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Monday, May 27, 2013

Rutgers fiasco: "You can't make this up."

If you take a closer look at the Scarlet Knight in the Rutgers University logo these days, he's wearing a blindfold. Not because Mr. Knight is facing a firing squad or being forced to walk the plank, but out of pure embarrassment. He's shielding his eyes because he can't believe what's going on down by the banks of the Old Raritan.

Former New Jersey Gov. Dick Codey said it best yesterday, when he was quoted as saying, "You can't make it up."

Codey is right. You cannot make up the entire scenario involving the beloved State University of New Jersey. Your top comedy writers, like Mel Brooks or the Farrelly Brothers, couldn't dare dream up a more asinine plot. "Me, Myself and Irene" was far more plausible than this hideous charade.

Here's the whole thing in a nutshell. Rutgers fired its men's basketball coach and its athletic director over a string of videotapes portraying the basketball coach as some modern day escapee from Guantanamo Bay, filled with abusive insults at players _ and then the school goes out and hires a new athletic director who is guilty of the same kind of verbal torture?

Are you kidding me? Can that be true?

Well, after reading Craig Wolff's pretty extensive piece in the Newark Star-Ledger on Sunday, it appears to be very true, that newly-hired athletic director Julie Hermann made the same kind of hideous mistakes in terms of abusing her players when she was the volleyball coach at the University of Tennessee 16 years ago.

In the report, Hermann allegedly called her players "drunken whores" and "retarted" on several occasions. She was so abusive that there was a Captain Queeg-like mutiny on the team, that if Hermann stayed on as volleyball coach, the entire team was set to quit and relinquish their scholarships in the process. They all signed a letter validating such abusive behavior. So Hermann was reassigned and later moved on to the adminstrative side at Louisville.

And Hermann allegedly told her assistant coach that if she got married and subsequently got pregnant, she would be fired as an assistant coach. Sure enough, the coach got married (AND HERMANN WAS IN THE WEDDING PARTY) and sure enough, the coach got pregnant and sure enough, she was fired. The coach sued the University of Tennessee over illegal work code violations and the two parties settled for $150,000.

Get this? There's a portion of the assistant coach's wedding video that shows Hermann making such a threat _ and Hermann denied to Wolff that she was even at the wedding. Yet, there's the video on line. You can see it on

Hermann also denied knowledge of the mutiny letter. But there it was, in print, for all to see.

Now, how in the world could Rutgers go through an "extensive search" to find a replacement for deposed athletic director Tim Pernetti and not know about Hermann's background, about the lawsuit, about the way her volleyball team hated her, about the wedding video and the letter? How could that possibly be?

It's almost too comical that this woman stood just a few weeks ago and vowed that nothing like what former men's basketball coach Mike Rice did would ever happen under her watch, yet she was guilty of doing the same exact thing.

The search committee apparently went through 45 different candidates and came up with Hermann's name after a member of the committee threw her name up at the last minute, that Hermann was not under consideration with the other 45 names during the first go-round. Say what? Someone gets thrown into the mix out of the blue and she gets the job, without the school doing its homework and due diligence? It was bad enough that Hermann had no experience whatsoever working with football _ and Rutgers' main source of revenue in athletics is indeed football.

But considering what happened with Rice and how he and Pernetti lost their jobs over the videos, don't you think Rutgers would have crossed every T and dotted every single last I before giving the job to this woman? How in the world could they overlook what happened in Tennessee?

One member of the search committee said that she didn't know about the letter or the claims of the players or even the blasted lawsuit before the article appeared in the Ledger. Are you kidding me?

And the way Hermann tried to dance around it, like it simply didn't happen? She said she didn't recall ever saying such a thing and didn't remember attending the wedding or in fact, saying those things on tape, even if the tape is now online for all to see. She must have been doing some really horrific hallucination-causing drugs back then.

When the Rice scandal broke in April, I thought that Rutgers President Robert Barchi deserved to lose his job, the way he ignored the videos and threw Pernetti under the bus, after Barchi told Pernetti to handle the whole situation _ and Pernetti did what he thought was the right thing, by suspending Rice at the time.

