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Barry Jacobs: Personality, uptempo play and beating UNC trump Xs, Os--and graduation

Pretty good evaluation from Barry.

Perhaps inevitably, a reporter asked, "What do you think your former coach, Jim Valvano, is thinking about right now?" A literal-minded cynic standing nearby, well aware Valvano succumbed to cancer 13 years ago, muttered, "He's not thinking anything. He's dead."

The question, unanswerable on its face, nevertheless hinted at a key to N.C. State's protracted search for a successor to colorless Herb Sendek, who fled to Arizona State after a decade at Raleigh. Anyone coaching the Wolfpack will be measured against, or overshadowed by, Valvano's personal and professional legacy.

Later in the article:

Much has been made of Sendek's teams infrequently defeating Duke and North Carolina, including losses in his last nine meetings with the neighboring national powers. But it is a mistake to wholly attribute dissatisfaction to particular results. More than anything, Sendek sealed his own fate by refusing to come to terms with his symbolic duties as head coach.

People seek affiliation where they can in a fragmented society. Increasingly, in the secular realm they turn to sports. This tendency lately has been celebrated in widespread references to the fans of particular teams as constituting a "nation." The term seemed charming two years ago when widely applied to long-suffering Boston Red Sox followers, but now is as overused as references to "9/11" to explain away any and all violations of civil liberties by the Bush administration.

Still, teams with large followings and extensive tradition do form distinctive groupings in which a head coach or manager stands as the informal leader. Adherents look to him or her to share their passion and pain, not to shrug off a loss to archrival North Carolina as just another game, as Sendek did.

Sendek appeared indifferent to the essential politics of his role. Where others craved inspiration, he offered mostly cerebration, his words creating a picket fence around the inner man that discouraged easy bonding.