Newer head shot

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Rutgers muffs up once again

First, let me start by stating that I am a huge Kyle Flood fan and dismissing him as the head football coach was the worst thing Rutgers could have done. I don't think he did a bad job after replacing used car salesman Greg Schiano as head coach and did a great job in bringing back a lot of the New Jersey high school football coaches to Rutgers that ran away because of their disdain for Schiano.

Plain and simple, the New Jersey football coaching community had a ton of respect for Flood and was more than willing to help Flood rebuild the Rutgers program. They were definitely more willing to help Flood than they were to aid Schiano, who had lost the trust and respect of a lot of the local coaches.

Flood had a respectable 27-24 record in his four years as head coach, considering that two of those years, the Scarlet Knights were thrown under the bus of the Big 10 _ and still somehow made it to a bowl game.

But the media in general was out to get Flood. Sure enough, and Advance Media got news of Flood sending emails and contacting a professor asking for help on the grade of a Scarlet Knight player's grade on a term paper.

That was apparently a no-no in the eyes of the Rutgers hierarchy, citing rules and policy that the school has about employees being contacted by others involving grades.

However, you can't tell me that in the history of college sports, that there hasn't been another coach who has contacted a teacher to see if something could be done to a grade. It's safe to assume that Pop Warner and Walter Camp probably tried to persuade English professors during their heydays. It's more than likely Woody Hayes and Bear Bryant talked to math teachers. It's laughable that Flood received a three-game suspension because of it.

But there were all the other things that took place in Piscataway that Flood took the fall for. When standout Leonte Carroo got involved with a domestic squabble with his ex-girlfriend after hours, people blamed Flood. When five players tried to enter a New Brunswick nightclub with fake ID, people blamed Flood. And horrifically, when a group of players were arrested and charged with robbing and tying up victims with duct tape and rope, people blamed Flood.

So basically, there was too much other stuff going on for Flood to keep his job. Plus, the school was canning the woeful Julie Herrmann as well as athletic director. Herrmann might have been the worst hire since Sebastian Cabot was replaced as the butler on Family Affair or since Ray Handley replaced Bill Parcells as coach of the Giants. Herrmann was a complete mess from the minute she arrived in Piscataway. When talk arose last week of her pending departure, one had to figure that Flood wasn't far behind.

Saturday, the Rutgers program went on the cheap by hiring Chris Ash, an assistant coach from Ohio State. Getting someone with Jersey ties and head coaching experience like Al Golden would have made too much sense, so getting another assistant coach is a typical Rutgers move. Bringing in Pat Hobbs from Seton Hall as the athletic director is a move of desperation, not improvement.

As it appears right now, Rutgers is headed down the slippery slope of doom in the Big 10. The school is simply not going to be competitive in any Big 10 sport anytime soon.

I personally would not have gotten rid of Flood. I think they would have at least been competitive with Flood at the helm for the years to come. I can't see that starting from scratch all over again. It seems like it's time for doom and gloom on the banks of the old Raritan, back to the days of the early 80s under Frank Burns, when people were happy if the Scarlet Knights scored a touchdown against Penn State.

Now? Who knows?

Friday, October 30, 2015

So, what's new? Let's Go METS!!!

Let’s see, a lot has transpired since I last offered something on this blog Sept. 5.

Donald Trump, of all people, has emerged as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination to become President of the United States. Yes, the man who once said “You’re Fired” to Lou Ferrigno and Flavor Flav is now headed toward the nomination. But then again, we once elected the guy who played with a chimp in “Bedtime for Bonzo” and played George Gipp in the movies, so anything is possible.

The Giants and Jets are both off to decent starts. I don’t think loyal followers could have predicted that both teams would have four wins before Halloween. Todd Bowles seems to have his finger on the pulse of the Jets and we all knew Tom Coughlin would after the Giants started 0-2.

The weather has been fantastic since the end of summer. We had only a few days of below normal temperatures. It was 73 yesterday on Oct. 29. That says it all. It’s almost like spring or early summer with those temperatures. Lonnie Quinn doesn’t have to roll up his sleeves yet.

And yes, the biggest story around these parts has to be the appearance of the New York Mets, my beloved baseball team, in the World Series.

I know they’re in an 0-2 hole and that’s a tough hole to recover from, but did anyone in their wildest dreams think it was possible for the Mets to actually be in the World Series?

I still can’t believe it. I really can’t. I feel like I’m doing the Time Warp again. I feel like it’s some weird Rod Serling “Twilight Zone” moment and someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that it was all part of an evil scheme.

I mean, the Mets, THESE Mets, are in the World Series? It can’t be.

I know that as the biggest (in size, of course) Mets fan on the planet, I’m supposed to be excited, giddy and joyous. Believe me, I’m very happy, VERY happy. But I simply can’t believe it.

It’s probably the reason why I’m so even keeled and low-keyed about the whole thing. Some of my closest family members and friends are amazed on how even tempered I’ve been, that they figured I’d be so in the rapture of Mets fever that I would be uncontrollable. Maybe getting my car stolen with my cell phone in it and a week’s vacation at a resort called the Clara Maass Medical Center might have helped with the temperament.

But I also know that as a diehard Met fan, I gave up. That’s right. July 23 was the day I bagged it and said that they were through. They lost a game to the Padres, a game that they had a six-run lead and turned it over to the god awful Bobby Parnell, then gave the ball to Jeurys Familia after an hour long rain delay, only to see him give up a homer to Justin Upton and the Mets lost.

That was it. I bagged it. I was sick and tired of watching the Mets lose with immortals like Eric Campbell and John Mayberry, Jr. and the thoroughly immortal Danny Muno and the ever-so immortal Johnny Monell in the lineup through June and July. I mean, there was one game were Mayberry, Jr. (who is still swinging and missing at flies in his backyard) and Campbell were cleanup and No. 5 in the Mets lineup. It was disgusting and so hard to watch.

But then something miraculous happened. Wilmer Flores, who has always been a favorite of mine and someone who I thought could hit 20 homers if he was left alone to play every day, was traded, cried, then wasn’t traded and hit the homer in the 12th inning against the Nationals that turned the entire season around.