Pernetti was wrong for simply suspending Rice, because after he saw the tapes, he should have fired Rice immediately and not wait until the story became viral to do so. By then, Pernetti was painted as a bad guy as well _ by Barchi, who had a press conference trying to explain Pernetti's expulsion and came off trying to be Rodney Dangerfield, cracking jokes, instead of a college leader.

A lot of people are up in arms about Eddie Jordan, Rice's replacement, not having a college degree, yet the school's website said that he did. I don't see that as being as horrific as the other things happening in Piscataway. But it is another black eye.

However, this latest debacle just makes Rutgers an absolute laughingstock if it wasn't already. And who's to blame? Barchi, for first not taking the time to watch the Rice videos when they were brought to his attention last November and now for hiring a woman with beyond shady credentials and a tainted resume.

Barchi has to take the hit for turning Rutgers into a complete joke. And lucky for Rutgers, Hermann wasn't supposed to take over until June 17. The school can now cut bait on her before she takes over.

However, there was some statement, albeit a lame and absurd one, that came from Rutgers this afternoon, stating that they still support Hermann. How in the world can they? How can they keep a straight face and ignore all of this further negative publicity? Just shake it off as if it's either not true or it didn't happen? I may not always agree with what Wolff writes _ like calling Eric Murdock a victim in the Rice case, instead of being a felon _ but the evidence is overbearing. It leaps off the page and slaps you in the face. How can it not do that to Barchi and other already disgraced Rutgers officials?

Rutgers has no choice but to rid itself of Barchi and Hermann right now. Somewhere, Pernetti is having a big laugh out of all of this. Some critics even went as far as to saying that the school should bring back Pernetti. Do you think he wants this now? He has a life again and is getting paid nicely for the next 18 months to stay away.

But if Rutgers doesn't give a swift kick in the rear to both Barchi and Hermann and out the door at the same time in the days to come, then the place will have absolutely no credibility whatsoever.

Like it has any credibility left right now. It's like the people in Piscataway have used up all their credibility points already.

In 1979, I used to love to go to Mets games. Sure the team stunk. They went 63-99 that year, under manager Joe Torre, a world before he would become a World Series championship manager.

The Mets finished dead last in the NL East that year and drew 788,905 fans for the season, 11th out of 12 National League teams. They were an awful baseball team, dreadful in every imagination, but I would love to go the games, because I would buy a general admission ticket for $3 and by the end of the game, I'd sneak down, level by level, until I got behind the Mets dugout.

I even once heard Torre, enraged by a call, go out to big John McSherry and say, "John, are you going to stop making horseshit calls or am I going to have to say something bad about your mother?" McSherry replied, "Joe, I'm only calling them as I see them." To which Torre said, "That's what I thought you'd say. Your mother is a ........" Just add your own expletives for effect. Torre got thrown out and the crowd of a few hundred went nuts.

But as bad as the Mets were that year of 1979, they were far better than the 2013 Mets, who are as bad as the words Torre used to describe McSherry's mommy.

The current Mets could not shine the 1979 Mets' shoes. Not even close.

Need proof? OK, here we go, position by position, 1979 team member listed first.

