College Basketball Nation: Bobby Gonzalez

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.

Herb Pope unhappy with Bobby Gonzalez

November, 12, 2010
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Seton Hall forward Herb Pope will play in his first regular-season game tonight following a tumultuous offseason that saw him declare for the NBA draft, collapse during a workout at the school, have surgery to correct a heart defect, and return for his junior season.

Former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez had a crazy time, too, getting fired by the school, being charged with shoplifting and settling a wrongful termination suit.

Somewhere in there, Gonzalez needed to find time to visit Pope in the hospital as one of his players fought for his life. According to The Star-Ledger, that didn't happen. Even worse, it didn't surprise Pope.
Pope didn't want to talk much about Gonzalez, but the little he did, he sounded like a guy who had gotten out of a dysfunctional relationship and was appreciating a saner life.

He was in the hospital for nearly a month but had no contact with his former coach during that time -- or, maybe more telling, since then. Gonzalez told The Star-Ledger in an interview this spring that he had tried to reach out, but if he did, the message never got to Pope.

"No, no, no. I haven't talked to him. Not once," Pope said. "He was the only one who didn't show up (at the hospital). It kind of shows you his character. It didn't surprise me because you expected that out of a man like him."

Wow. Pope, who led the Big East in rebounding for Gonzalez, should have had his old coach there.

And now, Pope is playing for new coach Kevin Willard, someone who hadn't gotten the chance to really get to know him until the collapse.

From Dana O'Neil's story last month:
It had been all of 30 days since Willard was hired at Seton Hall, taking over after Bobby Gonzalez was fired. And now he stood next to the hospital bed of one of his best players, a player who up until that moment had been toying with going pro.

"You see someone with such a bright future … I cried a lot,'' Willard said. "This kid had his whole life in front of him.''

Seton Hall students to start heckling more?

November, 11, 2010
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The Seton Hall student section at the Prudential Center has been moved this season to where it now extends to behind the opposing bench, according to The Setonian.

That means more visibility for the students on television and also quite probably more heckling of the visitors, associate athletic director Jamison Hannigan conceded to the school newspaper.
When asked if he wants students to heckle visiting teams, as long as it is "clean" Hannigan said, "Absolutely, it's a part of gamesmanship."

Students at Seton Hall are already anticipating the possibility of being able to easier heckle opposing players. This week, a group appeared on Facebook entitled "Hall's Hecklers."

The group's aim, as stated on the Facebook page, is to "finally give our Seton Hall Pirates the home-court advantage they deserve. With the student section being expanded behind the visiting team's bench this year, it is essential that we distract them during the game."

So after the school fired Bobby Gonzalez and replaced him with an anti-Bobby Gonzalez in Kevin Willard, it appears it's the students who are about to create a more hostile environment for Big East teams.

Bobby Gonzalez looks to the future

October, 7, 2010
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[+] EnlargeBobby Gonzalez
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireOusted Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said he is trying to get into scouting for a NBA team.
The trials and tribulations of Bobby Gonzalez are mostly behind him. What lies ahead? After his dismissal from Seton Hall -- which followed a 19-win season, a slew of bad player behavior and an extremely unflattering profile in the New York Times, and was soon itself followed by Gonzalez's arrest for the alleged theft of a $1,400 Ralph Lauren man-satchel -- Gonzalez doesn't have a coaching job for the first time in 25 years. So what's next? In an interview with FanHouse, Gonzalez says he has a few things lined up:

Gonzalez said he has feelers out about scouting jobs for NBA teams, and about television analyst jobs. During his years at Manhattan and Seton Hall, he did work for the regional cable stations and for NBA-TV, and he has recently visited the Knicks' training camp (he got to know coach Mike D'Antoni when both were in USA Basketball) as well as the Bobcats'.
"I'm looking forward, not backwards,'' he said Saturday. "I'm looking forward to the future. I'm excited. Things happen for a reason, I feel good about what we accomplished (at Seton Hall). I'm looking forward to the future, period. I'll be rooting for our kids, and that's really it.''

