Happy Thursday to you, Followers! Hope you are having a great week!
Today, our world-wide hit mini-series, “Three Questions,” continues in earnest.
In the event that you missed a previous installment in the series, you can find previous episodes, as well as future special guest stars in the space below.
June 14th: Brock Huard
June 21st: Bob Condotta
June 28th: Ted Miller
July 5th: Howie Stalwick
July 12th: Cindy Brunson
July 19th: Brian Floyd
July 26th: Doug Haller
Aug. 2nd: Bruce Feldman
Aug. 9th: Christian Caple
I also hope that you enjoyed last week’s back and forth between Cougcenter and the WSUFB blog as much as I did. Several fun e-mail exchanges accompanied those posts. I think it’s fair to say now that the Force is once again in balance in the the Cougar Universe….
Today's episode of Three Questions takes us outside of the great town of Cougarville, so we might speak with one of the great and up-and-coming beat writers in the Pac-12 today. So, as you click on the jump, how about giving a HEARTY Cougar welcome to ASU Beat reporter, Mr. Doug Haller (read on)...
Followers, those of you who are familiar with this blog know that I LOVE football. And when I say LOVE football, I mean, I LOVE THE GAME OF FOOTBALL!!!
Can we get some meatloaf, Mom? The game is on!!!
Although my affection for the gridiron trumps my devotion to all other "sportacular" pursuits, the fact of the matter is that I never played the game. In fact, I never really played anything--except for the game of love of course…
See what you are missing CindyB..???
But the Cougla Khan is totally different. He played LOTS of sports in high school and even beyond (He was a Division I athlete, in fact). And although he didn’t lace ‘em up on the hardwood, his favorite “playing” sport was always basketball.
And so, when I started my thing with Twitter last fall, one of my first goals was to find people who had a lot of “knowledge” to feed me and the Khan on the sports we love.
And quickly, I found Doug Haller to be one of those guys.
Followers, in my short 350 year period on this earth, I’ve come to know sports writers. And during this same time, I’ve also come to know SPORTS WRITERS.
In my view, the genus of "sports writers" includes talented scribes who do a good-to-excellent job of reporting "the facts" as they pertain to events which occur both on and off the playing field.
But the second type of sports journalist, THE SPORTS WRITER, doesn't rely on the "facts of the moment" alone. Rather, the SPORTS WRITER advances a more nuanced account of each story than their competitors, often because they are stout historians of the teams/sports they cover. A good example of this distinction can be found in this article penned on Monday by Tyler Kepner of the New York Times on the Ichiro Suzuki trade. I mean, when you read this article, you feel as if Tyler has been an M’s fan his entire life. And the reason: He is an avid and astute follower of the game!!!! A true SPORTS WRITER in the truest sense.
And in my mind, Doug Haller fits the latter bill to a "T"; he truly represents one of the biggest up-and-comers in the Pac-12 media. I mean, the guy not only knows his stuff, he is much like WSU-grad Bob Condotta in that he is relentless in his coverage and production of all things ASU. And for those reasons and more, the readers of the Arizona Republic should be elated to have him.
Anyhow, for the past several days, Doug has taken up his ASU Football coverage to another level, discussing the Sun Devils' changed expectations here, some recent commits here, and his preview of the Sun Devils defensive backs here.
What makes these stories even more remarkable is that he penned them all tied up at an undisclosed location somewhere “near” Los Angeles….
…where our very own Victory Bell was able to secure this week’s episode of Three Questions.
Victory Bell: There is a blogger at the WSU Football Blog who attended Miami University (Ohio) as a master’s student while Herb Sendek was basketball coach there (his first head job, we believe). And from his accounts, Sendek, who is a Rick Petino disciple, is one hell of a basketball coach. Given all that has gone wrong with his ASU program over the past few seasons, do you think that he is still regarded highly by folks (including peers) in the industry? And how would you weigh his prospects for turning things around at ASU?
Doug Haller: First of all, I grew up in Richmond, Indiana, which is about 30 minutes from Oxford. I almost went to Miami myself, so I know that area well. (My friends and I also spent more than a few weekends at the bars there -- cool place. )
But to answer your question: Herb is still very much respected within the industry, and he should be. It's easy to forget he was the Pac-10's Coach of the Year in 2010.