Then the Mets swept the Nationals and a day later, they traded for superstar Yoenis Cespedes, who is the best positional player the franchise has had since Mike Piazza walked away. Cespedes started hitting homer after homer and the Mets went nuts. Kirk Nieuwenhius (however you spell it) hit a clutch homer off that assface douchehead Papelbon and the Nationals were buried, thanks to the brilliant managing of the since-deposed and sure-to-be-missed Matt Williams.

The Mets steamrolled to the NL East title and that would have been good enough. But they beat the Dodgers in five, then destroyed the Cubs in four straight to win the National League pennant.

Then Daniel Murphy simply morphs into Reggie Jackson, hitting homer after postseason homer. How does that happen? How does someone who hit 14 homers in the regular season mash seven in the playoffs? That's miraculous.
Miraculous? I’d say so. I know a lot of people think I’m crazy for saying this, but this team is far more miraculous than the 1969 Miracle Mets. The reason? That team, even though in ninth place the year prior, was going to be good from the start of the year. It had talent throughout the roster, especially with the pitching. They hung around the Cubs all season, then blew past them and went to the World Series. Sure, Miracle Mets because of what they were the year before, but not what they were during the 1969 season. That team won 100 games. They were very good.

This team was absolutely left for dead in July and came back to win the pennant and now in the World Series. This is more of a miracle in my eyes.

So I know the season is in the hands of the Mighty Thor Noah Syndergaard tonight. Without a win tonight, it’s over.

But this is a wonderful pitching staff, the best starting staff I can ever remember, better than the Braves of the 1990s _ and even Hall of Famer John Smoltz, one of those Braves hurlers, agreed.

It’s going to be a joy to watch these pitchers over the next few years. And remember, Zach Wheeler comes back next July to join the group. It’s an amazing staff.

For now, I’ll enjoy this run, this miraculous run. I never thought it was possible. Maybe that’s why I’m so numb by all of this.

Let’s go Mets! Let’s try to make this Series respectable with a win tonight.

I attended Seton Hall basketball media day yesterday and I was very impressed with the way Kevin Willard handled the tough questions about how his team collapsed last season, that there was talk of team members having friends around campus and at practices, a “posse” that served as a major distraction.

Willard addressed it after I asked him about what happened, how a team that was nationally ranked in January could actually win one of their last 11 games to finish a disappointing 16-15.

“We had a lot of outside distractions last year, family, friends, aunts, uncles,” Willard said. “It wasn’t just one factor. There was a lot going on. I don’t think I did a very good job of handling the distractions. We had too many family and friends around and that’s how we lost focus.”

The team also lost its starting backcourt of Jaren Sina and Sterling Gibbs (the team’s leading scorer at 17.5 points per game) to transferring because of the negative stuff going on in the locker room.

“I didn’t handle the outside distractions well,” Willard said. “I have a much better handle on it now, but the dynamic of the team is much different.”

However, the source of all the problems is still there. It’s up to Willard to handle it this season, because if the Hall has another disappointing campaign, then Willard might be shown the door.

You can read more of my work at,, and, although this week is the first time in 16 years that I didn’t have a column in The Observer because of my illness. Hey, you can only do so much.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Rutgers in headlines again; don't think Brady is innocent

The college football season kicks off on the banks of the Old Raritan in Piscataway later this afternoon, when Rutgers faces that scary world power Norfolk State.

It won't be like any other seasonal kickoff at Rutgers, because this year, there's a dark cloud hovering over the football program and unfortunately that cloud is just about covering the Scarlet Knights' wonderful head coach Kyle Flood.

That's because on Thursday, five members of the Scarlet Knights football team were arrested and charged with felony assault, possession of illegal weapons, home invasion and possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).

These bastions of society were charged with stealing cash and drugs from students in a dorm at gunpoint. Another incident saw an innocent 19-year-old Rutgers student get his jaw broken, just because he was in the way of a botched robbery attempt.

The five players have not only been suspended from the football team, but suspended from school. Rutgers president Robert Barchi, who has already proved his worthlessness in prior incidents involving the former Rutgers basketball coach and the hiring of the current athletic director, called the arrests "deeply troubling."

"The alleged behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable," Barchi said in a released statement, which is the only way Rutgers officials offer anything to the media these days. "This behavior is not reflective of Rutgers or of the members of our academic community."

These arrests come on the heels of five other players getting suspended for the first half of today's game, because they were caught using fake ID cards to enter drinking establishments.

And it comes just a week after it was learned that Flood apparently inappropriately contacted the professor of one of his players (off a private E-mail account) to talk about the academic progress of one of his players.

Incredibly, that player, Nadir Barnwell, was one of the five players arrested in the robbery and assault parade on Thursday.

You're right. You can't make this up.

Let's go back to front here and start with that almost ridiculous "investigation" into Flood's inappropriate e-mail to the professor.

It's absolutely absurd. Does anyone think that a coach hasn't contacted a professor before to talk about his players' grades? It's probably happened going back to the days of Walter Camp and Pop Warner. I would bet you dollars to donuts that good old Knute Rockne probably called some English teacher to check on George Gipp's performance in class.

Point being made: Coaches have been contacting professors forever. It's part of their job to monitor the academic progress of their players, to insure that they remain in good academic standing in order to remain on the field and off the sidelines on Saturdays. College coaches just don't coach football. They have to worry about whether their players get to class and get sufficient grades. It's part of the job requirement.

Why this became such a huge incident and needed an "investigation" is beyond me. It's the least of the worries going on at Rutgers, but since that brilliant and forthright athletic leader Julie Herrmann  _ the athletic director with a ton of skeletons in her closet and yet keeps her job _ launched the "investigation" because the professor blurted it out that Flood had sent the e-mails about Barnwell's progress, it became headlines.

Frankly, it's hogwash. There's nothing that states that Flood asked the professor to change Barnwell's grades in the e-mails. Flood just wanted to know how he was doing, because without a good grade, Barnwell would probably have been shown the door. So Flood sent the e-mail from his private account, asking about Barnwell. Naughty, naughty. Herrmann says "Let's launch an investigation."