For all the bluster of Gonzalez's departure from Seton Hall -- including some choice words for Seton Hall's law school dean and an infamous in-person rant at Fox reporter Jeff Goodman at the NBA Draft -- the coach seems decidedly settled. For most of his FanHouse interview, he doesn't seem bitter. Rather, he seems like someone willing to take the good with the bad, to step back and see the wider perspective, to enjoy a little downtime for the first time in decades. This is a decidedly positive step.

And then, of course, comes a quote like this:
Pointing to the successes at Seton Hall, and claiming that while there and at Manhattan his teams won 80 percent of their games against New York-New Jersey area opposition, Gonzalez said: "It's not just me, it's terrific coaches working hard, terrific players, terrific recruits, tough kids. We had a lot of big wins (at Seton Hall). We were at Manhattan and we had some big wins.

"A lot of people were happy when we were let go. I said, 'That's probably because we won.' When you lose, you're a nice guy, but when you win ... "

For the record: In Gonzalez's four years at Seton Hall, the coach won 13, 17, 17, and 19 games, respectively. His team earned one postseason berth, which was last year's flameout in the first round of the NIT (which was punctuated by forward Herb Pope's groin-punch to Texas Tech's Darko Cohadarevic). But, yes, that's the reason Gonzalez is perceived the way he is. With an overall record of 65-59, Gonzalez simply won too much.

Shine on you crazy diamond. Shine on.
If you hadn't followed the self-destructive dismissal and insane summer of former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez -- even if you knew nothing about college basketball at all, really -- you would be able to guess just how well Seton Hall basketball is doing with its fans these days. Why? Because everyone knows this can't be good:
For the first time ever, Seton Hall Athletics has announced a special "Buy One Get One FREE" men's basketball season ticket offer on lower level seats at Prudential Center. Simply purchase one 2010-11 season ticket and receive a second one FREE!

Any new (first time purchaser or has not purchased since the 2005-06 season) season ticket holder will be eligible to purchase one season ticket for $450, or $405 for SHU alumni, and receive the second ticket FREE! That's two season tickets for less than $500!

This makes sense. Give hoops fans a cheap reason to buy season tickets, make the tickets accessible, demand a small donation in addition to their ticket purchase (in Seton Hall's case, $50 or $100 per seat, which is still pretty reasonable), and hope people consider the deal too good to pass up. You have to put butts in the seats somehow, right?

Here's what I don't get, though: Why don't current season-ticket holders, the ones who actually slogged through the Gonzalez era (which began in 2006-07), get the deal, too? If anything, those people should get something free. They're the ones who've suffered.

Anyway, act now! Don't wait! Actually, waiting probably makes sense. One has the feeling Pirates tickets, even at half price, won't be too hard to come by, at least not in the immediate future.

(Hat tip: Longhorn Road Trip)

Gonzo reborn at Five-Star coaches camp

September, 21, 2010
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E-mail was the public Internet's first "killer app." I think I learned that in college. But it does make sense: E-mail made the Web an interactive, social place, a place where you could be sitting and working and enjoying your day and then instantly, out of the blue, receive something that makes you double over with laughter. Just like that, your day is just a little bit brighter.

Today was one of those days.

Today, that e-mail wasn't intentionally hilarious. But it was hilarious all the same. In a blast to subscribers, the Five-Star Basketball organization advertised its newly appointed closing speaker set for Oct. 2's Five-Star/Naismith Hall of Fame Coaching Clinic. That speaker: former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez! No, seriously: Bobby Gonzalez.

Yes, Gonzalez will be teaching other coaches at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, and getting paid to do it. You may commence slamming your head against the nearest flat, hard object. And ... go.

