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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Greetings from Houston

Ah, there's nothing like a 5:30 AM flight to get the blood flowing. That's what we encountered this morning, as we made the annual sojourn to be with the Maguire University buddies at the NCAA Final Four.

Before we get into the wonderful world of Maguire, here's just a few items from the flight this morning.

First, I just love the reaction of people when they know they have to sit next to me on a plane for three hours. The guy today saw me sitting there, rolled his eyes to the heavens, said, ``You got to be kidding me,'' then proceeded to sit down and say in Spanish, "Gordito madicon.''

Now, did this bastion of wonderment actually think I didn't understand what he said because I happen to look caucasian? I grew up in Jersey City. I took Spanish for seven full years of my educational life. I know what ''Gordito'' means. Yes, I'm fat. I understand that I'm fat. In my case, people may say that thin is in, but fat is where it's at. Know what I'm saying?

But the other part my seat mate hit me with? I have never once had a man's genitalia in my face, mouth, what have you. So he only got half of his name about me right. I am fat, no question, but ''madicon?'' Moi? PLEASE!!!

Here are another few pearls of my journey. The guy directly in front of me was about 6-foot-4. He saw how big I was when he sat down. But as soon as he gets into his chair, he does one thing _ reclines the seat, which drives my already compacted knees into my throat.

I asked him nicely to put the seat back up and his response, "Hey man, I'm tired.''

Well, he got his come-uppins in the final hour of the flight when his girlfriend/wife/travel partner/what have you proceeded to hurl her early morning breakfast in his lap. No need for the bag, because there wasn't enough time.

I love the idea of air travel, but the Wright brothers must have been 5-8 and 145, because when they invented the airplane, they didn't have monstrosities like me in mind.

Now, for Maguire University. A lot of you probably never heard of Maguire. The school's basketball team has never been ranked among the top 25 in the Associated Press poll. It's never produced a Nobel Prize winner or a Pulitzer winner. But every year, Maguire goes to the Final Four, or as the great people of Maguire call it, ''the Final Five.''

This year, in Houston, the Final Five consists of UConn, Kentucky, VCU, Butler and Maguire.

Ok, here's the lowdown on Maguire. It isn't a real university. It began as a result of Loyola of Chicago going to the Final Four in 1963 and a group of avid Loyola fans wanting to go to see the games that year.

They were told that the only way to get tickets was through the NCAA, which had its offices in Shawnee Mission, Kansas at the time. The group of avid fans were asked if they were from a school. They said, "Sure, Maguire University,'' because they were hanging out at Maguire's Pub at the time.

They provided the NCAA with the address of the school, which of course was the address of the bar. The phone number was the bar number, naturally.

And they got their Final Four tickets, tickets they continued to get for the Final Four under Maguire University for several years, until Bill Jauss, the legendary Chicago Tribune sportswriter, told the tale of Maguire in the Trib.

Needless to say, the NCAA wasn't too pleased when they learned of the hoax and took away the tickets. But the people of Maguire still celebrate the Final Four, er, Final Five every single year.

I first met the people of Maguire in Tampa in 1999 and partied like it was that year in true Prince fashion with them. I can taste those 16 ounce cans of Budweiser in some outdoor bar that I stayed with the Maguire group for like 10 hours. It was impressive intoxication, to be sure.

I ran into them again in 2006 in Indianapolis, enrolled in classes in Maguire in Atlanta in 2007 and last year, I received my degree in mixology and toxicology from Maguire.

Now, I'm back at the Final Five with the great people like Art Duffy _ junior and senior, John and Polly Kelly, George Hoey, Dave Butts (the best girls' basketball referee in Illinois), Beth LaRocca and the one who keeps everyone in line, Villanova's best alum next to Scottie Reynolds, Meg Comer.

The administration and board of directors at Maguire University make me feel like a true graduate. I wear my Maguire fleece with pride throughout the college basketball season and get a kick when I tell the story to someone when they ask, "Maguire University? Where's Maguire?"

So if anyone is headed to Houston, make sure to stop by the Maguire hospitality suite in the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott on Dallas Street. You'll be glad you did.

I cannot comprehend that it's Opening Day of the baseball season and snow is forecast for Yankee Stadium. Please, enough with this snow...please...

And as for my beloved Mets, it will be like Stewie Griffin on Family Guy. If anyone hasn't seen the clip, check it out on Youtube. It's classic and this year, it's so very true.

Adios for now from Houston. I think I see a green bottle with my name on it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Marquette retrospective of the NCAA East Regional

Although Marquette lost badly to North Carolina Friday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, there still were some positive signs.

First, the incredible turnout by the alma mater, all donning their blue and gold, all showing their incredible loyalty to the Golden Eagles/Warriors. Hearing ''Ring Out A-Hoya" live from the MU band was invigorating. I was proud to be an alum, like I always am.

However, it was painful as a sportswriter watching that first half unfold and not being able to show any emotion, especially since practically everyone in the press room knew my allegiance and especially after Marquette coach Buzz Williams sought me out after the practices on Thursday. For some reason, everyone knew it was me _ and I got the phone calls, texts and e-mails to prove it.

So when I arrived Friday, everyone was perched and ready to pounce on me being mentioned by Buzz. Even a member of the Marquette security group came up to me and said, ``Did you hear Buzz mentioned you?'' Trust me, I knew.

So the final score was lopsided and the game was over in a flash, especially when you're trailing by 31 points, but there were positives.

For one, Davante Gardner has proven he can be a big-time post presence in the future. After struggling early, Junior Cadougan looks like he can replace Dwight Buycks at the point.

They won two games in the tourney and made it to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2003 Final Four appearance. They made everyone in my home state know exactly where Marquette was and who they are. The attention that the Golden Eagle/Warriors received was worth tons.

Now, the rumors of Buzz heading to Oklahoma. If he's going to get a huge contract out of this, he deserves it. He's a Texas boy and Oklahoma is a lot closer to home than Milwaukee.

I'd like to see him return, because the prospects of having another good season look good. Jimmy Butler will be sorely missed, but the team should be solid again next year, especially after this experience.

There were a lot of reasons to be proud, despite the final score. I was glad to be a part of it. I just wish they were there again today.

However, Carolina/Kentucky shapes up to be a great one. The matchup of Zeller/Harrellson should be a classic.


Now, this is a complaint about ESPN claiming to break stories. As a sportswriter, it's a little annoying when they lay claim to ''exclusives.''

After Ohio State lost to Kentucky Friday night, Jared Sullinger answered a question that was posed by yours truly about his future. He answered that he was definitely coming back, that he had a lot of work to do and that he came to Ohio State to win. He said he had some unfinished business.

However, a few minutes later, on the bottom line of ESPN was a scrawl that said reporter Chad Ford had it exclusively. In my eyes, exclusive means one. Not a pool of reporters. And Ford wasn't even the one who asked Sullinger if he was returning. But hey, the almighty ESPN claims they broke the story, so I guess they must have.

It's really sickening to have ESPN break stories they really don't break.
This just in. Lincoln has been shot attending a play. Sal Paolantonio reports exclusively. His return is questionable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Buzz apologizes to me---and I'm not there

The NCAA East Regional held open practices this morning in Newark. My alma mater, Marquette is there and I'm currently in Wisconsin (Racine to be precise) to attend the wake of the father of my best friend from my days in Milwaukee.