When the bottom line is this: For some reason, Herrmann doesn't like Flood and wants him gone. She didn't hire him. It was the previous regime's hire. How anyone cannot like Flood is beyond my wildest imagination, because he is one of the genuinely nice and honest people you'll find in the sport of coaching football.

But being likable doesn't exactly help when it comes to Julie Herrmann's affections. She didn't bring him in. She wasn't the one to promote Flood when used car salesman Greg Schiano scooted from the Scarlet Knights and scampered to Tampa to steal $25 million from the Buccaneers.

So this investigation as to whether Flood did anything wrong in contacting the professor from his private e-mail account is a complete waste of time. Coaches have been doing such things _ just probably with untraceable phone calls and not electronic proof _ for as long as there has been college football.

Now, the second from the bottom. Kids will be kids, right? How many of us didn't try to have a fake ID in order to purchase something that we couldn't have when we were teenagers? A show of hands would probably state about 80 percent. We all had a friend who had a cousin who had a cousin who could get a genuine fake ID that could gain us entrance into the disco or allow us to buy beer. I never really had one, but I paid $5 to get one that I never got.

The thought is that using a fake ID isn't the biggest mistake these kids will make. So Flood did the right thing and suspended them for a half today. Maybe Flood could have gone a step further and shown his authority by keeping them on the sidelines for the entire game, considering that curfews were also missed in going out to the club and using the fake IDs.

But Flood could have never known about the other shoe that dropped Thursday.

This one is serious. The real problem here _ besides the actual act of using a weapon to steal things from a college dorm _ is that they more than likely conspired together to commit the crimes. They didn't act alone. They were among a group of 10 that were charged. So that smells of conspiracy.

And that means that they planned it out, talked amongst themselves and drew up a strategy, in order to pull off the hideous acts.

And that's just flat out wrong and disgusting. "Nadir, it's Razhonn. Listen, bro, let's go to the dorm, break into a room, flash a knife and steal some money. I know these dudes have pot in there, too, so we can steal that as well."

That's just illogical for college kids. Who thinks like that?

So these five get arrested in the days prior to the season opener. There was the other incidents floating around.

What it all adds up to is some more black eyes on Rutgers, once again, courtesy of the athletic program. It's all over the news once again. Rutgers is associated with something wrong, something hideous. Whether it's a basketball coach assaulting and verbally abusing his players or a new athletic director suddenly forgetting her abusive past as a coach or another coach failing to report that he didn't have a college degree when he was hired, it's all negatives on the banks of the Old Raritan.

This time, the attention isn't laughable. It's downright scary. I know that parents sent their kids off to Rutgers last week for another school year, thinking that their kids were safe and secure in the Rutgers dorms. Then, whammo, this story of weapons and forced entries and marijuana theft comes out. Suddenly, little teenage Brandon and teenage Lisa don't seem so safe anymore.

So the sun might be shining brightly on this first Saturday afternoon of college football. It may be picture perfect in Piscataway. But once again, there's a dark cloud looming _ and it's hovering real low these days over the head of Kyle Flood.

You can be rest assured that the affable Flood will be made the scapegoat in all of this mess. An unnamed Rutgers official was quoted as saying that Flood would have already been fired if it weren't for the fact that the school would still be on the hook for Flood's salary _ already the lowest in the big money world of the Big Ten.

The sad thing in all of this is that Kyle Flood will probably lose his job. From a perception point around the state of New Jersey, that idea is just criminal, because Flood totally changed the image of the football head coaching position at Rutgers, once he was promoted to head coach upon Schiano's flirtation with Florida.

In an instant, the high school football community went back in unison to embrace Flood. Many of the New Jersey high school coaches were just sick and tired _ more tired than sick _ of Schiano's constant lies and debauchery when it came to recruiting the New Jersey high school football player.

Some went as far as to say that they would never open the doors of their locker room to Schiano ever again. Imagine that. The head football coach of the state university of New Jersey getting shunned by high school coaches in his own state? That's what happens when you lie and connive and manipulate high school kids. Once you're nailed being a liar, there's no coming home. After a decade, most everyone in the New Jersey football community got to realize what Schiano truly was.

Quite frankly, Greg Schiano was more full of horseshit than one would find in American Pharoah's barn. If Schiano told me that it was 4 p.m. in the afternoon, I'd have to check my watch, the bank clock, turn on 1010 WINS and ask the man on the corner to see if it really was. He was THAT bad.

So Flood as the head coach was a breath of fresh air. He was welcomed back into the local fold. Coaches now insisted on their players making recruiting visits to see Flood. Things were going to be good again. The top New Jersey players were going to stay home instead of going to points elsewhere. Flood was going to make it all good again, because let's face it, no one outside of Julie Herrmann wants to see Kyle Flood fail.

You want to root for Flood. You want to stand and cheer for him. Yay, Kyle.

Not now. That good feeling is gone. It started to ooze a little last year when the Scarlet Knights proved that they just simply didn't belong in the Big 10, even after beating Michigan and almost beating Penn State.

That good feeling just went right out of the bag Thursday with these five players getting arrested, one of whom is the one that Flood apparently risked his entire career over.

Will Flood finish out the year? Who knows? But he's done after this year. Julie Herrmann is going to get her way, much like she did when former football SID Jason Baum was bounced out in favor of former sportswriter Tom Luicci.

Baum did a great job coordinating Rutgers athletics and did so in the face of adversity, like the Mike Rice fiasco and of course, Herrmann's hiring.

Herrmann didn't like the way the media portrayed her in that entire debacle, so she blamed Baum and he was out the door. And how a sportswriter who used to blast Rutgers on every occasion in print was able to land on his feet with the demise of the Star-Ledger and get a six-figure job working at Rutgers in sports information is beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

But that's besides the point. Flood is going to be left holding the bag here _ and this time, there's just not enough good feeling air left in that bag to save his hide.

And frankly, that's a shame. There's talk floating around that the school may reach out to that old car salesman and see if he would like his old job back. Isn't that special?

