Musselman, Greer bring NBA coaching to ASU basketball

Herb Sendek isn’t messing around this season.  The Arizona State head hoops coach is bringing in some heavyweight coaching experience to help him lock up a winning season – and possibly help save his job as well.

Hiring a couple of NBA coaches is his way of making lemonade out of lemons.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Sendek suddenly lost two assistant coaches, each announcing his departure within days of each other.  Scott Pera left to be the top assistant at the University of Pennsylvania after sitting on the Sun Devil bench the entire six seasons of Sendek’s reign.  Lamont Smith followed, accepting an opportunity to join Lorenzo Romar‘s staff at Washington.  (See 8/23/12 phxfan article)

Their departure calls to mind images of rats leaving a sinking ship.  After three 20-win seasons since Sendek’s arrival from North Carolina State, which included a Pac-10 Coach of the Year honor, the ASU program has suffered through a couple of disappointing campaigns, going 12-19 in 2010-11 and then winning just 10 games last year.

And that explains Sendek’s reference to being “hungry” as he introduced his new staff additions.

“As a group now, we’re really excited,” he said at Tuesday’s press conference, attended by the newcomers, Eric Musselman and Larry Greer.  “We’re really fired up about this opportunity.  Second, it’s an extremely experienced coaching staff.  And third, and maybe most importantly, it’s a very hungry staff.

And it would just seem to me, when you integrate excitement, experience, and hunger – that’s a powerful combination for any coaching staff.”

This is the first time since the spring of 2008 that Sendek has had to reach out to the coaching fraternity he knows so well and coax a new assistant to Tempe.  And his Rolodex is loaded with names after 19 years as a college head coach.

But these latest hires aren’t just assistant coaches culled from somebody else’s college staff.  Both Musselman and Greer have distinguished themselves in the professional ranks.

Musselman was coaching in the NBA Development League last season as a head coach for the Los Angeles D-Fenders and was named the league’s Coach of the Year.  But he is a high-profile name in the pro game, having been a head coach for a couple of NBA teams, and an assistant on the staffs of three others.

He has worked with some of the biggest names in the NBA coaching ranks, including Doc Rivers, Mike Fratello, Hubie Brown, and Chuck Daly.

Greer was an assistant coach last season with the Portland Trail Blazers and has also worked as an NBA scout.  His lengthy coaching career has included 16 years at the college level and the last seven in the NBA.

They will join associate head coach Dedrique Taylor on the Sun Devil bench.  Taylor has been with Sendek from Day 1 in Tempe, joining the original staff after working as an assistant for the Nevada Wolfpack of the Western Athletic Conference.

Sendek says he and ASU VP for Athletics Steve Patterson had actually focused their efforts on looking for hires this time around that had NBA experience, an effort to ‘think outside the box’.

“At the end of the day, I think we achieved our goal by hitting a home run,” he points out.

But, to use another sports metaphor that hits closer to home… it doesn’t make the season outcome a slam dunk.

However, it could be a shrewd move at the right time.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)