What are the odds of that? I'm doing to do everything in my power to get back home tomorrow to see the Golden Eagles/Warriors take on the Tar Heels of North Carolina at the Prudential Center.

In any case, I had to sacrifice the open practices/press session today to attend the wake.

This morning, Marquette coach Buzz Williams, of whom I was very critical a few weeks ago, was asked by a sportswriter, believed to be Tom Luicci of the Star-Ledger about the incident after the Marquette loss to Seton Hall, when Williams held a team meeting in the locker room for more than an hour after the game was over.

Here's what was said today, courtesy of the transcripts of the press conference:

Q. Buzz, can you talk about your last
trip to this building, and what was your
message to the players when they were kind of
barricaded in the locker room for 45 minutes
after that loss?
said that somebody got mad. I don't read anything
that you guys write, but the guy that I upset is he
Q. I don't think he is.
Q. I don't think he is.
him? Tell him I am really not a bad guy and I
apologize. And I mean it sincerely.
Q. He's a Marquette guy.
COACH BUZZ WILLIAMS: That is a loyal
alum. I am sure he donated a lot of money to our
I really didn't say anything, to be honest
with you, that I wouldn't have said if our team was
here in front of you. It was not a kumbaya
meeting, not a prayer meeting, just a truthful
meeting. We were 9-7. We had won three games
in a row. We won at UConn. All of those things.
And then we go home, we got two games to play.
We play Cincinnati at home and wasn't good
enough to beat them. And you can argue maybe
we had to do more, but I think the premise behind
the last week of the season, if we won one, we
were probably in the Tournament. We were
playing Seton Hall after the best game, in my
opinion, at that moment in time, of Coach Willard's
tenure at Seton Hall. Playing unbelievable against
St. John's here. And the same thing happened to
us in the first half. They just absolutely blitzed us.
And I just told our guys what I believe to be true,
nothing that was earth shattering, nothing that they
were stunned by, nothing that was out of the
ordinary and nothing that I meant to perturb
anybody from the media. I think I have been as
transparent and as accessible in the last 1,080
days as any coach in any sport.
What I said was, was that a week ago
today we only had to win one to get in the
Tournament. And as of today, I don't think that's
the -- I don't think that's the case anymore. So
we're going to get on the plane to New York not
knowing what we have to do in order to continue to
play in the NCAA Tournament. And the longer we
stay in New York, the better odds we have of
getting in the Tournament. We were able to play
three games and that was probably just good
enough to get in the Tournament. So I didn't say
anything that, like I said, I didn't say anything that I wouldn't have said to you. When we play here, I am going to invite that guy in the locker room. Tell him he can come back there."

There it is. Buzz apologized to me, but I wasn't there. Now, someone must have read this blog and passed the word to Buzz that I was perturbed over the incident.
Because other than writing it here _ and getting a boatload of criticism from avid Marquette fans about it _ no one was informed formally of my anger. I did notify the Big East office about it, but apparently nothing was officially done about it.

So Buzz has apologized, just like I did last week. All is well. Ring out a-hoya. Marquette is in the Sweet 16. And we're going to do everything in our power to get there tomorrow.

Buzz is wrong about one thing. I don't donate ''a lot of money.'' I'm a sportswriter. We're all pretty much broke. I can't afford to donate a lot of money, but I do donate some money.

I'll accept the apology even though I'm about 25 miles from the Marquette campus right now and he's about five miles from my front door in Kearny. It's pretty ironic, don't you think?

Congrats to the Friars of St. Anthony for winning the school's fourth national championship Monday night, defeating Plainfield at the IZOD Center. The 2011 team will now go down with the 1989, 1996 and 2008 teams as national champs.

And people are always looking to compare one team to the next, which is totally unfair.

But if we are going to compare, there is no comparison. The 1989 team that featured future NBA players Bobby Hurley, Terry Dehere and Rodrick Rhodes and also featured a college standout in Jerry Walker was clearly the best Friar team of all time. They were the best high school basketball team ever and that team is the single reason why there is such a thing as the Tournament of Champions in New Jersey, because the NJSIAA wanted to capitalize on the popularity of that Friar team.

That team sold out gyms all over the place and left long lines of avid fans who wanted to see them in action. They were like the Beatles of high school basketball.

This team does hold a distinction because they were not considered to be national championship quality to begin the season, but moved their way up the rankings, like a hot single on the Billboard charts. It's the first time a St. Anthony team did that, moving up the rankings instead of starting the year at No. 1 and staying there.

There are sportswriters who are blasting Lawrence Taylor for pleading guilty to having sex with an underage prostitute and being labeled as a sex offender _ and deservedly so.

However, there's another side to this story. You see, Taylor has definitely symptoms and signs of having a multiple-personality disorder and has never been properly treated for it.

He even addresses himself in two different ways. When he's being the loving, caring, considerate teammate, he calls himself ''Lawrence," the way that Bill Parcells still refers to him.

But then there's the ''wild and crazy dog'' that is known as "L.T." and even Taylor himself refers to that personality as "L.T."

It's very clear that this is a disturbed man in dire need of psychiatric treatment and apparently has never properly received it.

Maybe, over the terms of his six-year probation of being a sex offender, he can get the mental health treatment he desperately needs.

Don't forget to watch "60 Minutes" Sunday night, when correspondent Steve Kroft does a piece on Bob Hurley and the Friars. It should be a very interesting segment to say the least.

Here's to hoping that spring can finally come and stay, because snow totally depresses me. It's one thing to have snow like we have in Wisconsin, but in New Jersey? On March 24? Opening Day in baseball is next week. Please, enough is enough.
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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Eat my words about Marquette

Two weeks ago, I was very critical about the Marquette Golden Eagles and their performance down the stretch, including a hideous loss against Seton Hall. I was critical of the team and critical of the coach, Buzz Williams, drawing the ire of several blog readers.

Well, this fat guy is ready to eat his words about his alma mater, because Williams had his team totally prepared to play its first-round NCAA game last night against Xavier.

As I learned in my many Latin classes over the year, ''Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa." It's Julius Caesar's way of apologizing for those non-Latin students.

The Golden Eagles dominated Xavier in every aspect of the game, but especially on the defensive end, where they totally stifled the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Tu Holloway, who was held to just five points after averaging close to 20 per game all season.

Marquette was all over the floor on defense, defending every possession like their lives depended upon it. It was clearly their best defensive effort of the season. They were also pinpoint precise on offense, with everyone getting involved. Jae Crowder is past his late-season slump. Darius Johnson-Odom was electrifying.

Marquette lost its first round NCAA game last year to Washington with a team that had higher expectations than this one. The Warrior Golden Eagles were dominant yesterday and we have to hope for the same Sunday against Syracuse in a Big East showdown for the Sweet 16. Marquette defeated Syracuse by five earlier in the year. This will be a much tougher task.

Still, Marquette earned an NCAA tourney win, just a few weeks after the thought of even being in the tourney was thought to be a longshot at best. I was wrong. I'll admit it now.


My other NCAA tourney allegiance squad, St. Peter's, fell hard to Purdue, in a game that really was not a good match for the undersized Peacocks. JaJuan Johnson and E'Twuan Moore are players that aren't found in the MAAC. They're better found in the NBA and frankly, the Peacocks were no match.

