STRIP TEES POST LAYS OUT A SINFULLY SWEET VEGAS GOLF TRIP

PHX
November 2008

Game Over. Game On.

TAT TALE New Sun Matt Barnes talks about his tattoos, and his almost NFL career JOCK OF ONE TRADE Dave Pratt has been dominating Valley airwaves for three decades

A MAZE-ING ALI POST goes on a private chopper ride over a corn maze with the Champ TONY MANDARICH’S REINVENTION The former football star found a fresh start, and new career in the Valley

DESERT REUNION

MURPHY’S LAWN ASU baseball coach Pat Murphy has the coolest backyard in the world! PLUS
//PHX PERCUSSION CAN’T BE BEAT //EDDIE MATNEY’S HOUSE CALL
NOV //THE MAN WHO CAN MAKE ANYONE A TV STAR www.postphx.com 2008

Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and Herb Sendek meet again in the Stadium Shootout in Glendale – almost 20 years after they served together on the same staff

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Stadium Shootout
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Left to right: Rick Pitino, tubby Smith and heRb Sendek
Photo by tRacy RaSinSki

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A StAdium Shootout AlSo ServeS AS A deSert reunion
they
ShAred long hourS, dreAmS of running their own progrAm SomedAy, And

rick pitino. now, two decAdeS After working together under pitino on the SAme StAff At kentucky, ASu’S herb Sendek And minneSotA’S tubby Smith reunite with louiSville’S pitino At the StAdium Shootout in glendAle.
the opportunity to leArn under A mASter nAmed

B

By Zack Simon
the road. Herb’s work ethic and intelligence, as well as Tubby’s perseverance and outgoing personality stood out. When I interviewed them, I told them both that I don’t hire assistant coaches; I hire future head coaches. That’s the way that I felt about both of them.” And to get them to a position where they would become head coaches someday, Pitino worked their butts off. He was as demanding on his players and assistants like Tubby and Herb as he was on himself. Being exposed to that work ethic as they tried to restore pride to a Kentucky program that was in shambles went a long way. A natural question is, did they sit around at night and say, “Wait until it’s our turn”? “Well, it was not really discussed,” Smith told POST. “Coach Pitino has always been supportive of all of his former assistant coaches and people he has worked with, and I appreciate them giving us the opportunity and chance to play against a team of Louisville’s caliber, because he did not have to. For us, we know we have to be very good but we are just grateful, I know Herb and I are, that we have gotten coaching jobs and we have been able to survive in this business. I don’t think we ever talked about these types of match-ups, but it is a complement to Herb and Rick Pitino and myself to be able to survive and sustain the success we have had in this business.” Sendek had even more experience working on Pitino’s staff — they worked together at Providence too, and he echoes Tubby’s thoughts.

ack in 1989, University of Phoenix Stadium was a cornfield. Barack Obama was at Harvard Law School, Sarah Palin was reporting sports scores on KTUU-TV in Anchorage, the cost of gas in the US was a buck twenty. And a trio of young coaches in Kentucky would spend their days strategizing and drilling players at the University of Kentucky, their early evenings breaking down videotape for their demanding boss, and their nights dreaming about someday being all on their own with college programs they could try to mold into national champions. Let’s fast-forward to right now. Where the old boss, Louisville head coach and basketball icon Rick Pitino, comes to town to face two of his protégés, now firmly entrenched as college coaching hotshots — Tubby Smith of Minnesota and Herb Sendek of ASU in the Stadium Shootout at University of Phoenix Stadium in December. POST talked to all three coaches about what things were like almost two decades ago, when life wasn’t so complicated. Smith and Sendek weren’t making the big dough yet, but they certainly had big dreams and aspired to get to where Pitino already was; a Final Four veteran and one of the game’s most respected and accomplished coaches. “I saw greatness in both of them,” Pitino told POST. “I thought they’d be extremely successful down

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The 1989-90 Kentucky Wildcat team photo featured more coaches and support staff than actual players. Three of the coaches are reuniting as the bosses of their own programs, at ASU, Minnesota and Louisville for the Stadium Shootout in Glendale. Herb Sendek and Tubby Smith are seated lower left, and Rick Pitino is seated lower right.