Gonzalez's seminar is titled "Individual Player Improvement, 'My Favorite Practice Drills' and Offensive plays in Special Situations." The Five-Star blog says participants will need to "bring a cup of coffee," because if "passion and enthusiasm are component's [sic] for success, then Coach Gonzalez will deliver a can't miss [sic] talk!" Naturally, most Seton Hall fans would disagree with that statement. They would argue, perhaps correctly, that Gonzalez's passion and enthusiasm are precisely what led to his mediocre tenure and ultimately spectacular flame-out at the university.

Also, he got arrested for (allegedly) shoplifting a $1,400 man-purse. So there's that.

But I say roll with the punches: Add an "Accessorizing For Success" portion to Gonzo's seminar, bump up the entry fee an extra $20 or so, and have the coach talk about the importance of a leather satchel when convincing camp directors to let you fill vacant speaking appearances on hallowed basketball ground. Everyone wins! The crowd learns a few things, and Gonzo can finally, legally get that man-bag he's always had his eye on.

Why not? This whole thing is a joke anyway, right? Might as well go with it.

Bobby Gonzalez looking for television work

August, 11, 2010
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Former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez with his bizarre off-the-court happenings has been worthy of getting his own reality show, and who knows: Maybe that's where it's all headed toward.

In an interview with The New York Times, Gonzalez is saying he may return to college coaching "someday," but until then he might turn to the NBA or maybe even do some work on television.
"I've got some NBA stuff going on," said Gonzalez, adding that he had been in touch with several teams about becoming an assistant or a scout. He declined to name the teams.

"Or I might be in TV for a year or two. Let the smoke clear. I may get back in college someday, but I'll wait a while."

According to Gonzalez's Seton Hall bio, he has a degree in communications and experience doing TV work for NBA TV, the MSG Network and SNYtv.

Might we suggest hawking satchels on QVC? Court TV is now coincidentally called truTV and will broadcast NCAA tournament games, so that might be another fitting destination.

Stay tuned.

Bobby Gonzalez is all smiles

July, 21, 2010
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The story behind former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez's recent arrest for shoplifting is inherently funny. The circumstances -- Gonzalez allegedly stealing a $1,400 Ralph Lauren tote bag before handing it over to a bar hostess at a New Jersey shopping mall -- are packed with whimsy.

It's never fun to laugh at someone else's misfortune. But when that person is Gonzo, whose post-Seton Hall months have been a whirlwind public relations campaign seemingly designed to do the exact opposite of what most public relations campaigns are supposed to do (i.e., make people dislike you less, not more) it's hard to hold back the man-purse-induced chuckles. Sorry, but it's true.

Fortunately, we don't have to feel guilty. Because Bobby Gonzalez seems to be enjoying himself, too.

That's the lesson in today's runaway photo of the day winner, this New Jersey Star-Ledger photo of Gonzalez at his arraignment for the shoplifting charge. Gonzalez pled not guilty to the charge, but not before trying to elicit a laugh or two from a nearby sheriff's officer. I'm sure that went well.

The photo is just weird enough to be a perfect encapsulation of Gonzalez's summer: Look at it, and you won't know whether to laugh or cry.
Just when you thought Bobby Gonzalez's offseason couldn't get any weirder, the man gets arrested for (allegedly!) shoplifting a $1,395 satchel from a Polo Ralph Lauren in a New Jersey shopping complex.

Read that again. Yep. Your eyes aren't fooling you. It's just that weird. From NorthJersey.com:
According to reports, the manager of store told police that the manager of Joe’s American Bar and Grill returned a men’s satchel to her that belonged to Polo Ralph Lauren and said an individual came into the restaurant, left the satchel with the hostess and never returned.

The satchel, valued at $1,395, was reportedly damaged in the area where a sensor tag had been attached. An investigation into the incident by the Millburn Detective Bureau resulted in an arrest warrant being issued for Robert P. Gonzalez, 47, of Harrison, N.Y., for allegedly removing the sensor device from the satchel and walking out of the store without paying for the item.