Still, it was a great season for a great guy like SPC head coach John Dunne, who helped to make the SPC program relevant again. And for a great kid like Wesley Jenkins, it was redemption for first making the tough choice to go to SPC and secondly, for sticking it out and staying put.

Although I didn't go to SPC, I did spend five wonderful years working there and there's still a huge part of my heart that is tucked away inside Yanitelli Center. It was good to see SPC in the headlines again for the first time since the school did the unthinkable and fired a great coach in Ted Fiore back in 1995, the last time the Peacocks went to the Grand Dance since last night.

I'm not alone in this thinking, but after watching the incredible inside-outside balance of Ohio State last night, there's no stopping the Buckeyes from winning the national championship.

Although there are a lot of the Duke faithful who were happy to see New Jersey's own Kyrie Irving back on the floor yesterday.

Speaking of the Duke-Hampton game, it was great to see Jersey City's own and University Academy grad Charles Funches doing so well for Hampton. Funches went from University Academy to Monroe Junior College to Hampton to pursue his college dream and it ends with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

I love Bob Klapisch's work in the Bergen Record, but he has to be kidding me second-guessing the Mets' decision to release that cancer known as Luis Castillo the other day.

Klapisch obviously didn't see the play Wednesday, when the Mets were going to get out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam against the Cardinals. The Cardinal batter hit a sharp grounder to Ike Davis, who fielded it and went home to Josh Thole for the first out. Thole then went to throw to first to complete the double play, but Castillo didn't cover first. He was picking his nose in between in limbo.

Case closed on Castillo. Adios. Bye-bye. Farewell.

He was a bad signing three years ago and we don't have to watch him anymore. I don't care who plays second. I'll take the ghost of Ken Boswell for all that matters, as long as Castillo is a goner.

And after the team's other resident cancer Ollie "The Follie'' Perez gave up back-to-back homers in relief today, we can only hope he's going on the same bus back to nowhere as Castillo. Good riddance.


Here's a case of learning something new every day in this business and someone who you expected to know everything also learning.

When St. Anthony used the ''amoeba'' defense to totally shut down St. Patrick last week in the Battle of the Titans at Rutgers, it totally floored me, considering I've seen the fabulous Friars play about 400 times in my personal and professional life and never saw it before used by Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley.

I asked Hurley if he had used it before springing the surprise on St. Pat's and he said that he did use it on a few occasions this season. It came after Hurley went to a clinic over the summer, taught by former Fresno State coach Boyd Grant, who is the father of the ''amoeba'' and not Jerry Tarkanian, as what was believed.

So Hurley, a guy with more than 1,000 wins and a Hall of Fame resume, actually went to a clinic last summer to learn something new. That perhaps is the reason why Hurley is truly an amazing coach and a deserved Hall of Famer.

Hurley's Friars will face Plainfield for the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title Monday night at the IZOD Center. They beat Newark Central last nignt, 55-39, at Monmouth to advance to the T of C title and the right to claim their 11th T of C crown, as well as nailing down their fourth-ever mythical national title.

I report with sadness the passing of my good friend George Maguire, who was a fixture on the Hoboken High School sidelines for three decades. Maguire died at home last Wednesday. He will be waked Sunday in Bloomfield and will be honored in a funeral mass Monday morning.

Maguire made national headlines in the early 1970s when at the age of 44, he decided he wanted to continue the football career he started at the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s. Maguire received permission from Sooner coach Barry Switzer and Maguire gave it a try to play major college football again.

A member of both the Hoboken and Hudson County Halls of Fame, Maguire was a wonderful man who loved the Red Wings and loved the Sooners. I don't know if roaming the sidelines at a Red Wing football game will ever be the same without him.

Union Hill High School in Union City might be history, but the Hillers' football legacy lives on. There will be a football reunion on Sunday, April 10, at the Grayfliff in Moonachie between 12 and 4 p.m. Tickets are $48 each and can be purchased through organizer and former Hiller gridder Julian Romero at (973) 296-0016 or visit for more details.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My AP story about the St. Peter's Peacocks

It ran on the national Associated Press wire tonight. It's pretty big stuff for a simple stringer

Here goes

The first team that John Dunne coached at St. Peter’s College in 2006 won all of five games.
A year later, the Peacocks were vastly improved. They won six times.
“It was very frustrating,” Dunne said, referring to those first two seasons. “Of course, you question yourself when you go through seasons like that, but it was never a question of whether you were playing the game the right way. You just wanted to win so badly, but when you’re losing, you start to micromanage everything. You wonder about the day-to-day routines, whether you’re practicing long enough.”
The 2007-08 team, Dunne’s first true recruiting class, featured kids like Ryan Bacon, Nick Leon and Wesley Jenkins, a group of kids who managed to defeat Rutgers at the Jersey City Armory early in the season and not much else. In fact, during one stretch of that season, the Peacocks lost an ungodly 18 straight games.
“It was definitely tough,” Bacon said. “We knew that we had the talent that could turn this program around. But after our freshman year, we all could have left, transferred, gone somewhere else.”
Jenkins, a former All-State player at Bloomfield Tech, did have some pressure to leave after that 6-24 campaign.
“After my freshman year, everyone was in my ear about transferring,” Jenkins said. “But I’m a loyal guy and I don’t quit. I was going to stay no matter what. I came from a winning program. I never lost 18 straight games. But it would have been too easy for me to walk away. I’d have to sit out a year and not play, sit behind someone else for a while. I came to St. Peter’s to play. I didn’t want to leave. I figured you had to lose before you could win.”
So instead of bailing on the program, Jenkins, Bacon and Leon all stayed at St. Peter’s. They had faith in Dunne and faith in the program.
“The main reason why we stayed was our togetherness,” Bacon said. “We stuck together and stuck it out.”
The Peacocks showed improvement, winning 11 games the following season and 16 a year ago.
With the core of the team based around their senior leadership, there were high hopes entering the 2010-11 season. However, those feelings were dampened considerably when leading scorer Jenkins suffered what first appeared to be a devastating knee injury.
It looked as if the Peacocks’ season was over before it actually starting, losing the team’s leading scorer for the last three seasons and the school’s No. 7 all-time leading scorer.
“A whole lot was going through my mind,” Jenkins said. “When the doctor told me that my ACL was torn, I didn’t know what to think. I called my mother and cried. I just wanted to be by myself.”
Jenkins saw another doctor who recommended that he would not require season-ending reconstructive surgery; that he could get by with just a rigorous rehabilitation.
“I actually felt blessed to hear that news,” Jenkins said. “I just had to keep rehabbing the knee to get it stronger.”
When the season officially began in November, Jenkins was on the sidelines and missed the first four games, three of which were losses. Jenkins returned to action in December, only to face adversity once again.