Catcher: John Stearns vs. John Buck. Stearns played in 155 games that year and had nine homers and 66 RBI, hitting .243. Buck got off to a great start and has now faded fast. Advantage: 1979.
First Base: Willie Montanez vs. Ike Davis. Montanez was in decline in 1979, hitting just .234 with five homers and 47 RBI. But .234 is still 90 points better than the bewildered Davis.
Second Base: Doug Flynn vs. Daniel Murphy. Flynn hit .243 with four homers and 67 RBI, but was the best fielding second baseman in the game then. Murphy is a better hitter, but can't catch a cold.
Shortstop: Frank Taveras vs. Ruben Tejada. Taveras hit .263 with one homer and 33 RBI, horrible numbers for someone who played in 157 games. But Taveras stole 42 bases. Tejada is lucky to steal one or two this year.
Third Base: Richie Hebner vs. David Wright. OK, here's one for the current team. Hebner was a malcontent who dogged it the entire season, batting .268 with 10 homers and 79 RBI. Wright is a legitimate All-Star and plays like one every day. He could have those power numbers by the All-Star break.
Left Field: Steve Henderson vs. Lucas Duda. "Stevie Wonder," the best player the Mets got in the Tom Seaver trade in 1977, batted .306 in 1979. Duda will never hit .300 for as long as he lives.
Centerfield: Lee Mazzilli vs. Rick Ankiel?  Mazzilli (.303, 15 HR, 79 RBI) was the Mets' All-Star that year and almost won the All-Star Game MVP if not for Dave Parker's great throws. Rick Ankiel is Rick Ankiel.
Right Field: Joel Youngblood vs. Marlon Byrd. Youngblood hit .275 with 16 HR and 60 RBI. Byrd will not come close to those numbers.
Starting Pitchers: Craig Swan, Dock Ellis, Pete Falcone, Pat Zachry, Andy Hassler vs. Matt Harvey, Jonathan Niese, Shawn Marcum, Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee. OK, Swan was the only legitimate starter on that team (14-13, 3.29 ERA), while this year's team has a potential all-time great in Harvey. But Niese and Gee have been god awful, Marcum has been a waste of money and Hefner would be a decent starter in Las Vegas (and lately, he's been better than Niese and Gee). I'd still give the nod to the 2013 Mets.
Bullpen: Although the 1979 Mets had some firestarters in Dale Murray and Wayne Twitchell (ooh, bad memories), it did have Skip Lockwood, a 21-year-old Neil Allen and a 22-year-old Jesse Orosco. The current Met bullpen has Bobby Parnell, an overused Scott Rice and a bunch of shiite after that. Open up the bullpen door and outflows shiite.
Manager: Joe Torre vs. Terry Collins. While Torre was just learning his craft back then, he did go on to win four World Series titles. Terry Collins is a nice man with an inferior team who is about to lose his job soon, because Freddy Coupon, the cheapskate lying owner, is going to give in to fan pressure, believing that Wally Backman could turn things around. I have news for you. Miller Huggins or Joe McCarthy couldn't win with this team. OK, I know they're both long dead, but you get the drift.

Bottom line is this: Both teams suck. The 2013 Mets suck more and the 1979 lost 99 times.

And we're going into the Subway Series tonight? Yankee fans this year can bring a broom to every game, because a sweep is inevitable, even with Harvey pitching Tuesday night.

You can read more of my work at, and

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Even with the loss, P.J. deserves to coach Nets

Sure, it was downright disappointing that the Brooklyn Nets lost Game 7 of their series with the Chicago Bulls.
Sure, the Bulls were the walking wounded with players having every malady under the sun except for malaria and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and the Nets were the relatively healthier and deeper squad and the Bulls still won.

And yes, Tom Thibodeau proved that he's the best coach in the NBA bar none and willed his team to win the franchise's first-ever Game 7 on the road, punching every single right button along the way. Daequan Cook? Did he really hit two big 3-pointers in the game? I didn't even know he was on the Bulls' roster until that second trey hit the bottom of the twine.

Thibodeau had an answer for every single out-of-bounds possession the Bulls had. Every single one. There wasn't an improvisation to be found. All set plays, all leading to baskets.

So, yes, P.J. Carlesimo was the second best head coach on the floor last night at the Barclays Center. I think even P.J. would reluctantly agree that he played second fiddle to Thibodeau last night. P.J. was not bad, but Thibodeau was just that much better. It happens.

However, getting outcoached by a master isn't reason enough for Carlesimo to receive his walking papers from the Nets' Russian czar Mikhail Prohkorov. Regardless of what you may read in some of the New York tabloids today, calling for P.J.'s carcass, it's not his fault that the Nets didn't move on.

In fact, Carlesimo did a wonderful job coaching the Nets for 57 games. He won 37 of those games. There's no way that if the powers-that-be stuck with the now-forgotten Avery Johnson (well, forgotten by everyone except Avery's own son, who put on Twitter his own version of a 'Ha-Ha, that's what you get for canning my old man), that Johnson would have led the Nets to that point. There's no way. That team was headed for disaster before the team fired him in December.

