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August 23, 2012Arizona State coach Herb Sendek will have to fill two of his three assistant coaching positions following the departures of Scott Pera, to Penn, and Lamont Smith, to Washington, in consecutive days Wednesday and Thursday.
Pera -- a Pennsylvania native whose wife is a Penn alumnus -- decided to accept an offer from Jerome Allen to become the program's No. 1 assistant and Smith is leaving to coach under his mentor, Lorenzo Romar, under whom he spent two years as a graduate assistant coach at Saint Louis to start his career.
The departures are the first for Sendek since 2008, when Smith was brought on to replace Mark Phelps, now the head coach at Drake.
"We most certainly appreciate the effort that Scott and Lamont gave us over the last few years and understand the opportunities they now pursue and at the same time we're tremendously excited about the opportunity it means for us," Sendek said. "We've already assembled an outstanding pool of candidates and expect to move quickly to fill our staff.
"The timing isn't ideal but I think it creates a great opportunity for us. I think it provides us with an opportunity to bring in two very talented members for our staff so at the end of the day I think it will be a win-win for all involved."
Sendek has had tremendous success developing assistants, with no coach in the country having more former assistants who are currently Division I head coaches. As a result, he said he views the current staff openings as an opportunity to inject talented new blood into his program.
"Just taking a step back, like from this moment and this transaction, if you look historically and holistically, the one thing we've been able to do without interruption is have superstar staffs and I fully expect that to continue. That's been one very strong constant as reflected by the number of guys who are doing great as head coaches and so for us, we're not going to blink, we're just going to keep moving forward."
"I think one of the reasons why our guys have always done so well and we've been able to help guys go on to great careers is we look for the total package. We stay clear of, 'Well this guy is a really good recruiter and he can help us get into city x, y, z.' For us that's too narrow a scope. I'm looking for superstars. I'm looking for guys who can be great head coaches or have been great head coaches and can do everything and impact our program in a multitude of ways."
An excellent crop of potential candidates is available to join remaining assistant, Associate Head Coach Dedrique Taylor, on the staff moving forward, Sendek said, and he began compiling a list Wednesday. If there's a concern in the short term other than the element of timing, with workouts set to begin this week coinciding with the start of school, it would be how recruiting may be impacted.
Pera was the primary recruiter for 2013 commit Egor Koulechov, and top point guard target London Perrantes, who recently visited ASU's campus, and Smith has been the point man on several other recruits, including Trevor Thompson, who is expected to visit ASU officially next month.
"Obviously we have to communicate the change to our recruits but I think we'll be able to do that and I think we'll be able to do that rather seamlessly," Sendek said.
In 2008, the year Smith was added, Cal head coach Mike Montgomery, Oregon State coach Craig Robinson and Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins joined the league. Since that time there have been six other new head coaches hired in the league: Tad Boyle, Larry Krystkowiak, Ken Bone, Kevin O'Neill, Sean Miller, Dana Altman.
The staffs under the conference's longest-tenured coaches, Romar at Washington, and Ben Howland at UCLA have had turnover since Sendek hired Smith, making ASU the program with the longest intact staff in the conference prior to the moves this week.
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