Right before the Peacocks were slated to face Rutgers in Piscataway. Jenkins re-injured the same knee.
“The second time, I definitely thought it was over,” Jenkins said. “The whole team thought it as well.”
However, Jenkins only suffered a hyperextension of the knee, which put him to the sidelines for a second time, this time for three games.
“I dodged two bullets,” Jenkins said. “I’m just blessed to still be playing.”
During the course of the regular season, the Peacocks were defeated twice by Fairfield (once by a lopsided 70-43 score) and twice handily by Iona, but managed to somehow defeat both teams at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament last week in Bridgeport, Ct.
It clinched the program’s first MAAC title since 1995 and gave the Peacocks their first berth in the NCAA Tournament since that year.
The transformation was complete. The Peacocks were a six-win team as freshman to NCAA Tournament participants as seniors. St. Peter’s will face Purdue in the opening round of the Southwest Region at the United Center in Chicago Friday night.
“I’m not focused on how we match up with Purdue,” Leon said. “They should be focused on how they match up with us.”
“I don’t know much about Purdue, because my wife doesn’t let me watch too much basketball at home,” Dunne said. “But you can be rest assured that we’ll know a lot before Friday.”
For the kid who thought his season ended twice, there was no greater feeling.
“You have to have a story in your life,” Jenkins said. “Everyone has to have a story. This is my story. We have one. The whole four years, the losing, getting hurt, it was all worth it. Everything happens for a reason. The bottom line is, we won.”
And for the young coach, in his first head coaching job, who thought he might have done the wrong thing in taking the SPC job five years ago, there were no words to describe the emotions.
“It was surreal, like was it really happening?” Dunne said. “It was euphoria. I was so happy for these guys, so happy for St. Peter’s College, the fans, the alumni. No question, I’m a happy man.”

That story will appear in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal. There will be no byline, but trust me, it's mine.
You have to love the new Bobby Hurley

commercials that are appearing during the NCAA Tournament. If you haven't seen them, you can see them online on

Speaking of Hurley, how low class was the documentary "The Fab Five" the other night on ESPN? I wanted to jump through the TV and beat the crap out of Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson for calling the Duke basketball team a bunch of "bitches'' and "Uncle Toms."

Did anyone else find it funny that the best player among the group, namely Chris Webber, had nothing to do with the crap?

One last thing. Duke might have been filled with bitches and Uncle Toms as they say, but the Blue Devils also did some bitch slapping on those blowhards, winning all three games. Bitch that!!!

I went to the Red Bulls media day today at Red Bull Arena in Harrison and it was astounding and shocking to see the number of media people that were in attendance. There had to be about 300 credentialed media people there to do interviews. Thierry Henry certainly draws a crowd. I remember covering that event when there were about seven writers in attendance, guys like Paul Gardner, Frank Giase, Michael Lewis, Jack Bell, Alex Yannis, Ike Kuhns and me. Things have definitely changed. Maybe it was the free lunch that drew the media types to Harrison today.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Legendary coach Paternostro didn't retire as reported

Vic Paternostro is a high school football coaching legend, a larger-than-life figure. With 373 career victories, no other New Jersey high school football coach won more games ever. With an astounding 20 NJSIAA state titles, no coach has ever captured more hardware than the architect of the Pope John of Sparta gridiron dynasty.

He's sent countless players off to college on scholarship, including about seven players on last year's roster.

Needless to say, Paternostro needs no buildup here. He's the real deal, the true article, perhaps the most famous of all New Jersey grid coaches.

So it came to a little bit of a shock to Paternostro and his family Thursday, when it was reported by the school's president, Msgr. Kieran McHugh, that Paternostro was ''retiring'' because of health reasons.

The news was released by McHugh when Paternostro was indeed in the hospital receiving medical treatment. McHugh even went as far as to call the local newspapers himself to report the so-called retirement.

There's only one problem with the story. Paternostro didn't retire. While Vic has been battling a host of illnesses over the past few years, including diabetes and a degenerative hip condition, he wasn't planning on going anywhere. He was making plans to return to the sidelines in the fall.

And if Vic Paternostro wants to continue to coach and thinks he can coach, then he has earned the right to do so and should be able to go out on his own terms.

Paternostro didn't retire. He was forced out the door by McHugh, who had already reached out to Don Bosco Prep and inquired about the services of assistant coach Brian Carlson, the former head coach at Kean. In fact, McHugh was already earmarking Carlson as Paternostro's successor even before telling Paternostro himself.

When Vic's dutiful assistants heard word of this, they sprinted out the door as well. Long-time defensive coordinator Chris Kappelmeier, a great football coach, has already decided to join Frank Marchiano's staff at Sparta.

The true story was reported by New Jersey Herald sports editor and long-time standout writer and reporter Jim Dente, who was not afraid to publish the truth.

Here's Dente's story

Dente has quoted Paternostro's daughter about the true story.

Now, why in the world would the silly administration at Pope John push a legend like Paternostro out the door, then make it seem like he retired because of health reasons?

Vic Paternostro leaves when he's good and ready to leave, not because some ill-advised man of the cloth decides he wants to capitalize on the expanding popularity of Don Bosco Prep.

It's downright despicable to think that after 44 years, this school just tosses Paternostro out like dirty dish water.

Sorry, but Vic deserved better. Shame on Msgr. McHugh for making this decision, then calling the newspapers on his own, then hiding when the truth is revealed.

I totally applaud the job that Steve Timko has done as the executive director of the NJSIAA. Timko has totally changed the face of the organization.

When it was run by big bully Boyd Sands, who pushed people around like rag dolls because he could, the NJSIAA had an adversarial relationship with the media.

It's not the case any longer under Timko. He's done a fantastic job and is more than helpful, realizing that the media has a job to do and that we all should be promoting high school sports instead of sheltering the athletes involved.

However, there's one policy the NJSIAA still keeps in place that I feel should be eliminated.

Wednesday night's game between St. Anthony and St. Patrick at Rutgers should have been televised live. Not everyone could get to the game, so it would have made sense to air it on television somewhere, not just streamed via FIOS on

MSG Network would have gladly aired the game on either the regular network or the fantastic MSG Varsity channel (which Comcast subscribers, like yours truly, still can't get).

MSG has been a true champion in giving New Jersey high school athletics tremendous coverage over the last two decades. Guys like Mike Quick, Jimmy Cavallo
, and others have promoted high school sports like no one else.

This would have been a perfect chance for MSG to broadcast the most important New Jersey high school basketball game in ages.

But because of this new deal the NJSIAA has with the Star-Ledger and, the game could not go anywhere other than that FIOS link and broadcast online.

I just think this was a game that deserved and belonged to be televised -- and the contract should have been sealed with the one network that has done the most for New Jersey high school sports more than any other.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

A memorable night of high school hoops

There are sometimes in my business where you have to pinch yourself to truly believe that you get paid for being a sportswriter.

Last night was one of those nights.

I had the fortune to see two intense high school basketball games, two state sectional championship games, at the Rutgers Athletic Center. I had the luck to be positioned close to the floor and catch the intensity like I was in my own living room.

Jersey City's two best basketball teams, namely St. Peter's Prep and St. Anthony, were going for their respective state sectional titles on the same site where both teams won last year.

The game brought out a ton of celebrities, including Steve Kroft of "60 Minutes" fame, who is doing a feature on Bob Hurley for the March 27 edition of the show. Kroft was seated near the scorer's table, next to Bob's wife, Chris, the best scorekeeper known to man, and actually standing and cheering for the Friars. What's up with that? Journalistic integrity has to be questioned there.

It also brought out Kentucky coach John Calipari, who was in attendance to see his future player Michael Gilchrist, St. Patrick's McDonald's All-American. Calipari said that I looked "younger and much thinner.'' I recommended an opthamologist.

And it also brought out basketball fan Caroline Kennedy. Yes, a member of American royalty sitting in the stands, almost totally unnoticed by the fans around her. Apparently, Caroline's daughter is working on a documentary for HBO about St. Patrick's. Caroline was very gracious when approached and was actually interested in what I did for a living. She also said that she loved Hoboken. Chalk one up for the Mile Square City.

