CLEVELAND -- One a Golden Flash, always a Golden Flash.
When Kent State and Akron squared off for the 2017 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night, both the Golden Flashes and Zips felt the support of their passionate fan bases.
But amid the crowds, noticeable were several former Golden Flashes who showed up in support of this year’s squad, and those who had earned rings of their own walked out of The Q happy after watching Kent State earn a 70-65 win over Akron to claim the MAC’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
“That's Kent State,” Golden Flashes coach Rob Senderoff said.
When asked if he fostered such an atmosphere, Senderoff was quick to point out those who came before him and the successes of the past are what keeps former players coming back to support the latest edition of the Kent State men’s basketball team.
“That's Kent State,” Senderoff said. “Coach Christian, Jim, he brought me here in 2003 after the Elite Eight run when he became the head coach and to see so many of these guys, the pride that they feel in Kent State basketball…
“Mike Scott drove in from Indianapolis. He was on the last team that went to the NCAA tournament. Julian Sullinger was here, Mike Perini, Justin Manns. I mean, Demetric Shaw was giving our guys pep talks after every game. I mean, he does this for a living, but people need to hire him as a motivational speaker. This dude's unreal.
“That's part of what makes Kent, Kent. You know this. We don't have the prettiest facilities and things like that, but what we do have is a tradition, and again, we have a toughness level, and it starts way before these guys here, but these guys now can carry that on very proudly.”
While many of his predecessors had successful runs in the MAC Tournament and were able to advance in the NCAA Tournament, Senderoff had not led the Golden Flashes to “The Big Dance” in his six years with the program.
But Senderoff rewarded that faith and support from the administration in the face of a recruiting scandal during his days as an assistant at Indiana with a victory over Akron and will now have a chance to add his own chapter in Kent State basketball history.
“I'm just thankful, you know,” Senderoff said. “I'll start with one of my closest friends, Geno Ford, who hired me back to Kent along with Mr. Kennedy, Laing Kennedy, along with President Lefton. Personally, I had some baggage that not everybody would have given me an opportunity to coach here.
“When Geno left, our current AD, Joel Nielsen, entrusted me with this program, and I'm more thankful and grateful for the opportunity that those people gave me and just feeling happy that I was able to help lead the group to get back to the NCAA Tournament because I know how important it is to the school and to our current president, President Warren.
“I know how much she loves basketball. The amount of support she's given to our program is just incredible, not just financial support but personal support. She's at almost every game. It's amazing the investment she has personally in our guys and knows every player on the roster.”