A quick search of the online Polo Store (hat tip to blog brother Diamond for the find) reveals this men's satchel -- the Deerfield Vachetta Mailbag -- priced at $1,395, which means it might well be the bag Gonzo was allegedly trying to shoplift. Polo describes it as a "handsome messenger bag, exquisitely crafted in Italy from smooth leather and finished with antiqued hardware for an inspired vintage quality." Others might call it an overpriced, mass-produced man-purse. To each his own, really.

In any case, the charge is yet another in a string of brutal personal turns for Bobby Gonzalez. The former Seton Hall coach's tenure was punctuated in March with a brutal New York Times profile that codified Gonzalez's reputation as a coaching tyrant. Then, following Seton Hall's ugly final game in 2009-10, Gonzalez was fired. In the months since, there have been tell-all interviews and revelations of Gonzalez's famed tirades -- one of which was reportedly directed at his bosses and one of which weirdly came at the expense of a college hoops reporter at the NBA draft. Basically, everything we've learned about the coach since his firing has been overwhelmingly negative.

But this beats all. If true -- and this is where you can insert the trusty old "innocent until proven guilty" maxim -- it would not only irrevocably damage Gonzalez's already flailing reputation but, more importantly, seal his coaching fate. Gonzo wants to coach again. That was always an uphill situation. Now it's a question mark. What program would hire an accused shoplifter, let alone a guilty one?

If Gonzalez was hoping to bring a handsome leather man-purse to interviews, that hope is now gone. And not just because he got caught.
Former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez has proved time and again that he's not the most self-aware chap in the world. His recent interview with the (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger -- in which he blamed the administrators at Seton Hall for a knee-jerk reaction to media criticism of his program, when that criticism had far less to do with Gonzalez's reputation than the man's own behavior -- proved as much.

But there's more. Court documents obtained by SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria Tuesday show that Gonzalez directed a profanity-laced tirade at Pat Hobbs, dean of the Seton Hall School of Law and overseer of the men's basketball program, when Hobbs called to ask Gonzalez about a previous profanity-laced tirade directed at a Bergen Record reporter. Profane tirades everywhere! Weeee!

Gonzalez's response to Hobbs' call? Not good:
"Nobody's gonna tell me how to run my motherf---ing program. Not you, not Monsignor, not Joe Quinlan. This is my f---ing program. My f---ing program," Gonzalez screamed, according to the counterclaim filed Tuesday by Seton Hall in response to Gonzalez's April lawsuit.

Hey, aspiring young professionals? A bit of free advice from your intrepid hoops blogger: Cussing out your boss is never a good idea. And now you know.

Of course, being part of Seton Hall's counterclaim, the record of the phone conversation is subject to debate. But it's damning for Gonzalez. The coach has always had the reputation for prickly, defensive behavior, a reputation codified by a March 8 New York Times report that recounted Gonzalez's demeanor at Manhattan, the job he held before he took the Pirates' position.

Whether this is damning for Gonzalez in court, where he is seeking portions of his salary denied to him by the university's decision to terminate him with cause, is another matter. Obviously, that will be decided in court.

But in the public record? Among other athletic directors and college presidents? You know, the place Gonzalez will one day try to rehabilitate his reputation and seek another coaching position? Um, yeah. Not good.
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.

[+] EnlargeBobby Gonzalez
AP Photo/Andres LeightonBobby 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.
It's been a rough offseason around the Seton Hall basketball community.

First there was the firing of tyrannical former coach Bobby Gonzalez, which threw the program into minor turmoil (though, to be fair to the post-Gonzo turmoil, it never seemed like Seton Hall existed in anything other than "minor turmoil" for most of Gonzo's tenure). Then there was the horrifying collapse and hospitalization of forward Herb Pope during a workout at the Seton Hall Recreation Center. And, lastly and more trivially, there was the possibility that leading scorer Jeremy Hazell and small forward Jeff Robinson would stay in the NBA draft, leaving new Pirates coach Kevin Willard's cupboard all but bare.

There is some good news on both fronts today. For one, Pope's condition has stabilized and is improving, according to a report by Adam Zagoria. Little is known about the causes of Pope's collapse, and Seton Hall officials aren't disclosing medical details over privacy concerns (nor should they), but for now, the news is decidedly positive.