Well, there was a lot of reason for the buzz and the excitement. We'll get to the first game of the double dip in a second. The St. Anthony-St. Patrick's game marked the first time ever that the nation's No. 1 team (the Celtics) and the No. 2 team (the Friars) ever played during a state playoff anywhere.

It was the reason why 8,000 people went to Piscataway to see the historical event and another 2,000 or so were turned away at the door. It's the reason why some people were actually scalping tickets outside the RAC for $100 a pop. Yes, for a high school game.

And the game lived up to the hype. In the end, the Friars won, 62-45, outscoring the Celtics, 23-5, in the final quarter. That's right. St. Patrick's scored five points in the final quarter.

Hell, they scored 15 in the first fivc minutes of the game and only five over the final eight.

That's what we call defense. Hurley crossed up everyone by utilizing a gadget, unconventional defense _ certainly unconventional for St. Anthony. It resembled the old "amoeba" defense that UNLV used. Can you fathom the idea that Hurley took a page from Jerry "Tark the Shark" Tarkanian? Talk about your polar opposites.

Hurley didn't show a hint of that defense in the first three quarters, sticking to his usual man-to-man approach and a dose of zone here and there. Then, when the fourth quarter started, Hurley flipped the switch on the amoeba and the world came crashing in on the Celtics.

The Friars trailed, 40-39, to start the fourth quarter. Just 1:42 into the final stanza, the Friars led, 47-40. Like lightning.

Every day that passes, Kyle Anderson's legacy grows. His image certainly wasn't tarnished at all last night. Anderson made the play of the game, getting a huge block on an attempt by Gilchrist, who was swallowed alive by the Friars' tenacious defense. After knocking Gilchrist's shot into the backboard, Anderson calmly collected the ball, spun and threw a 40-foot chest pass to a streaking Jordan Quick for the layup that gave the Friars a five-point cushion.

Anderson is already getting consideration among the best Friars of all-time. He still has another year to add to that resume, but he's certainly getting there. He's a joy to watch play the game, because he does everything well _ except perhaps shoot from the perimeter.

Once the Friars had the seven-point lead, you knew that it was over. Hurley's teams don't blow leads like that in the fourth quarter. They never really went straight delay, but they did manage to milk some time off the clock and methodically pull away, earning the victory that no one thought was possible.

"I can't describe what just happened out there," Hurley said in the post-game press conference. "We beat a great high school basketball team. They did an outstanding job on defense in the fourth quarter. The game turned out to be everything we thought it would be. The best team won the game and I'm glad it's us."

Added Hurley, "It's a team game and if we were going to win, we were going to have to manage to share the ball. It's just a remarkable performance."

Hurley never wants to take personal credit for victories, giving all the credit to the players. But the man hasn't won 1,012 high school basketball games in his life for nothing. I heard one obvious green-with-envy moron say, "Let him try to win 1,000 games with a public school." I hope the misguided clown watched the game, because Hurley could win 1,000 games coaching a CYO team, which incredibly, where the Hall of Fame career began at my old parish, St. Paul's of Greenville.

Make no mistake about it. This was a Hurley victory. Sure, kids like Myles Mack (19 points) and Lucious "Call Me Lucky" Jones (12 points) made the shots and Anderson (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists) made the plays, but Hurley won the game.

"Coach Hurley changing the defenses," Anderson said. "That was the key. We changed our defense three different times. That was the major point of the game."

It boggles my mind how so many Hurley detractors there are in New Jersey. He should be revered like an icon, like a family heirloom, not lambasted and criticized by people who are just too oblivious and ignorant to see the truth.

What made this win special was the contributions from the holdover Friars. Sure, Mack and Anderson, the Paterson Catholic transfers, get a lot of attention and recognition and deservedly so. But there were kids like Quick, Jones and Jerome Frink, three starters on last year's team, who had to take somewhat of a backseat when the talented newcomers arrived.

With the game on the line, Jones made the shot to put the Friars ahead, Quick made the clutch shot that gave some separation and Frink hit two baskets that sealed the deal.

Someone asked Hurley if it was the biggest win of his career. Hurley reminded the writer that it was a state sectional final, not an overall state championship game. There are more fish to fry for the Friars.

It's not the biggest win, by far. But it's certainly going to be a memorable one, because there weren't a lot of people who thought this win was possible.

While Gilchrist didn't have a good game, Derrick Gordon certainly did, scoring a game-high 26 points. He's headed for Western Kentucky in the fall, but this looked like a kid who perhaps signed his letter of intent a little too soon, because he's the real deal.

As for Anderson, who is only a junior, the sky is definitely the limit. He's well on his way to big-time star status.
The first game pitted St. Peter's against Seton Hall for the Non-Public A North title, a rematch of last year's sectional title game won by the Marauders.

It wasn't a good sign for the Marauders when former Marauder Dallas Anglin, who transferred to Seton Hall Prep last year, nailed the first basket of the night, a 3-pointer that caused the SHP faithful to rhythmically chant, "Thank you, Peter's," as a reminder of letting Anglin go.

It was a precursor of things to come.

The Marauders had a six-point lead at the end of the third quarter, thanks to the shooting prowess of Stephon Whyatt (21 points) and the athleticism of Tre Bell (11 points off the bench and was flying all over the floor. Bell made a great steal and had a chance to push the lead to eight, but mishandled the ball going in for the layup. He's a sophomore. He'll learn to finish.

Anglin scored the first four points of the fourth quarter, then hit a huge 3-pointer that gave the Pirates a 38-37 lead with 2:27 left. Whyatt made one of two free throws with 1:08 left and the game went to overtime, where Seton Hall sealed the deal, making 14-of-17 free throws.

To his credit, St. Peter's head coach Mike Kelly wasn't upset that it was Anglin who delivered all the big plays in the loss.

"Believe it or not, I'm really happy for the kid," Kelly said. "He had to make a tough transition at a new school. I have no animosity whatsoever."

Still, it had to sting a little to know that if the Marauders somehow hung on to Anglin and made him happy, there would have been two state sectional championships at Grand and Warren.

The two teams have faced each other in the state playoffs in each of the last three seasons, with Seton Hall winning twice and St. Peter's winning once.

"It's definitely a budding rivalry between the two schools and I can see it going on for the next couple of years," Seton Hall's well respected coach Bob Farrell said.

Make no bones about it. While the run is over for their "Core Four," Hudson County basketball has never seen a run quite like the one by Prep seniors Kevin Walker, Keith Lumpkin, Chase Fluellen and Whyatt, with the first three being varsity players for all four years and winning four Hudson County titles. Walker and Lumpkin are 1,000-point scorers, the first time ever Prep had two teammates reach the milestone.

"It sucks that it had to end like this," said Lumpkin, who will play football at Rutgers in the fall.

Lumpkin was quicky reminded to change "suck" to "stink," in true Jesuit form.

It would have been nice to crown two state sectional champs again in one night like Hudson County and Jersey City did a year ago. But we'll hang our hats on the fabulous Friars, who never seem to let anyone down.

