Print and Go Back ESPN.com: College Basketball Nation [Print without images]

Monday, June 7, 2010
Bobby Gonzalez breaks his silence

By Eamonn Brennan

Former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez is not the type to trot quietly into the sunset. He will not go gentle into that good night. If you know anything about Gonzalez, his tenure at Manhattan, or his perpetually ugly years as the head coach at Seton Hall, you know that his firing at the hands of Seton Hall administrators in late March was not the last you were going to hear from him.

Bobby Gonzalez
Bobby Gonzalez remained defiant as ever in his first interview since he was fired by Seton Hall.
It wasn't. Gonzalez gave a wide-ranging interview -- his first public comments since the firing -- to The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger Sunday. The paper printed a transcript of that interview and, well, it's fair to say Gonzalez is as defiant and competitive as ever.

And, you know, I'm racking my brain, and that's probably the one positive thing I can say about it. Gonzalez spends much of the interview blaming other people for the way his tenure ended at Seton Hall. Let's summarize just some of the ways (no blockquotes here; be sure to go read the entire interview):

  1. He says Seton Hall's president, Monsignor Robert Sheeran, should be "ashamed of himself" as "a President and a priest and a person that hired me and honored my (four) years."
  2. He talks about getting the money that is "owed to him." (Gonzalez is currently suing the school for its decision to fire him with cause; that lawsuit is currently at a standstill.)
  3. He attributes the failed relationships with his athletic directors and administrative personnel at Seton Hall to differences in mindset.
  4. He says his firing was a "hasty, knee-jerk reaction."
  5. He says that every player he brought in, however questionable the player's background, was cleared by admissions, so it's not his fault if those players didn't work out.
  6. He calls Seton Hall's attitude about wanting to win but also wanting a respectable program "hypocritical."

Needless to say, it's a tour de force. And that's just the first few answers.

Gonzalez might be right in some of his characterizations -- and he does have a point when he says that the players he recruited had to be approved by compliance and admissions, too -- but he doesn't seem to get how unseemly this all looks. Gonzalez is, by all accounts, a difficult guy. The New York Times' famous March story about his time at Seton Hall and Manhattan painted the picture of a petulant, combative guy who cared less about his program than he did himself, his image, his win-loss record.

Add in the way Seton Hall's season ended -- with Herb Pope being ejected for punching a Texas Tech player in the groin during an NIT game -- and Gonzalez's final moments at Seton Hall showcased classic bad-leader syndrome: An out-of-control tyrant paradoxically careening his program into lawlessness.

All of that could have been untrue. If so, Gonzalez needed to show as much in this interview. He needed to win people over. Needed to seem like a nice guy. He wants to coach again, he says; that's why he gave the interview in the first place. So why stay combative? Why not take some -- just some! -- responsibility for Seton Hall's ugly final days? Why lash out needlessly?

Because Bobby Gonzalez, as ever, doesn't seem to get it. That's the biggest problem here. He just ... doesn't get it.

When the next school hires him -- and some school surely will, if not anytime soon -- that athletic director can't say he wasn't warned. Whether he realizes it or not, Gonzalez is the one delivering the warning.