So the season begins today with a win over Norfolk State. It will end with the pursuit of a new coach, a young one that won't mind getting paid $600,000 a year when the other coaches in his league all get in the millions.

There's pandemonium in Piscataway for sure. It's just not on the field. Once again.


Now, as for the judge upholding Tom Brady's suspension.

All these people are out, punching their chests, screaming "I told you so," proclaiming that the ruling proves that Brady was innocent and did nothing wrong, like the golden boy always said from the beginning.

WRONG! It does not prove that Brady was innocent of cheating. It proves that the judge thought the penalty was too severe and that the NFL bungled the investigation and the suspension hearing. The judge did not absolve Brady of any wrongdoing. He just said that the four-game suspension and fines were unfair.

What the ruling also did was totally castrate the powers of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. If you're an NFL player, why are you worried about getting suspended for doing something wrong? Just take the suspension to court and have the damn thing overturned, because Goodell and the league are now 0-for-their-last-7 in terms of suspensions.

If I'm the owner of the Carolina Panthers or Jacksonville Jaguars, I have to seriously wonder why my contributions to Goodell's $44 million salary are worth it. Am I getting any bang for my big buck? Goodell won't resign, because that's a load of moola to leave on the table. But now, it's hard to take the man's power seriously after getting ruled against yet again.


I'm not even going near jinxing my beloved Mets, because we all know what has happened in the past. But it's Sept. 5 and the Mets are entrenched in first place. Just sayin'.

And I know it's dreaming, but Freddie Coupon and Coupon Jr., the two boobs that are majority owners of that franchise, should do anything and everything in their power to make sure they scrounge up enough money to keep Yoenis Cespedes, because he's the best position player to grace the Mets' lineup since the acquisition of Mike Piazza in 1998.

Freddie Coupon and his little boy, who reportedly is the one who pushed for Cespedes, should take some of the money they get from SNY and put it towards signing Cespedes to a nice five-year deal worth around $160 million.

There shouldn't even be a debate. Cespedes is that good and proves it every single day. If he could only pitch middle relief, then he'd really be worth it.

You can read more of my stuff at (high school football previews galore), (high school football previews galore) and (high school football previews galore, but later this week). I've written more heights and weights over the last three weeks than ever before.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Brady's dilemma and disgust with the Mets

Here's my final take on Tom Brady and Deflategate:

If Brady wasn't as guilty of football tampering, then why did he destroy his phone the day before he was set to testify in front of the special NFL investigator? Brady's excuse was that he said he destroys his phones periodically. But in this case, he just happened to destroy the phone on the day he's supposed to meet with Ted Wells?

Not buying it. He wanted to destroy any evidence of texts that linked him with the two equipment managers involved in the case, one of whom referred to himself as the "Deflatinator."

See, here's the problem. For the last 15 years, the New England Patriots _ or Cheatalots, as I like to call them _ have done whatever they wanted to do, because they feel like they can get away with anything and that they're above the law.

You name it, they've done it. Videotaped other team's practices, circumvented the salary cap to get top players, videotaped other teams on the sidelines to pick up signals and signs, killing off a team's walkie-talkie service during games, you name it. The Cheatalots cheat a lot because they can.

Or so it seemed. See, this time, the pretty boy quarterback with the supermodel wife cheated and got caught. And instead of just coming forward and admitting he was cheating and got caught, he did what all cheaters do _ denied it.

Just like all the steroid users in baseball. They didn't do anything wrong. They used someone else's syringe, like their cousin's or their personal trainers. They never did performance enhancement drugs. Shame on anyone who even thought that.

Until the evidence became so clear, like in the cases of Roger Clemens (who is still in denial mode), Barry Bonds and most recently Alex Rodriguez, that they had no other choice but accept the fate handed to them.

No one is even insinuating that steroid use and deflating footballs are on the same level. Not even close.

But the denial is the same. Brady first tried to play stupid when confronted about the deflated footballs, saying that he didn't know anything about it. Then, when the two equipment guys stepped forward and told NFL investigators that of course Brady knew, then he changed his tune a little.

And then he had the audacity to go to his hearing, first with Wells, and later with Commissioner Roger Goodell, that he didn't do anything wrong, when he was handed evidence of the contrary.

For good measure, Brady said he destroyed the cell phone with the text messages on it. Gee, now there's some coincidence.

There's no question that the other NFL owners pressured Goodell (whom they pay an astonishing $45 million a year) to handle the Brady case with utmost importance and severity, because frankly, the rest of the NFL is sick and tired of the Cheatalots getting away with everything. I can't say they get away with murder, because Aaron Hernandez is proof that even a Cheatalot can't get away with murder. It might work for Viola Davis and her students on that silly ABC show, but it doesn't work in real life.

Goodell had no recourse but to throw the book at Brady and he did. Four games for deflating footballs? That's pretty hefty.

But Brady isn't getting four games simply for taking the air out of balls during games. Hell, if he fessed up to it when he was first accused, he would have received a $25,000 fine and a slap on the back of his hand, saying, "Naughty, naughty, Pretty Boy."

The reason why Brady is getting slammed is the audacity he showed by not cooperating with the investigation, then trying to destroy evidence. And if you're not guilty, as Brady still is in denial mode over, then why go to those lengths? Why not cooperate and prove your innocence?

Goodell had to do something drastic with Brady, because frankly, the other owners who pay his ridiculously gaudy salary wouldn't have stood for it any other way. Brady should take his four-game suspension and fine and slink off into the sunset. He should come back rested and tanned in October, ready to take on the world.

But to continue to deny that this all took place is silly and frankly tarnishing Brady's legacy as an all-time great. Right now, he's known as an all-time cheat, four Super Bowls or not. No one ever accused Johnny Unitas or Joe Montana of cheating. Their legacies are intact and in good standing. Brady will forever be known as the cheater who got caught deflating footballs.

Brady should take his suspension like a man, because unlike what he professes, he knows he did something wrong.

Now, as for the complete clusterf**k known as the New York Mets, can anyone explain to me what actually happened Wednesday night?

