New title, new desk, no changes


Photo courtesy of Matthew Vern Bliss.

Rachel Jones

It’s obvious that being the head coach of the Kent State men’s basketball team requires more work than being the assistant coach.

Rob Senderoff, who is fresh in the transition from assistant to head coach, proves it just by sitting in his new office.

With a navy blue Kent State jacket pushed up to his elbows, Senderoff uses his free hands to simultaneously hold a conversation, send a text message and check his e-mail.

“I’m learning how to multitask,” he said with a smile.

Since he became the head coach April 7, Senderoff is learning the differences between the head coach and assistant coach position.

“I had to kind of change gears a bit,” Senderoff said. “Now, the responsibility is on me that these guys are doing what they’re supposed to do on and off the court. I was a little bit of a disciplinary as an assistant, and obviously, now my role changes a little bit.

“But I’ll still be the same guy I’ve always been, and I hope my relationships with the kids don’t change.”

Besides his love of basketball, Senderoff said watching the players develop drew him to coaching.

So when he was cut from the JV basketball team at the University at Albany, he asked freshman coach James Jones, current Yale head coach, if he could help out with coaching.

“To be around kids from ages 18 to 23 and watching them develop and mature from a kid to a young adult, seeing that process and being a part of that process (is why I got into coaching),” Senderoff said.

This season, Senderoff witnessed senior guard Rod Sherman go from the 17-year-old he recruited years ago to the lone star on Senior Night.

“To know you’ve been with him for five years of your life and remember what he was like at 17 and see what he’s like now, it’s certainly emotional,” Senderoff said. “But it’s a good emotional.”

Joel Nielsen, the director of athletics, said those close relationships are what boosted Senderoff above the other candidates for the head coaching position.

Nielsen knew the players were close with Senderoff just by watching them all on the court, but his thoughts were solidified when the players approached Nielsen in his office, making a case for Senderoff as the head coach.

Junior guard Michael Porrini said the players wanted Senderoff as the head coach because they wanted to “keep the family together.”

“With coach Ford leaving and him moving up, it’d be like everybody got a promotion,” Porrini said. “Everything will stay the same.”

Although the team is just doing conditioning workouts, Porrini said things have been the same.

Senderoff is still using his “tough love” coaching style that’s worked for him since he started with the Flashes in 2002.

“He pushes you to be the best that you can be,” Porrini said. “He keeps it straight and to the point, which is something we need to hear to reach our potential and keep us motivated.”

But Porrini doesn’t view him as a drill sergeant or an intimidating disciplinary figure.

“Everybody that’s on our team and our coaching staff is easy to talk to,” Porrini said. “They’re going to listen to us and help us anyway that they can. (Senderoff has) always had our respect and trust.”

Even though his title has changed, Senderoff said his personality and coaching style will remain the same.

“To me, coaching is coaching,” Senderoff said. “I’m calling the staff meetings and team meetings and things like that now, but the message is the same. There’s not a big adjustment.”

He paused, shifting his light eyes around the room.

“The office is bigger,” he decided. “That’s about it.”

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected]