- Eamonn Brennan, College Basketball Reporter
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The last time we checked in with former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, the coach -- who was fired last spring after an unflattering profile in The New York Times and blowups with Seton Hall athletics and administrative officials -- was defiantly looking to the future. Gonzalez was giving paid presentations at coaching clinics and looking for jobs on the sideline or in the TV booth, both of which seemed like long shots considering Gonzalez's ugly and public departure from Seton Hall and his subsequent arrest for the alleged theft of a $1,400 man-purse from a New Jersey mall complex.
Over a period of time, the phrase "Gonzo being Gonzo" has crept into the college hoops fan's lexicon. At this point, nothing Gonzalez does seems all that surprising. Everything is on the table.
Naturally, the latest dispatch from Gonzo-land is no different. In an interview with ESPN New York's Ian Begley, Gonzalez said his former team -- which finished 13-18 overall, 7-11 in the Big East, and lost in the first round of the Big East tournament -- would have been back in the NCAAs this season had Gonzalez still be at the school. Oh, yeah. He went there:
"If I was back this year we would have won over 20 games and we would've went back to the NCAA [tournament]," Gonzalez said in an interview Tuesday afternoon with ESPNNewYork.com. "To have a record like that with the talent that I left them is unacceptable."
Before we get to the rest of the choice Gonzo quotes in Begley's interview -- and there are a few -- let's address this claim quickly. After all, Gonzalez may be right. Maybe Seton Hall would have won 20 games and gotten into the NCAA tournament this season. But it's pretty doubtful.
For one, Gonzalez never won 20 games in his tenure at the Hall; the 19 wins he achieved in 2009-10 were the most of his tenure with the Pirates. Two, Gonzalez never went to the NCAA tournament with the Pirates. Three, in this hypothetical scenario, Gonzalez would have faced the same personnel challenges as first-year coach Kevin Willard. Those challenges include a scary offseason collapse for forward Herb Pope. They also include the travails of leading scorer Jeremy Hazell, who broke his wrist in late November and was shot -- yes, shot -- on Christmas Day. Yes, Seton Hall had talent this year, and yes, Gonzalez was responsible for assembling that talent. But the reasons for the Pirates' decline can't be entirely pinned on Willard. There are some things you just can't control.
Besides, if Pope's comments after his recovery from that collapse are any indication -- Gonzalez didn't visit Pope in the hospital; Pope said that "didn't surprise me because you expected that out of a man like him" -- the Pirates weren't exactly fond of their former coach in the first place.
Anyway, the rest of Gonzo's quotes are just as good. A sampling:
"I think that I was too focused on winning games, making it, getting to the top. I was just too much of a maniac, I was too driven," Gonzalez said. "I think that the good thing that this year did was [it] made me put it in perspective and take a step back and realize it's not life and death."
"I probably shouldn't have picked as many fights, I probably was too aggressive. ... And that made everybody a little uncomfortable," he added. "I should have been a little more politically correct, a little more diplomatic. But at the same time, who I am and part of what got me to [coaching Division I basketball] was my personality."
Gonzalez felt that Seton Hall was making him the "fall guy" for the [Robert] Mitchell [incident, in which Mitchell was accused of robbing eight people at gunpoint with former player Kelly Whitney] by firing him. "I'm not saying I'm perfect, I made my share of mistakes [but] they were trying to destroy me and hurt my career. Not just fire me, but crucify me," he said.
"Right now the perception and the reputation of Bobby Gonzalez is, 'That guy's crazy, he's too wild, he doesn't get along with anybody, he's too hard to work for, he's a maniac, he brings in all these bad kids,'" Gonzalez said. "But you know what else? I'm a winner."
Death, taxes, Butler and Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament and Bobby Gonzalez saying slightly crazy things to New York-area media: It's good to know there are always a few things in life you can count on.
The last time we checked in with former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, the coach -- who was fired last spring after an unflattering profile in The New York Times and blowups with Seton Hall athletics and administrative officials -- was defiantly looking to the future.