Right after the first pitch was thrown, reputable sportswriters like Bob Klapisch of the Bergen Record and Joel Sherman of the New York Post were reporting that the Mets had indeed traded injured pitcher Zach Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to the Milwaukee Brewers for All-Star centerfielder Carlos Gomez.

Soon after, the flood gates opened. My phone pinged with updates about the trade more than pictures of Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair went viral. Seriously, I received about 30 different notifications from Facebook, Twitter, instant messages, you name it. The trade was done. It was official.

Except there was Flores still playing shortstop for the Mets. The crowd at CitiField knew Flores was traded, because they gave him a much deserved standing ovation for what appeared to be his last at-bat, one where he grounded out to short. It had to be the first time a baseball player received a standing ovation for a ground out.

Flores then was visibly upset as he went back out onto the field. The 23-year-old kid has spent his entire baseball life with the Mets, going back to when he was a 16-year-old kid in the Dominican Republic. He was upset that he was being traded.

Mets manager Terry Collins then talked to Flores before the bottom of the ninth inning, and off Flores went to the clubhouse, apparently to be forever replaced by the legendary Ruben Tejada.

And then, after the game, Collins said that he knew nothing of a trade. It seemed ridiculous that every person in the building knew of the trade except the manager of the team. A few minutes later, Mets GM Sandy Alderson appeared in front of the media to say that there was no trade and that any trade was off.

Say what? What in God's name happened?

Now, as a member of the media, I can tell you this: Klapisch and Sherman are impeccable. So is Jon Heyman, who reported the trade a few minutes after Klap and Sherman. Their reputations as reporters are stellar.

Could they be wrong? It happens. But that would be if just one reported the trade. All three? Highly unlikely.

Someone in the Mets' front office leaked the trade before it was official and it went viral. But I'm risking my own reputation by saying that trade definitely happened, because there's no way all three would have missed it. No way in hell.

What did take place is that the Mets look once again like a second-rate organization and left their young shortstop out on the field to have an emotional breakdown for the entire world to see on television. There were already jokes this morning involving Flores and Tom Hanks' memorable line from "A League of Our Own," when he uttered "There's no crying in baseball."

If there was a trade in place, Flores should have been in the clubhouse, far away from the bright lights. He should not have been paraded out there for the world to see him emote like that. And for Collins and Alderson to boldly state that they knew nothing of a trade and that no trade existed, that's just a complete crock.

Of course there was some trade. Who pulled the trade back remains to be seen? But I'll stake my entire 34-year career on the fact that there was some agreement between the two clubs, that agreement was leaked to the media and then that agreement was pulled back in the late stages of the game.

And the one victim of it all? Wilmer Flores. Sure, professional baseball is a business. We all understand that. But there's no way he should have been left out there to fry. Shame on the Mets. Once again. They really know how to screw up everything, don't they?

You can read more of my work at, and from time to time at

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Where are the 'real' All-Stars?

Last night was the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Pardon me if I didn't care.

Now, there was a time when the MLB All-Star Game meant everything to me. I can sense sentimentality taking over me right now. Here goes: "When I was a kid..."

I remember hearing those words so many times when I was growing up, hearing my beloved father, my much older brother or whomever wanted to tell me a story would always preface their saga with "When I was a kid."

When they were kids, the world was peaceful, the streets were clean, newspapers and ice cream cost a nickel, pop songs were about love and puppies and sunshine and lollipops and everything was wonderful.

When my brother was a kid, there were three baseball teams in New York and each team had an All-Star sure-fire Hall of Famer in center field. The Giants had Mays, the Yankees had Mantle and 'dem Bums of Brooklyn had Duke Snider. Must have been a tremendous time to grow up as a baseball fan.

So now, as a 54-year-old middle-aged man, I now get to utter the same words. "When I was a kid..." Sounds a little silly to me, but it's true.

Because when I was a kid, the All-Star Game truly meant something. It was indeed the Mid-Summer Classic, because all of the participants were indeed classic.

We're talking 1969, in the nation's capital, the 100th anniversary of baseball. On the National League roster, there were people like Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame. Pitchers like Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Juan Marichal, Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton, also all Hall of Famers. Pete Rose was also on the National League roster

On the American League side, there were Rod Carew, Reggie Jackson, Frank Robinson, Harmon Killebrew, Brooks Robinson and Carl Yastrzemski. Unfortunately for the AL, there were no Hall of Fame pitchers on the staff, maybe the reason why the National League won the game that year, 9-3.

I remember the game was initially rained out the night before and played the following afternoon. I was so excited that the game was played during the day, so I could watch every last pitch. When I was a kid...

That is some array of all-time talent. There were 18 Hall of Famers in that game. Mind you, with only the chance to watch the Yankees and the Mets on local television and the Game of the Week on NBC on Saturday afternoons, this was the only chance I got to see a lot of those all-time greats in action. So truly, it was an exciting event.

Now, turn the clock to 2015. There was an All-Star game in Cincinnati, but how many of these players are truly worthy of the status that comes with being an All-Star?

On the National League side alone, there were 15 players making their first All-Star appearance. There were names like Nolan Arenado, J.J. Pollock (sounds like some obscure actor), Joe Panik (sounds like an attack in a subway), Yasmani Grandal (what the hell is that?), DJ LeMahieu (say what?) and Mark Melancon (maybe he's a rock star with Cougar as his fake moniker, like Mark Cougar Melancon).

Yes, those are actual members of the National League All-Star team.

On the NL roster, there were three players who are borderline potential Hall of Famers in Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutcheon and Bryce Harper. That's about it.

It doesn't get any better on the AL side. There were 15 first-time All-Stars, names like Kelvin Herrera, Dallas Keuchel, Darren O'Day (isn't he the guy who sang the 70s song "Undercover Angel?"), Brad Boxberger (say what what?), Hector Santiago (can't make fun of him too much, because he's from nearby Newark), Brock Holt (tell me that's not a porn name), Brian Dozier (who?), Stephen Vogt (who who?), Jose Iglesias (who who who?), Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain (Adam raised a Cain, for you Springsteen fanatics). OK, enough already.

And as sure-fire Hall of Famers, there were Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and King Felix Hernandez, as well as the best player in the game, Mike Trout, who won the game's MVP.