Now, it's on to Cardinal McCarrick (the alma mater of Devils' radio announcer Matt Loughlin, after he reminded me of that today) and the overall Non-Public B title for the Friars, which would give the school 26 NJSIAA state crowns, 25 of which have come under Hurley's guidance.
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Sunday, March 6, 2011

There's no Buzz with Marquette's coach

I had the misfortune to cover and witness Marquette not even show up Saturday night against Seton Hall in an awful 85-72 loss for the alma mater, a loss that more than likely (and deservedly so) sends the Golden Eagle Warriors into the NIT instead of their sixth straight NCAA tourney.

What was more disconcerting from a sportswriter's standpoint was the obvious disregard for everyone else except himself by Marquette coach Buzz Williams, who decided to hold a closed-door meeting with his team for an ungodly 75 minutes after the loss _ ignoring the media that was waiting for him to speak.

The NCAA and Big East Conference have regulations that the coaches are supposed to adhere to after games. There's a 10-minute cooling-off period, followed by the losing coach and losing players, then winning coach and winning players. It's a policy that is religiously enforced during the entire NCAA Tournament.

But bonehead Buzz decides Saturday night that he doesn't have to follow any rules. He's going to hold everyone up and make them wait until he's good and ready to face the media.

Bonehead Buzz didn't realize that other people had a job to do. He didn't realize that he was holding everyone hostage for his selfish team meeting. Not just sportswriters, but security personnel at the Prudential Center, Seton Hall school officials, you name it. No one could go home until Bonehead Buzz left his locker room and he decided to stay there with no regard for anyone else.

Now, if he wanted to lambast his team for their hideous performance, go right ahead and do it _ but on your time. Go meet the media, live up to your obligations and then go back into the locker room and address the team.

As we stood there and waited and waited and waited, nothing was being said from Marquette officials. When Bonehead Buzz finally stepped out of the locker room, all he could say was "Sorry for the delay."

Sorry for the delay? For almost an hour and a half? The team could have flown home to Milwaukee faster than he came out of the locker room.

There was another problem with Williams' selfishness Saturday night. Apparently, there was a recruit, a good-looking 6-foot-9 player who sat patiently outside the Marquette locker room, waiting for Bonehead Buzz to rear his bald head. Gee, think there's a chance this kid now signs with Marquette after waiting that long?

There's no excuse for such selfish behavior. John Thompson, the father, didn't pull such crap when he was the coach at Georgetown _ and he invented Hoya Paranoia because he hated the media. Other Big East coaching legends like Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino _ all of whom are Hall of Famers or will be _ have never pulled such stunts, because they all know their place and they all know the rules and regulations that have to be followed.

Sure, it stings a little more because it's the beloved alma mater. But someone has to address this issue with Williams, because he's apparently done it a few times this season, according to someone involved in the Big East Conference. Apparently, it's a regular problem.

Well, Williams should be penalized, punished, reprimanded, reminded about being such a selfish clod.

This is the same clown who when hired as Marquette's coach, replacing Tom Crean, after Crean departed for Indiana, tried to save one of Crean's top recruits, Tyshawn Taylor from St. Anthony of Jersey City.

Taylor had signed with Marquette, but was looking to get out of his letter of intent after Crean left. So Williams tried to convince Taylor and his high school coach, none other than Bob Hurley, to stay with the Golden Eagle Warriors. He wanted to set up a meeting with Hurley and Taylor, to introduce himself and try to keep the talented Taylor.

So Williams called Hurley _ at 1:30 in the morning.

"Did I wake you, coach?" Williams asked. Uh, yeah, it's safe to say that. "Sorry, it's 12:30 here."

Williams then went on to call Taylor himself about 15 minutes later after waking Hurley. Yes, at 1:45 a.m.

Needless to say, Taylor backed out of his initial letter and headed instead to Kansas, where he's had a great career.

Since Williams has been the head coach at Marquette, he's brought on a host of junior college transfers and not many four-year players. The last group of four-year studs, like Wesley Matthews, Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Lazar Hayward, were all Crean recruits that Williams inherited. Williams' recruits have been JUCOs and Vander Blue, who has basically been a big disappointment as a freshman.

But this latest fiasco is just another example that Bonehead Buzz is over is head in this big-time environment.

There, I said it.


Hudson County has had only two wrestlers ever to win state championships. North Bergen's John Bott in the 1980s and my former neighbor David Cordoba of Kearny in the 1990s. That's it.

Well, today in Atlantic City, the county has a chance to crown two on the same day, when North Bergen's Luis Gonzalez and St. Peter's Prep's James Fox both go for state gold. Pretty impressive.
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Circle Systems Group investigation grows

Reliable sources have told me that the federal investigation behind the corrupt actions of the Easton, Pa.-based Circle Systems Group athletic equipment conditioning firm and several high-ranking New Jersey athletic officials is spreading.

Apparently, one of those former New Jersey athletic administrators, who has been caught red-handed with his hands all over the Circle Systems cookie jar, has decided to turn into an informant and provide information on other athletic directors in return for a lesser jail sentence than the one he already faces.

The former athletic administrator, who had a long-standing career in northern New Jersey, is working on a plea deal that will minimize his jail sentence and in doing so, has decided to become a snitch and rat out a handful of others who are allegedly involved with the scandal.

With the cooperation of this one particular big-wig, there might be as many five others in his circle of colleagues who could go down with him.

For those not in the know, Circle Systems, under the guidance of David Drill, who has already pleaded guilty to mail fraud and other charges in the case, was apparently dealing illegally with several New Jersey ADs, sending school districts fraudulent invoices for work that wasn't done, dummying up bids in order to receive contracts for future work and an assortment of other wonderful crimes. In return, Circle and Drill would then lavish gifts of cash and other items, like clothing and sporting goods, upon the administrators involved in the scheme.

For example, one administrator received a set of golf clubs and a handful of golf sweaters. Another received leather jackets and an assortment of clothing for his girlfriend.

The investigation has already led to the guilty pleas of two long-standing and respected athletic directors in Long Branch and Elizabeth and is on the verge of landing at least five more, now that the one particular bastion of goodness has decided to turn rat fink in return for cutting down on his jail sentence.

His attorneys have already told federal officials that he's not healthy enough to withstand a three-year jail sentence, which is the going rate for the crimes that the athletic administrator committed. Stay tuned. This case is FAR from over.

We've also learned that a prominent New Jersey high school coach and administrator is under investigation for getting a tad too close to the athletes in his school.

Apparently, this respected coach has become infatuated with one particular member of his school's athletic program and is bordering on being obsessed with the athlete.

We don't know if there has been anything going on at all with the coach and his teenaged athlete, but we do know that several parents are upset about the situation and have lodged complaints against the coach to his school.

It's a shame, because this prominent school doesn't need this kind of attention.

There's no room in high school sports for a coach getting that close to a certain athlete, but unfortunately, it is becoming more and more of the norm instead of the exception. You read stories all over the country about coaches becoming involved with their athletes. You just hope and pray that the rumors and allegations of impropriety by this coach are unfounded, but it doesn't appear that way.
We know it must be hard for sportswriters to come up with interesting story angles coming out of spring training. But the Star-Ledger today has an article about Justin Turner competing for the second base job with the Mets.

Are you kidding me? They're writing about a journeyman infielder competing for a second base job? How about writing about another player in that mix, namely Daniel Murphy, who missed all of last season with an injury and is now learning to play second base? That would be just a tad more interesting.

With all the circus going on in Port St. Lucie, the Ledger can't find anything better to write about than Justin Turner????