And as for the basketball team? It turns out both Hazell and Robinson will return to the Pirates next season. That's a major boost for Willard, who now has a solid base of talent already in place and won't have to do a complete from-scratch rebuild of the rough and tumble program he inherited. Hazell and Robinson don't make Seton Hall a lock to make the NCAA tournament, but they do make the Pirates' chances of getting there much, much better.

So, hey, Seton Hall fans, turn those frowns upside down. A bad offseason is, if only gradually, getting better.

Forde: A telling tale of two Jersey coaches

March, 17, 2010
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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.
As if Bobby Gonzalez's 2009-10 season wasn't already going bad enough.

[+] EnlargeBobby Gonzalez
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireBobby Gonzalez is the only coach in Big East history to be suspended for criticizing officials.
Seton Hall appeared to have the sort of team capable of making the NCAA tournament early in the season, and the Pirates haven't played that poorly; they currently sit at 18-11 overall and 9-9 in the Big East. That's just below South Florida, and just below a batch of teams that are likely to make the NCAA tournament. Still, though, a tournament berth will likely require a Big East conference tournament win, meaning Gonzalez is set to complete his fourth year at the school without a tournament visit. Rest assured, that was not part of the plan.

Nor, I imagine, was having the New York Times write a long, well-reported story about how pretty much no one likes you. But here it is! (And here's a sidebar on Gonzalez's time at Manhattan, where, you guessed it, pretty much no one liked him either.)

You'll have to go read the stories to get the full effect, but this quote from the sidebar should be a pretty decent indicator of what you're in for:
To illustrate just how difficult Bobby Gonzalez was to manage when he coached at Manhattan College from 1999 to 2006, Athletic Director Bob Byrnes told a story about the bus company Manhattan used to travel to games. “The guy who runs the bus company called me and said something to the effect of: ‘I have 131 drivers that drive for us. But we’re down to one guy that will drive for Bobby Gonzalez,’ ” Byrnes said.

Uh, yeah. I have a feeling Gonzalez isn't going to like this. Which means Seton Hall's Big East tournament games should be thoroughly awesome. Well, the postgame press conferences, anyway.

Big East coaches like expansion, too

February, 5, 2010
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It doesn't really matter whether coaches like expansion or not -- the decision on whether the NCAA will turn its 64-team tournament into a 96-team affair will be up to the NCAA, its TV stakeholders, and a handful of conference commissioners. Coaches have little agency in the process. But still, it's interesting to see just how many coaches are in favor of something many fans and media types seem to consider a soulless money grab.

Take the Big East's coaches, for example. Like Billy Donovan before them, if it means their team has a better chance at making the NCAA tournament, they're -- duh -- totally for it:

"I love it, I think it's time has come," Wright said. "As we add Division I teams [now up to 347], look at college football, close to 50 percent go to bowl games. There are so many good teams that don't go to the [NCAA] tourney."

[Seton Hall coach Bobby] Gonzalez said until recently he didn't think the tournament needed to expand. But now he believes the tournament field should grow. "If you're in the middle of the pack in our league, you deserve to be in the NCAA [tournament]," Gonzalez said.


Jim Boeheim, who has been in favor of expansion for a while now, makes a few more trenchant points -- that the tournament has expanded when necessary many times before, and that there are many more good teams in the pool of 347 than there were in the past. That makes sense. Gonzalez's point is less believable. The Big East is a good league, but do you really deserve to get in if you're the eighth or ninth team at the end of the year? Quantity doesn't equal quality; it's possible for the Big East to be top-heavy and for other conferences to be more complete from top to bottom, yes?

Anyway. One obvious trend is emerging: Coaches love them some tournament expansion. It's easy to see why. More teams equals less competition to make the NCAA tournament equals fewer angry fans calling for your head when you miss the 64-team field. College coaches want their jobs to get easier. Wouldn't you?

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