Now, where's the array of Hall of Famers that I saw _ hate to say it _  when I was a kid? The answer: They weren't in Cincinnati.

Sure, I might be a tad old school and I might be getting old, but I was led to believe that the All-Star Game was set aside for the All-Stars. And in my opinion, Alex Rodriguez and Big Papi David Ortiz are All-Stars every single time they step foot on a field. It was a disgrace that those two were not on the AL roster.

And to have 30 players making their All-Star Game debut tells me one thing: Either we're putting too many young players on the All-Star rosters on purpose or there's a changing of the guard.

I'd much rather watch highlights of the 1969 All-Star Game then watch the current game. How can there be an All-Star Game with so many players I've never heard of? All-Stars? Hardly.


So Dez Bryant played hardball with Jerry Jones and won, getting a five-year contract for $70 million right under the deadline for signing long-term agreements. After losing Demarco Murray to free agency earlier this year, Jones couldn't afford to let his other big-time headache walk into free agency as well, so Bryant's threat of sitting out games this season worked to his advantage.

Bad news with that is that other big-time NFL malcontents like Bryant are going to pull the same crap in the future to secure gigantic contracts. And that's just wrong.


You can read more of my stuff at, and This Sunday will be an interesting feature in the Hudson Reporter about the Washington Park Little League team of Jersey City, which just won the District 7 Little League crown for the first time since 1969. Yes, the same year as the aforementioned All-Star Game.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The absurdity in sports

Remember Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word?"

In that song, Sir Elton warbles "and it's getting more and more absurd," with a definite fine English accent on absurd, making it sound like he's saying OB-ZURD.

Anyway, there were two instances of OB-ZURD-ITY over the last 48 hours that have really caused the big man's blood pressure to rise and boil.

First moment of absurdity came when the New York Giants' talented defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul brought a van load of fireworks from Virginia to Florida to celebrate the Fourth of July. When we say van load, we mean van load, like UHaul load, of fireworks. There were pictures of the loaded van on Twitter. In the van with Pierre-Paul was his wife and six-month-old son. Yes, a baby with all those fireworks. Absurd.

Anyway, Pierre-Paul did absurd thing No. 2. He apparently lit some of the fireworks with his own hand and was severely maimed by the explosives. No one knows the extent of his injuries. At first, it was thought that JPP lost digits as a cause of the accident, but apparently he has suffered severe flesh burns that will require several skin graft operations. Absurd.

Now, what's the first question that comes to mind? Right, we all know it. What in the hell was he thinking?

What does he need that much fireworks? Why is he handling them? Why is he handling them with his baby there? How can he do such a thing when he has yet to sign his contract for the 2015 season, one that was scheduled for him to make $14.8 million? He was offered a franchise tag tender for the season and has yet to sign it, because he's looking for a longer deal with more guaranteed money.

Well, he can kiss that all goodbye now. I hope the M-80 explosion was worth it, because the Giants withdrew the $60 million offer with about $25 million of it guaranteed off the table today. JPP's agent said that he wasn't going to sign that contract anyway. Oh, yeah, well, it's hard to sign a contract offer that isn't there. It's also hard to sign a contract with your hand all bandaged up and mangled.

JPP's net worth right now is estimated at $4.9 million, according to the website, So he stood to more than triple his net worth this season with the franchise tag. Not to mention the $60 million offer that was on the table. That's all gone now, because the $14.8 million franchise tag is not guaranteed and the Giants can release JPP and not owe him a dime.

Will they do so? No, he's too valuable of a player. He had 12 sacks last season in a comeback year after back surgery. So the Giants want him back. And the doctors told a few news agencies in Florida that the injuries were not career threatening and he should recover.

But if you're the Giants, do you offer him a huge contract now? I mean, this is perhaps the stupidest thing I've ever heard in 34 years of being a sportswriter. We all thought Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg of a nightclub with an illegal gun was stupid. Burress was a MENSA member compared to this ridiculous act. Absurd.

The next bit of absurdity comes courtesy of my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, who continue to just boggle the mind with the way they make moves _ and subsequently don't make moves.

Today, the team announced that it was recalling Kirk Niewenhuis back to the club from Class AAA Las Vegas.

This is the same Niewenhuis who has been released by two organizations this year _ one of which happens to be the Mets.

In 38 at-bats with the Mets, he hit a robust .079 with three hits. He struck out 17 times and had two RBI. The Mets then cut him loose (actually sold him) to the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles or whatever they're called.

In 24 at-bats with the Angels, Niewenhuis hit .136 (hey, an improvement) with three hits and one RBI, earning his release, where he ended up with the Mets' Class AAA franchise and now back with the Mets today.

So he's had six hits in 60 at-bats this season with two teams. That's a batting average of .100. That's not even sniffing the Mendoza line. He's hitting .100. I don't ever recall a position player with a lower batting average.

Plain and simple, as much as the female fans might not want to admit because he is actually eye candy, he cannot play. He can't hit to save his beans. But he's collecting a major league salary again today, courtesy of the punchless Mets. He fits right in, because most of the rest of the Mets can't hit either, especially the combo of Lucas Duda and Michael Cuddyer, who right now look like Marshall, Will and Holly on the Land of the Lost.


Bringing back Niewenhius (or however he spells his name) proves one thing. That the Wilpons and GM/Stooge Sandy Alderson do not care about the fans. Nope, Freddie Coupon and Coupon, Jr. only care about getting through the season with as little payroll as possible and hopefully they can make money with the team. They already make a boatload with the SNY broadcasts, but that's never filtered to the team, like the Steinbrenners take the YES money and put it towards the Yankees.

Nope, the Coupons think we're all stupid idiots. The logical move would be to bring top prospect Michael Conforto up from Binghamton and see if he could handle major league pitching, like he's done on every single level of baseball he's ever played in. Everyone knows that the kid can simply hit. He's a no-miss prospect.

But he remains in the minors for one reason. Because the Coupons don't want his free agency clock to start ticking. Much like they did with Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Katz, they want to hold Conforto out of major league action to control his free agency status for years to come.

