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Family bond hoping to lift Kent State's men's basketball team into March Madness this year

Jim Christian has returned to help coach the Golden Flashes program he once led.

KENT, Ohio — Three weeks from today, college basketball will be center stage during the NCAA tournament -- and Kent State is hoping to be a part of March Madness.

The Golden Flashes have done it before, and they're hoping to do it again thanks to their “secret sauce." This program's story is about family, not the kind with blood, rather one with a deep bond.   

“It’s really, what separates Kent from a lot of other programs in this league and in this area is what we’ve built that way," said Kent State Head Coach Rob Senderoff.

Last year's Mid-American Conference coach of the year is the “Father” of the program. Senderoff is in his 20th season with the Golden Flashes and is the winningest head coach in Kent State history, a role he’s had for 12 seasons.

Now his arsenal is deeper than ever as the winningest head coach in MAC history: Jim Christian is back.

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Kent State head coach from 2002 until 2008, Christian won two conference titles, appearing in the NCAA tournament twice. Senderoff and Christian are both from New York, but first met in 1995 when they were assistants at Miami University in Ohio and they have been friends ever since. Christian’s first hire in 2002 at Kent State was Senderoff to be his assistant coach, and now 20 years later the tables have turned as Senderoff has brought Christian back on his coaching staff. 

The two friends have helped navigate life on and off the court as they have talked almost every day since they met. Rob was Jim’s best man.

“It was right after our season ended and, you know, he’s so intense during the year I thought he was going to tell me, 'Hey, Rob you need to go find another job because I need to talk to you about something pretty serious.' And he asked me to be the best man in his wedding," Senderoff said with a laugh. 

After head coaching stints at TCU, Ohio and Boston College, Christian the once fiery head coach, has returned.

Kent State Associate Head Coach Julian Sullinger played for Christian and now coaches with him.  Assistant coach’s Randal Holt and Jon Fleming played for Senderoff at Kent, a family tree that continues to grow and help lead the Golden Flashes to victories. 

Kent State is 22-6 overall and 12-3 in the MAC, winning 20 straight games at home, which is the second longest streak in the nation. They have three games left in the regular season, including Saturday at Bowling Green and the big rivalry matchup vs. Akron at the MAC Center on Friday, March 3.

Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally published in an unrelated KSU story on Feb. 1, 2023.

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