The locker room was quiet. Players hid on either side of the open doorway, water bottles in hand. Seconds passed slowly—they were fireworks ready to pop. From down the hallway, footsteps grew louder. SCU men’s basketball forward Josip Vrankic ’21, MBA ’23 had been tasked with distracting head coach Herb Sendek. The team didn’t want him to perceive the coming chaos.
“I made it seem like I was going to give a big heartwarming speech and really milked it for a while so it would build some suspense, and when all of his attention was on me, the rest of the guys poured water all over him,” Vrankic says. “It was really great to just see coach smile and let loose, even if it was just for two minutes.” The cause for this celebration? Coach Sendek’s 500th career win, as the Broncos beat the University of the Pacific, 84 to 70, in Stockton.
The milestone came during a year of incredible highs butting up against many tribulations. “It has been a mental and physical grind for us this season with so many different players either sick or injured,” Vrankic says. “I’m just glad that our coaching staff, especially Coach Sendek, really make the effort to make sure all of our players are getting the help that we need.’
That’s off the court, too. “He makes it an effort to remember everyone’s family members’ names and birthdays, and will check in on them from time to time, which kind of blew me away. I mean, months and years after we commit, he still does that? That’s the type of coach players wanna play for,” starting point guard P.J. Pipes ’22 says.
Sendek’s career has spanned almost 30 years, including multiple NCAA tournament bids and NBA-level talent. Still, on the night of his big win, Sendek focused on something else: “It’s a great night, and a great win, but we’ve got another tough game right around the corner,” he told players, sopping wet. They were ready, finishing third in the West Coast Conference, the team’s best showing in nine years.