The hell with winning now. We want to keep our players for as long as we can on the cheap. Because that's what the Coupons are. They are cheap. They are misers. They count their money in a dark room together and giggle like school girls. The hell with winning and putting a team on the field that the fans can root for. Nope, let's keep them in the minors for as long as possible.

Everyone is calling for a trade. But in reality, what's out there that the Mets can trade for? And they're not trading any of their incredible pitchers. They have the best young pitching staff in baseball. None of them are going anywhere.

Unless someone wants to take that malcontent Jonathon Niese off our hands for useful player, there will not be a trade this year. So the Mets will continue to parade this band of outmakers like Mayberry, Ceciliani, Tejada, Monell and my mother up to the plate and hope and pray they can squeak out a 2-1 win, thanks to the pitching. It doesn't work.

In fact, it's all just absurd. That's the best way to describe it. JPP and the Mets. Perfectly absurd.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The dysfunction continues as Gibbs leaves Seton Hall

Sure, there was nothing wrong with the Seton Hall men's basketball program. There was no inner strife, no tension convention, no problems whatsoever, except for the fact that a team that was nationally ranked in January and rolling along would end its season by getting totally blown out of the Big East Tournament by a sub-par Marquette squad, wrapping up a season with a mediocre 16-15 mark.

But at the time, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard professed that there was nothing wrong at all, that the reports of internal chaos written in some places (especially right here) were so totally false. Willard insisted that there was no such problem in his locker room.

Tuesday afternoon, it was learned that the team's leading scorer, junior Sterling Gibbs, was leaving the program to pursue a post-graduate year of eligibility elsewhere. Gibbs is slated to receive his undergraduate degree from Seton Hall next month.

Now, let's face the real facts. Guys who are their team's leading scorer (16.3 points per game) and recognized true star don't leave programs unless something is seriously wrong. Gibbs was the face of the Pirates, the post-season honoree, earning Second Team All Big East and the New York Metropolitan Writers' Association. In fact, Gibbs' post-season honors are still splashed all over the Seton Hall basketball website _ along with the ridiculous banner for fans to purchase season tickets for next year. But there's no note of Gibbs' departure.

Gibbs was an unhappy camper all year dealing with the spoiled and pampered incoming freshmen, especially the much heralded Isaiah Whitehead, who turned out to be nothing like he was hyped up to be. Whitehead was a McDonald's All-American in high school, but he came to Seton Hall and played like he was from Wendy's.

The chasm that existed between the returning players like Gibbs and his buddy Jaren Sina (who quit in the middle of the season and is now off to George Washington) and the newcomers like Whitehead, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington was wide enough to drive 25 tractor trailers through.

There were two sets of rules _ those for the returning players and those for the newcomers. When Whitehead was able to rule the roost and badmouth the others, it showed that Willard had totally lost the stronghold of his team.

When I wrote the blog in February, it was not to prove that there was a racial dischord among the Pirates. However, that was what was picked up by local media outlets more than anything else. Sure, there was something racial about Sina's departure (even though his father, Mergin and himself denied there was a problem to me), but the main reason for the blog was to prove that Willard was way over his head.

It was encouraged that Willard take a long look in the mirror to recognize the real problem with the Seton Hall program. Willard was the one who gave Whiteheard's high school coach, Tiny Morton, a cushy six-figure assistant coaching position with the Pirates, just to secure the services of Whitehead and Rodriguez, but also to get Morton's two children into the school on an employee's scholarship.

Willard was the one who didn't quell the problem when it started brewing, when Whitehead was allowed to bring his "posse" around with him all over South Orange. When I wrote "posse" back in February, I was criticized because it was believed that "posse" was a negative racial term. Nope, I used it as being a group of people, as many as eight, who hung around with Whitehead all over the place, including practices, even if they weren't even Seton Hall students.

Call it what you want. Posse, group, conclave, flock, parade, you name it. This group was a major distraction to the returning Pirate players, especially when Whitehead got hurt.

Then there was the very visible confrontation between Gibbs and Whitehead in the Georgetown game, a game where the Pirates were getting blown out of the water early, then came storming back to tie the game, only to get blown out in the long run. During a time out, Gibbs and Whitehead were spotted yelling at each other and had to be restrained by teammates.

Yeah, sure, nothing wrong.

Willard's record at Seton Hall after six seasons stands at the ridiculously mediocre 82-81. One game over .500 for six years. Yet, he's a coach who received a contract extension last year (a move that was almost slipped under the radar) as a reward. For what? For this mess?

You know why Willard got the extension? Because his so-called boss, AD Pat Lyons, got his job after Willard recommended him. The two worked together during their days at Iona. Willard basically got Lyons the job, so this extension was basically Lyons' way of rewarding Willard for getting him the job. Now isn't that special?

How could Willard survive this mess? Well, at least his players haven't committed felonies like robbery and kidnapping or punched an opponent in the junk or drove drunk the wrong way on the Garden State Parkway like the players of his predecessor, the immortal wizard Bobby Gonzalez. So we have to be thankful for that, at the very least.

But the Pirates' starting backcourt from the team that was once ranked No. 19 in the country is now gone. The closeknit duo of Jaren Sina and Sterling Gibbs, buddies to the end, have both punched their ticket out of South Orange, leaving Whitehead and his posse (CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT) in their wake.

Congrats, Kevin Willard. This is your mess. You might not think anything is wrong. Go ahead, turn a blind eye to it. Even close the locker room to the media if you must. But there is something seriously wrong in South Orange and the only way it will be cured is if the coach is removed and a new coach with higher morals and values is brought in.

But we all know that's not going to happen, because the current coach's contract somehow got extended. For three more years, no less.

So sure, let's all line up to purchase Seton Hall season tickets for next season, as the website so proudly exclaims. Let's all head to the Prudential Center and see the circus _ long before Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey leads the elephants off the trains.


It's really nice that the Brooklyn Nets have tied their NBA Eastern Conference playoff series with the Atlanta Hawks at 2-2. That bastion of what's good in the world, Deron Williams, managed to have the game of his life to lead the Nets to an overtime win.

