turned and simply pointed at the scoreboard.
Students began chanting, “Lute’s an (expletive). Lute’s an (expletive).”
Olson pointed again.
Arizona won 93-74.
“I’ve been called every name you can be called,” Olson said, referring to the ASU student section, “and I think it’s frankly disgusting. They deserved that and more.”
Evans, two days later, called Olson’s pointing to the scoreboard “a classless act.”
Let’s be clear about classless acts, Herb. Nothing will ever be worse than what a few ASU students did to Steve Kerr in 1988, taunting him about his father’s assassination.
In his autobiography, Olson writes that the event was “more than disgusting.”
That’s a little of how it has been, Herb. Quite a bit of bad feelings for a rivalry in which ASU has had the bark of a toy poodle.
(And we didn’t even get into the time Gilbert Arenas said that House – there’s that guy again – was playing defense by grabbing, uh, a certain area of Arenas’ shorts.)
Maybe you’ll be different, Herb, than some of your overly confident predecessors.
Consider that Lute has beaten the Sun Devils by at least 30 points as many times as he has lost to them (six).
Anyway, welcome to the rivalry, Herb. It’s been one-sided, for sure.
But you’ve been warned. It’s not as sleepy as it might seem.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.