Carlesimo got the most out of most of his players. He helped to turn Brook Lopez into a star. He got the daily malcontent, Deron Williams, to actually play like himself down the stretch and even helped Williams crack a smile or two along the way. He won games despite the fact that the team got very little offensive production all season from either forward position. Hell, the Nets won 49 regular season games with Reggie Evans as their starting power forward. Reggie Evans can't throw a beach ball into the swimming pool, but the Nets won with him.

It wasn't Carlesimo's fault that Joe Johnson, getting paid $19 million, couldn't make shots in Game 7 or that Thibodeau exposed the defensive weaknesses of Lopez, Evans and Andray Blatche. Carlesimo did what he could with the roster he was handed. It just wasn't good enough against a master like Thibodeau.

My friend Mike Vaccaro, the New York Post columnist, wrote that Carlesimo was playing checkers to Thibodeau's chess or even Chutes and Ladders to Thibodeau. He's right. The intangible of having Thibodeau as the head coach was enough to win Game 7.

But let's look at the whole body of work. Carlesimo handled the media better than any other New York coach outside of Joe Torre. He was brilliant in that respect. He also turned the Nets' season around in a blur and guided the team to the playoffs for the first time in six years. He's a basketball lifer who deserves to coach this team through a full training camp.

The Brooklyn Nets were a major success in Year One, from the arena to the positive vibe the team gave off to their new fan base. A lot of the credit of that success belongs to Carlesimo. He deserves the chance to coach this team next year and into the future.

Carlesimo needs to get more out of a very weird chemistry of this team, because they play weird. They disappear for stretches, usually in the third quarter. They play sometimes with no sense of urgency, like they did last night until they found themselves shockingly down 17 by halftime.

But P.J. deserves to be the head coach, plain and simple. They don't need Phil Jackson, who is going to tell the Nets to go stick it anyway. They don't need either Van Gundy brother. They don't even need Doc Rivers. They need to take the interim tag off Carlesimo's name and throw him a three-year contract.

And after that, they need to put out an APB for Johnson's jump shot, because it went missing at the way wrong time last night.

As everyone knows, I'm a diehard Mets fan. Yeah, I know. It's masochism 101.

And by now, nothing the team does should surprise me.

However, I received a promotional e-mail this morning saying that next Sunday, on Mother's Day, the Mets "will present a special performance from the Wiggles" beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Yes, the Wiggles. First, they had Cirque de Soleil in the parking lot. Now, it's the Wiggles. I Tweeted this morning that if any of the Wiggles can play the outfield or serve as a middle inning closer, then I was all for them.

C'mon now. The Wiggles? Is that what we've become? The freakin' Wiggles?

I can't shake my head enough at this franchise.

We have not a single outfielder worth a spit. Mike Baxter would be a decent fourth outfielder on the Anaheim Angels' Class AAA team. Yet he's playing almost every day for the Mets. I think he went homerless in Little League. Colin Cowgill was supposed to be a great find, until he couldn't find the baseball and couldn't get on base. And neither one has a better arm than my dead mother.

We have a horrific bullpen (thanks Sandy, because he has said for the last two years, it was his priority to build a solid bullpen and we've had nothing but a conglomeration of smelly fish coming from behind the right field wall), yet we have the Wiggles. Hey, if all else fails, we at least have the Wiggles.

It's a sad state when the best relief pitcher is a 31-year-old rookie who spent 16 years in the minors and now pitches every single damn day. Scott Rice pitches every day. His arm will fall off by July. But Terry Collins keeps parading him out there every game because, frankly, no one else can get anyone out.

Incredibly, some asinine Met fans were calling the radio shows this week, saying they wanted Collins fired. Hell, managing this God-awful roster, he should be named Pope rather than get fired. Wait, maybe that is not a step up these days.

It's not Collins' fault that his bosses are lying, tight-wad buffoons who don't spend a dime improving the team or the franchise or the baseball experience at CitiField.

But wait, at least we have the Wiggles. Not many other teams can lay claim to the Wiggles.

Rumor has it that the Tellytubbies are next, as long as Tinky Winky can play centerfield.

You can read more of my work at, and I'd say you can read my Nets or Devils coverage as well, but both those teams are on the golf course today as you read this.