Where are the days when the Ledger clearly had the best baseball coverage in the area? Remember the days of Dan Castellano covering the Mets and Moss Klein with the Yankees? The Ledger kicked royal bootwa back then. No pearls of wisdom these days coming from the Grapefruit League from the young writers at the Ledger, who have to provide better coverage than what they have so far this spring.

Later tonight, we'll get the chance to see the alma mater take on Seton Hall at the Rock. Marquette suffered a horrific loss at home to Cincinnati last week, much to the delight of friend Darren Savino, currently an assistant with the Bearcats, so the Golden Eagle Warriors' NCAA hopes lie within a showdown tonight with the Pirates, who shocked a lot of people by beating St. John's Thursday night.

A lot of the bracketologists have Marquette firmly in, as high as a No. 10 seed in some cases, but I still think Buzz Williams' team needs a win tonight and a win in the first round of the Big East Tournament Tuesday to seal an NCAA bid.
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Friday, March 4, 2011

You cannot make this stuff up

Chalk this one up to the absurd:

On the exact 20th anniversary of his now historic beating on the hands of the Los Angeles police department, Rodney King was pulled over yesterday in Arcadia, California and issued two summonses for speeding and running a red light.

There's no truth to the rumor that he said to the officers who pulled him over, "Can't we all just get along?"

But if I were Rodney King and I already got my head totally handed to me by a group of white cops, you can be rest assured I'd be driving like 10 MPH and stopping on every yellow light in a section of California, praying to God for no repeat anniversary performance.

As we know, the acquittal of the four cops who pummeled King unmercifully led to the horrific riots in L.A. in 1992. Thank God there were no riots in Arcadia yesterday.

Today will be a very special day in Hudson County basketball.

For one, the Ramblers of St. Mary's will face Oratory Prep in the NJSIAA Non-Public B quarterfinals at 4 p.m. The game will take place at St. Mary's on Third Street in downtown Jersey City.
What makes the game special is that it will be the last time that St. Mary's will play a home game, because the school will be closing in June. Before the state tourney began, veteran head coach Tom Lalicato was steadfast about entering his team in the state playoffs, because he didn't think it was the right way for the Ramblers to go out.
Now, because of the way the bracket turned out, with the Ramblers beating Morristown-Beard in the first round and Oratory upsetting higher-seeded Montclair Kimberley, the Ramblers get one more home game.
In that respect, things worked out for the best.

At 7 p.m., just a few blocks away from St. Mary's, Hudson Catholic will go to the Golden Door Charter School to take on nationally ranked St. Anthony in another Non-Public B quarterfinal.
The doors for the Golden Door Charter School on Eighth Street will open at 5:30 and considering that the place doesn't hold more than 500 fans, it should sell out very quickly. So you could realistically park your car somewhere in downtown Jersey City and see two exciting high school playoff games, with the winners slated to face each other Monday night. But if you're going to the St. Anthony-Hudson Catholic game, my advice is to get there when the doors open.

It marks the first time that the two Jersey City schools faced each other in a game of significance since the 1975 HCIAA Championship game at the Jersey City Armory, won by Hudson Catholic, who had two players of note named Jim Spanarkel and Mike O'Koren, both of whom went on to bigger and better things.

Speaking of St. Anthony, Rutgers University is already selling tickets for the anticipated showdown between the Friars and St. Patrick's of Elizabeth for the Non-Public B North title game. The game has not been secured, with both teams still needing to win two games to get to that showdown, but Rutgers is counting on the game being played, so tickets are on sale right now. Call 1-866-445-4678 for details.

It's with deep sadness to report the passing of a true refereeing legend, Hoboken's Jackie Cullinan, who died Monday. Cullinan, who once officiated all the big high school and local college games, was a beloved character in the Mile Square City, especially his beloved Leo's Grandveous.

Jackie truly cared for every single person he ever met and treated everyone like they were members of his family. Whenever I go into Leo's or hear Sinatra sing "The Summer Wind," I'll think of big Jackie, his tremendous handshake, hug and kiss on the cheek. He was a very good man and will be sorely missed.
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

More woes for Seton Hall hoops

Now let me get this straight here:

A guy from the Brigham Young basketball team named Brandon Davies kicked off his team for having sex with his girlfriend in a school dormitory, but Seton Hall can have another gun-related incident and the guy remains on the their team? Is that a sign of the difference between Mormon morals and standards and Catholic beliefs?

Well, it would be too easy to chalk the Jordan Theodore/gun investigation up as ''same old Seton Hall," but very reliable sources have confided in this reporter as saying that the whole thing is a crock and Theodore never had a gun or never owned a gun.

In case you don't know the details, here goes and it's a doozy. The Essex County Prosecutor's Office received information yesterday from a municipal court judge in South Orange/Maplewood and will determine in the very near future whether Theodore, the standout junior point guard on the Seton Hall basketball team, will have to stand charges that were filed to South Orange police and municipal court recently that allege Theodore and someone else going to the dormitory room of former player Keon Lawrence and threatening Lawrence with a gun.

The person making this claim? None other than Lawrence's mother, who also alleges that Theodore turned the gun on her as well.

Darlene Epps, Lawrence's mother, filed charges against Theodore of aggravated assault, aggravated assault by vehicle and possession of an illegal weapon, in this case, a handgun. She claims that Theodore and two other ''masked men'' showed up at Lawrence's dorm room and threatened him. Epps claims that she rushed to her son's room after hearing of the incident and confronted the three men, at which time, Theodore allegedly jumped into his car and struck Epps with the car.

The whole story was broken Wednesday by reporter Adam Zagoria, who has a long-standing relationship with Theodore.

The incident apparently happened after the Feb. 15 Seton Hall-Villanova game at the Prudential Center, a game that saw Theodore's mother get attacked by Epps' lesbian partner, because the girlfriend of Lawrence's mother was upset that Theodore made comments that Lawrence deserved to get kicked off the Seton Hall basketball team.

The Essex County prosecutor's office spokeswoman, Katherine Carter, told Associated Press that the investigation into the incident was ongoing and that there was a chance that Theodore did bring an unlawful weapon onto campus, but no charges had been officially filed.
School officials stated that the school conducted its own investigation and found "no student was in violation" of school policy.

Lawrence and fellow senior Jamel Jackson were dismissed from the Seton Hall basketball team on Feb. 12 for a violation of team rules "and an ongoing pattern of conduct unbecoming of a representative of Seton Hall athletics," the official release stated.

It has been learned that both Lawrence and Jackson were laughing and joking during a practice session after a tough loss and that was the final straw in coach Kevin Willard's eyes.

Lawrence is the same player who last year was arrested for driving while intoxicated on the Garden State Parkway in Sayreville, driving in the wrong way of oncoming traffic and causing an accident that severely injured a Newark man. Lawrence was suspended for a while because of the accident (which has yet to be judicated), but actually showed up at the first game after the incident wearing a white suit, looking like the Good Humor man.

Lawrence told reporters on media day that he was truly sorry for the accident and wanted to make complete amends.

“I want to put last year so far in the rearview mirror that it can’t be seen,” Lawrence said at Seton Hall media day in November. “I know I came a long way and then had the accident and that changed everything. It affected everything I did. It affected me on the court and I couldn’t play to my top potential. But I want to start this year with a clean slate. We have a new team, a new coach. I don’t want to think about last year at all. I know it’s kind of tough not to think about it, but I don’t want to.”

