Forde: A telling tale of two Jersey coaches

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
4:22
PM ET
Bobby Gonzalez’s record in four years at Seton Hall was 66-49. Fred Hill’s record in four years at Rutgers is 47-77.

Seton Hall narrowly missed making the NCAA tournament in its fourth season under Gonzalez. Rutgers hasn’t had a winning record yet in four seasons under Hill.

[+] EnlargeBobby Gonzalez
Duncan Williams/Icon SMIBobby Gonzalez's Seton Hall team won 19 games this season, but his conduct got in the way of him continuing as Pirates coach.
Gonzalez is 6-2 against Hill and his team has finished higher in the Big East standings every season.

Yet today, Gonzalez was fired at Seton Hall and Hill was retained at Rutgers.

Why the different treatment?

Because sometimes how you conduct yourself and run your program matters. And from that standpoint, Gonzalez has been a raging disaster, while Hill has earned every chance to try to get it right.

That’s the compare/contrast lesson learned in New Jersey college basketball today. Gonzalez ran a low-class program. Hill has tried to do things the right way.

As a result, both schools have done the right thing with their coaches.

Seton Hall showed its bullying, combative, paranoid coach that a winning record does not overcome embarrassing the school. It showed Gonzalez that bringing in players with questionable track records who behave poorly isn’t worth the damage to the athletic program’s reputation.

“Performance and success are not measured solely by wins and losses, but also in the conduct of those associated with the program,” said Patrick Hobbs, dean of the Seton Hall law school and the man who has been overseeing the athletic department since last summer.

“We have expectations as to how our coaches and players will conduct themselves, and they are expected to treat everyone they interact with, whether officials, the press or our students, with the utmost respect, maturity and professionalism. Those core expectations must be met.”

[+] EnlargeHill
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDespite a 47-77 record in his four seasons at Rutgers, Fred Hill was retained as the school's coach.
This came a day after center Herb Pope, a transfer from New Mexico State was thrown out of an NIT game for punching Texas Tech’s Darko Cohadarevic in the groin. Nobody was surprised that happened on Gonzalez’s watch. Coming on the heels of a long, damning story on Gonzo’s controversial leadership style in The New York Times, the Pope punch serves as a fitting coda to his tenure at Seton Hall.

Gonzalez has had other players get in trouble this season, but for years he’s had his own problems getting along with anyone -- dating back to his time as coach at Manhattan, where he won a lot of games but often made life miserable for those around him. Most people in his profession try to cultivate friends; Gonzo cultivated enemies. He got into confrontations with other coaches -- Hill among them -- and has multiple ongoing media feuds marked by threats and wild accusations. On the few occasions when Gonzalez did not voice his umbrage at a critical story, his sister, Linda, served as his media attack dog.

Ultimately, Seton Hall made the correct decision: Its reputation wasn’t worth the damage inflicted by Gonzalez, who replaced the classy Louis Orr.

Meanwhile, Rutgers has opted to give Hill another year. The son of the school’s longtime baseball coach, Hill is a guy who genuinely loves Rutgers and wants to be there. Give him 10 minutes, and he’ll present compelling testimony about how close he is to having a breakthrough season.

Of course, there are a ton of unemployed coaches out there who swear they were a season away from winning big. Hill at least gets his chance to prove it in 2010-11.

He earned that chance as much through his behavior as through his track record to this point. Down the road in South Orange, Bobby Gonzalez’s behavior earned him a firing.

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