“I think more than anything we just enjoyed the moment and didn’t worry so much about down the road. We had a great staff. We worked extremely hard and had a lot of fun. It was truly the experience of a lifetime.” Pitino is himself a mini-corporation now. He was already an A-list college coach back in 1989, but now he’s written several best-seller books, he’s socked away millions from coaching in the NBA, and he’s taken a total of three teams to the Final Four. He’s a living legend who has still plenty of space in his memory bank for recollections of what it was like mentoring Tubby and Herb. You’d think he might have a couple funny stories to share. We asked Pitino, and he readily obliged. “With Tubby, we used to play basketball as a staff from 5:45 until 7 every morning. His wife told me that he was so paranoid about being late that he would go to bed at night wearing his jock strap, sweat shocks and his T-shirt so he could save a few minutes in the morning. It looked like he was going to play in a game when he would go to bed with her. As for Herb, well, he has a very dry sense of humor. He came into my office one time to ask for more time with his wife because he was getting into the office at 5:30 in the morning and staying in the office until 9:30 or later at night. He came in my office with Billy Donovan asking for more time to spend with his wife. I knew that Billy Donovan put him up to it. Billy wasn’t saying anything, but it was not like Herb to ask for time off. I asked Billy if he had anything to say about it and Billy just said, ‘No coach, I’m just here with Herb.’ He put it all on Herb, and I knew Herb was ready to kill Billy at that moment because he put him up to it. I told them that they could have more time watching tape at home instead of at the office. I know that Herb was fuming at Billy because he didn’t say anything.” Maybe there will be payback in December, when either ASU or Minnesota faces Louisville. That possibility alone is reason enough to buy a ticket for the Stadium Shootout. It’s a great treat for Valley hoops fans, to have marquee teams like this, along with BYU, who’s rounding out the quartet. Not to mention coaches at the top of their game bringing their programs to Glendale for a sneak peek at what a Final Four might look like inside University of Phoenix Stadium. Coaches who all share memories of what life was like paying their dues. And whatever it was about those early morning pickup sessions where the coaches played together, it remains with Tubby too. “We would have pick-up games at 5:30 or 6 in the morning and they were pretty competitive. I remember Herb tearing his knee up and having surgery and everybody was wondering why Herb wasn’t playing anymore. We thought it might be because of the early time, but come to find out, lo and behold, his knee was damaged and it took him a while to recover. But those were the most memorable moments.”

Make no mistake about it, despite their decades-long friendship and deep respect for each other, they are all coming to the Valley to win in December. The reminiscing can happen when the season is over. That’s why all three coaches have been so successful running their own programs. They are pretty single-minded during hoops season. Sendek lives here, of course, so it’s not like he has to take his kids sight-seeing or show them what a 70-degree day in December feels like. That’s not the case for Tubby’s Minnesota Gophers, who are leaving the frozen lakes of Minneapolis for Valley sunshine. “My players are not only excited about the weather but also the competition. We realize that we will have the opportunity to measure our team against one of the best teams in the country, with one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game in Rick Pitino. Our players are excited as well as our fans, who will be excited to come to Phoenix during this time of the year, and we also realize that the University of Minnesota has a large alumni base in the Phoenix area that we hope will come out and support the Gophers.” Pitino has a new book out on the newsstands right now, but doesn’t plan any book signings while he brings his Louisville Cardinals out here. Just another business trip. “We’ll definitely enjoy the weather, but we won’t have the opportunity to sight-see much.” Tubby isn’t afraid to admit that Scottsdale has some of the country’s best shopping. And Christmas will be right around the corner during the Stadium Shootout. “Obviously, it is a great time to get some holiday shopping done. My wife will especially enjoy that. We’re just excited to be playing in University of Phoenix Stadium. It will be a special treat to be able to witness such an architectural marvel of a building.” Sendek believes it’s a great opportunity for ASU fans to see a marquee holiday tournament by simply driving on the 101. “It should be a very exciting event for the fans and the community. There are four good teams and we’re all ready to go.” Pitino has traveled to the Valley hundreds of times over the years. He has scores of great friends and memories of being here, including one that Phoenix sports fans may have not known. “At one time, we thought about living there and possibly coaching the Phoenix Suns. I really enjoy the area. It’s not only a great place to live and visit, but the people there are outstanding. It’s a wonderful community.” And in late December, it’s going to be place for a desert reunion of coaches who’ve been friends for over 20 years, and would like to express that friendship by winning the Stadium Shootout.

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Photo couRteSy univeRSity of kentucky

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