Lawrence admitted that the accident was definitely a cause for a wake-up call.

“It was definitely a major learning experience for me,” Lawrence said. “I know that you can’t get away with the stuff that I did, because it was going to come back and bite you later. I talk to little kids about the mistakes I made. It was a terrible mistake. I could have taken my life or the lives of others. I wasn’t thinking. I know I did wrong. I thank God I’m getting my second chance here. I know they could have turned their backs on me. I’m going to take full advantage of this chance, because it’s my last go-round. I have to make up for the wrong I did.”

Now, let's recap the entire scenario. Two women get into an altercation over what one kid said to the media. It's a physical confrontation during a game that carries over after the game and sees the Seton Hall player running into the stands to defend his mother against the lesbian girlfriend of the mother of this bastion of brilliance who drove drunk the wrong way on the Parkway and nearly killed someone.

The mother receives a phone call from her son who claims that the player went after her son with a gun, so she gets in her car in the middle of the night, goes to the dorm area where he son was and actually CONFRONTS the player who is allegedly HOLDING A GUN! She then claims that the player actually turned the gun on her, then hit her with his car as he attempted to drive away.

I'm not exactly Ellery Queen here or even Lt. Columbo, but does that story sound just a tad fishy? Gene Roddenberry couldn't create such great science fiction. Would anyone in their right mind go after someone if that person allegedly had a gun? Hell, I'm running faster than Carl Lewis to get away from the gun. And I can't run a lick. Anyone who saw me chasing down a cab in Fort Ree on Sunday after a cab driver pulled away with my cell phone knows that for sure.

And here's the other side: About five people, five good reliable people close to the Seton Hall scene, that I spoke to claim that Theodore has never had a gun, never showed off a gun, but now, all of a sudden, he pops out an automatic on his former teammate because of words that were passed between the two mothers?

In any case, it's just another black eye that the Seton Hall basketball program didn't need. This is a program that saw two former players, Robert "Styx" Mitchell and Kelly Whitney, get arrested for robbery and kidnap charges last year. Both men remain in jail awaiting trial. Lawrence's brushes with the law were already documented. Two current players, Herb Pope and Jeremy Hazell, have been shot in the past. And the former coach, Bobby Gonzalez, got arrested himself for trying to shoplift a man purse.

In my dealings with Theodore, he's been a straight, upfront, decent kid. It seems as if he's been caught up in a pack of lies predicated by the mother of a deposed player who stands to do some jail time himself if he's found guilty of drunken driving and vehicular assault himself. Maybe that's how she learned about the term that she charged Theodore with, because it's hanging over her son's head.

Here's another pearl of wisdom from Lawrence that he offered to reporters on Media Day.

“I think we’ve all turned the page and turned the program around,” Lawrence said. “Everyone is starting with a fresh slate. I know all the things that happened last year turned this team and program into a disaster. But we’re all looking forward. It was definitely a difficult time for all of us. We’re starting fresh. I’m not even looking one game at a time. I’m looking one minute at a time.”

Yeah, right.

Another item on today's sports police blotter. Elijah Dukes, a truly tormented soul who spent some time last summer with the Newark Bears, is being held in a Florida jail today, after his pregnant ex-girlfriend charged Dukes with aggravated battery. Dukes allegedly slapped the pregnant woman in the face.

He was also charged with driving with a revoked driver's license and was wanted on a contempt of court warrant for failure to appear in court on another charge. The woman told Hillsborough County sheriff's officers that she and Dukes were living in motels for days. The two had an argument and Dukes slapped her several times in the face.

Dukes was a high draft pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, but his career plummeted when he attacked an umpire during a minor league game in 2008. He was then traded to the Washington Nationals, where he had some success, but was released in April 2010, even though he was projected to be a starting outfielder for the Nats.

He resurfaced last July with the Newark Bears, where he spent less than a month. While blessed with an immense amount of talent, he spent his time in Newark as a surly, angry young man who was last seen walking out of Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium with his bags packed walking toward Route 21 after having an argument with Bears' manager Tim Raines.

He never returned to the Bears after that day and this news appears on the wires today. Another case of immense talent going to complete waste.

One last thing for today. Justin Bieber gets a haircut and his barber gets 50K for selling the hair on E-Bay? Just another reason why the people in the Middle East despise Americans.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Troubling signs already for Metsies

Sure, baseball's spring training only officially opened last week and there have been only a handful of games played thus far, but there are already a host of troubling signs surrounding my beloved Mets.

First, they managed to parade the hideous and finished Oliver Perez out to the mound to face the Atlanta Braves and he was typically "Bad Ollie," walking the bases loaded, giving up hits galore and surrendering four runs in two innings that he was admittedly ''exhausted'' afterwards.

Please, why is this man wasting the time of everyone by still being a part of the Mets' spring training camp? Just cut his overpaid ass now and rid the rest of the team the demons that surround Perez. He's bad news and more importantly, he's finished. He was tapped out at 83 miles per hour Sunday. With an 83 MPH fastball, you can't get most high school teams out, nevermind major leaguers.

Just cut bait, throw him to the sharks, do something to rid all of us few Met diehards the pain that Oliver Perez causes. Yes, I thought re-signing him to another contract two years ago was the right thing. I was wrong. He's awful and more importantly, finished. He's throwing 83!!!! I can name seven pitchers in Hudson County high school baseball right now who throw harder.

Now, the idea that Carlos Beltran willingly went into manager Terry Collins' office and offered to play right field _ when Beltran has not participated in a baseball-related activity yet in Port St. Lucie _ tells me one thing. That Mr. Beltran is just about done as a baseball player as well and we shouldn't expect anything from him this season.

How can the guy know he can't play center field anymore if he hasn't stepped on the field do to anything baseball-related? Only one thing that says. He knows he's done.

Ah, to be a Met fan. Ah, even better, to be a Met season ticket holder.

The NJSIAA basketball state tournament began last night, but let's face facts. The only game any true-blooded New Jersey basketball fan wants to see is St. Patrick-St. Anthony, which should happen sometime next week at Rutgers in the Non-Public B title game.

The rest of the tourney is nice and it's an achievement for all the teams involved, but it's really the only game that matters.

We were robbed of the showdown last year because St. Patrick was declared ineligible for the tourney, but not this year. The Celtics and Friars are on a collision course and the buildup should be getting more and more intense with the passing days.

I've been told by some people that St. Patrick won't lose, but it's hard to go against the Friars, after watching Kyle Anderson simply dominate the game the way he has in recent weeks. We'll see.

It's almost incredible that it's March and I've still yet to put my Christmas presents away. That's OK, I have seen some people who haven't taken down their Christmas decorations yet. What's up with that? Ooops, I may break into dance now like Kenon Thompson on Saturday Night Live.

Now that it's March, it means March Madness is just around the corner. The bids will come out next Sunday, March 13. Early prediction for the national champion? I haven't the foggiest idea. I can't remember a year where the entire tourney is so totally up for grabs. If Duke had a healthy Kyrie Irving, I'd say the Blue Devils would be the favorites to repeat. But since he's out, it's anyone's guess.

Two teams that I think will go far are Purdue and Kansas State, both of whom are playing their best basketball of late. Another will be St. John's, but the Johnnies are no longer a secret anymore.
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