Sun Devil Summer School: The Coaches - Larry Kentera

Sun Devil Summer School: The Coaches - Larry Kentera

Credit: ASU Athletics

Sun Devil Summer School: The Coaches - Larry Kentera

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by Brad Denny

azfamily.com

Posted on June 28, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Offense gets the glory, but defense wins championships. Six to be exact.

The next subject in Sun Devil Summer School ran the Arizona State defense under legendary head coach Frank Kush, and his fearsome units helped produce six Western Athletic Conference championships during his 13 seasons on the job. 

After a standout prep career, Kentera came to play football at Arizona State. Under head coach Ed Doherty, Kentera earned four letters from 1947-1950.

Kentera then went into coaching, and rose to prominence in the California junior college ranks. He started as head coach of Palo Verde Junior College, leading them to five conference crowns in eight seasons before leaving for San Joaquin Delta. Kentera led the Mustangs for seven years, capturing two more championships.

When Dick Corrick left ASU to take a job at Cal, Kush moved to fill the vacancy with Kentera, who initially coached the wide receivers before moving to defense for the next 12 years.

The results were immediate, as ASU's defense improved their yards-per-game average by 25, allowing just over 244 per game. Such dominance would bcome commonplace in Tempe under Kentera. Eight times during his tenure, ASU held opponents to an average of under 300 yards of total offense per game, and another eight where opponents were held under 20 points-per-game.

Perhaps his best unit was the 1970 team that ended the year undefeated after their Peach Bowl win over North Carolina. Over the 11 games of the season, ASU allowed just 13.7 points-per-game and set a school record that still stands by allowing a paltry 3.3 yards-per-play.

Other Kentera highlights include overseeing the best run defense in ASU history in 1968. The Sun Devils set still-standing school records with the fewest yards (570), yards-per-carry (1.4) and per-game rushing average (57.0) ever seen in Tempe. Thanks to the presence of Mike Haynes, Kentera's 1974 unit intercepted a program-best 32 passes, which was part of an astounding (and record) 56 turnovers forced by ASU.

Perhaps the best stat of them all: ASU was 12-1 against Arizona during Kentera's tenure.

Among the legends coached by Kentera during his Sun Devil tenure include Bob Bruenig, Curly Culp, Michael Haynes, Al Harris, and Ron Pritchard, with Harris calling Kentera "the most influential person in my life."

Kentera would later be the head coach at Northern Arizona University, where he would have four future NFL head coaches on his staff: Andy Reid, Bill Callahan, Brad Childress, and Marty Mornhinweg.

In 2005, the United States government looked to Kentera to lead an effort to bring football to the wartorn people of Serbia.

"Our group heard the Serbs were beginning to play some but without any pads," Kentera told ASU in 2010. "So, we figured they were playing touch or maybe flag football, but when we got there we discovered they were smashing into each other with no helmets, no shoulder pads, just like it was fourth down at the one yard-line."

Thanks to equipment donations from ASU, NAU, and the Arizona Cardinals, the program took off, and there are now over 20 football teams in the country.

"It won't be too long before American colleges could think about looking to recruit there," Kentera said.

Kentera was inducted into the ASU Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

 

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