Doug Collins, probably one of the more respected coaches in the industry, spent a lot of time around the program before taking the 76ers job. NBA coaches have contacted Sendek to learn more about his matchup zone, and every time I come across one of his former assistants they talk about all they learned from him and praise his preparation. Jeff Van Gundy, who worked with Sendek at Providence, once told me that with all the egos in college basketball, it's rare to find a coach who can "grind it out and also be smarter than everyone."
Now can he turn it around? It's going to be tough. ASU lost all the momentum from the Harden-Pendergraph years. Sendek and his staff misfired on some recruits, leading to several transfers and a couple dismissals. Because of injuries, they played a lot of last season's Pac-12 schedule with seven or eight scholarship players. I'll never forget the game at Cal, looking at the scoreboard at the first media time out and thinking, "This game already is over." And the thing is, everyone in Haas Pavilion knew it. There's no excuse for not being competitive. That said, Sendek is excited about next season. Even though he lost leading scorer Trent Lockett, who transferred to Marquette to be closer to his sick mom, he'll have point guard Jahii Carson, who sat out last season as a non-qualifier. Carson is the real deal, but he'll still be a freshman, one who hasn't played in more than a year. I have concerns about how he'll fit into Sendek's system. Carson has a lot of flash to his game, and Sendek, at least during his time in Tempe, doesn't do flash well. At the same time, Sendek has promised to mold his offense around the point guard, playing at a faster pace. Herb has changed before -- he was man-to-man at North Carolina State, but switched to zone at ASU -- so it'll be interesting to watch. I'm not sure he can survive another poor season.
Victory Bell: From your experience on the ASU beat, what has been the team you’ve had the best time covering? And who is the best player/athlete, regardless of sport, you have covered to date?
Doug Haller: I don't have a ton of Pac-12 experience. I came to The Republic seven years ago, spent three years as a general-assignment/major events reporter before switching to ASU. I spent a lot of time backing up our Suns reporter on the Suns, and covering their playoff runs were fun.
But let's keep it on the college level. This will be my fifth season for hoops, third for football. I guess the team I enjoyed covering most was ASU's 2010 basketball season. That was the year after Harden and Jeff Pendergraph left for the NBA, and hardly anyone expected much from the Sun Devils. Derek Glasser was on that team. Rihards Kuskiks. Eric Boateng. Ty Abbott was coming off a horrendous shooting year. And yet somehow, they were playing for the Pac-10 title late in the season. They ended up finishing second, missing out on an at-large NCAA Tournament bid because of a poor non-conference showing. (Then they flamed out in the first round of the NIT). But they exceeded expectations, and it was fun to watch. To be honest, though, I'm not picky. I just want to watch good basketball, sit in loud arenas, cover games that matter. We haven't had too much of that lately in this conference.
With UCLA and Arizona re-loading (and I think Stanford, finally, is getting there), that should be about to change.
Victory Bell: There is a blogger at the WSU Football Blog who has dubbed new Football coach Paul Graham “The Cracker” for his seemingly low life, job hopping tactics. And frankly, that one particular blogger thinks that ASU is going to be terrible this year even if they spend four months at Camp Wumba-Jumba before the season starts. That said, looking forward to November, do you think that ASU will be favored over Washington State this year in Football? Should they be?
Doug Haller: You know, since it's a home game, I'm guessing ASU will be favored. (Plus, it's the Sun Devils' Senior Day.) But I expect it to be close. I don't have much doubt Mike Leach will turn around the Cougars, maybe quicker than Tood Graham will here. ASU, I'm sure, still has nightmares from what happened last season in Pullman.
That was the first time I knew for sure that Dennis Erickson was gone. In fact, as I stood outside the locker room after the game an assistant coach walked up and said, "It's been nice working with you."
That's how bad it was. This year I expect ASU to struggle. New coach, new scheme, new quarterback ... that usually doesn't lead to a lot of wins. But the Sun Devils needed a change, a different approach, and not just on the football team. Over the past seven months the university has added a new football coach, athletic director, marketing director and PR specialist. They've spent most of this summer trying to energize the fan base -- returning to Camp Tontozona for a week of training camp was a key move -- and they've made strides. Still, a long ways to go, though.
So, there you have it—another episode of Three Questions. Special thanks to Doug Haller for taking the time to provide such a fantastic and insightful interview.
We’ll be back next week with Bruce Feldman!
All for now. Go Cougs.