But Nets CEO Brett Yormark was so way out of line last week when he sent out an email to fans and ticket holders and anyone who would read the schlop. Here goes:

The Brooklyn Nets are thrilled to be part of the NBA Playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Nets will tip off on the road against the Atlanta Hawks in the First Round on Sunday, April 19 in Atlanta.

We want to thank the Brooklyn community and our entire fan base for your unwavering support. You are instrumental in the team’s success and have helped us advance to the playoffs each year we’ve been in the borough.

Brooklyn is the only place to catch playoff basketball in New York and we are excited to see you at Barclays Center.

OK, I understand the slap at the Knicks. There's always going to be that competition.

But "the team's success"? The Nets were 38-44, six games under .500. That's success? No, that's called backing into the playoffs because the Eastern Conference couldn't get eight teams with winning records. Success? No, your team is a laughingstock, because you traded away every draft pick from now until Jay-Z and Beyonce's baby hits college age and you got nothing to show for it, except Paul Pierce sticking it right in your faces.

Success was the 35-19 record the Nets had with P.J. Carlesimo as their head coach. But GM Billy King decided that Carlesimo wasn't good enough and hired Jason Kidd first and then Lionel Hollins.

Success? Hardly. So the playoff series is even and there will be yet another playoff game in the only place in New York to see playoff basketball.

As the immortal Net Derrick Coleman once proclaimed, "Whoop-de-damn-doo."


The Mets have a 15-5 record after 20 games. That's not a misprint. It's the best mark they've had at this point in the season since the dream season of 1986.

Still, there are Mets fans who want to nitpick about every little thing. Dillon Gee isn't good. Daniel Murphy has lost it. They don't hit enough homers. Their infield defense is terrible. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Why not enjoy the success _ and yes, Brett Yormark, this is what is called success _ and stop the complaining? It's almost like Mets fans want to be miserable, that they enjoy misery.

Please, with this pitching staff, they can be a very good team and could make this summer very enjoyable for baseball fans and Mets fans, like for instance, me.

You can read more of my work at, and

Friday, April 10, 2015

Harvey Day provides hope; what's with the Tiger fuss?

As a diehard Met fan, like everyone knows that I am, Thursday provided a little slice of life.

The sun was shining, even though the weather reports said it was cold and raining.

The birds were chirping, even though none were spotted.

The coffee was piping hot, smelled good and tasted even better _ and I don't even drink coffee.

The world was right again, because Matt Harvey took the mound for the Mets. It was Harvey Day and our ace pitcher didn't disappoint, throwing six shutout innings, striking out nine, helping the Mets get a huge win over Steven Strasberg and the dreaded Washington Nationals.

Harvey hadn't taken the mound for the Mets in 19 long months. During that time, it was nice to see the development of Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler (now hurt) and watch the effectiveness of the ageless beauty Bartolo Colon.

But they weren't the ace of the Mets' staff. Harvey always had that distinction, much like Tom Seaver did in the 1960s and 70s and Doc Gooden did in the 1980s. To an extent, Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana had it briefly.

When those aforementioned pitchers took the hill, you knew the Mets had a good chance of winning. The world stopped spinning on its axis when Tom Terrific had the baseball in his hand and he was dragging that right leg, getting that knee dirty. Everything was just fine in 1985, when Gooden was high kicking and unleashing his Lord Charles curveball to the tune of 24-4.

That year, regardless of whatever you were doing, you stopped to watch Doc perform. Nothing else mattered. If you were out and about, you made sure you got home to see Gooden. Perhaps you even went to Shea to be part of the "K Corner." But the world was just fine when Doc had the baseball.

That's the way Thursday felt when Harvey made his triumphant return to the hill and pitched like he was never gone. Sure, there were some brief struggles early on, but the bottom line was six scoreless innings and a win over the divisional rival.

There was this sense of relief, like a boulder was lifted off my back. We had an ace again, that sense of security that comes when the ace takes the mound. It makes everything in the world right again.

Yes, it was indeed a happy Harvey Day and we'll get another Harvey Day in five days. And then five days after that. Because he's our ace, our No. 1, our king of the hill.

Matt Harvey is back and that makes everything right.

I don't understand all the fuss that was made about Tiger Woods making his return at the Masters.

After all, he is Tiger Woods. He's won that tournament and the green jacket that comes with it four times. He's an absolute icon in the sport, despite what his status is now.

So what's all the hubbub about him making his return to competitive golf in Augusta? Doesn't he deserve the opportunity to do whatever he pleases?

I have always been fascinated with the way the general public treats Tiger. You either like him or you totally despise him.

I know he's had a tough go of it over the last five years or so, both off the course (mostly) and on it. His off-the-course perception has taken a giant hit because of all his indiscretions and affairs. There was a time when you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing Tiger endorsing some product or another. Those days are gone. There are no more Tiger commercials. Frankly, he did that to himself and is paying the price.

But if he wants to step away for a month because he doesn't feel like he could be competitive, that's his right. If he wants to come back and play Augusta and spent the par-3 tournament with his kids as his caddie, that's his right as well.

With the umpteen tournaments and the many majors that he's won, Tiger has earned that right to do what he wants.

And if he wants to play middle-of-the-road golf and battle to make the cut at Augusta, that's his right as well.

His resume on the course speaks for itself.

Woods has been an absolutely spectacular personality since his days as a toddler swinging for Mike Douglas. He will always continue to dominate our attention because of his once-impeccable popularity. The game of golf frankly owes a lot to Tiger Woods, because he helped in a way to save the sport and in fact make it more accessible to others.

Throw out what he did off the course. He's still paying the fiddler for those mistakes.

But as a golfer and golfer alone, Tiger Woods has earned the right to play in whatever tournament he likes at whatever level he achieves. If he's not the same brilliant golfer, then so be it. But he should be allowed to play the Masters, a place where he once dominated, if he so chooses.

And who are we, the outsiders, to judge that right?

The winter weather was absolutely unbearable and simply won't end. The car thermometer read 43 degrees when I returned home from physical therapy at lunch time. And yes, it's April 10. Ridiculous.

With that in mind, it's time for the NJSIAA to seriously consider pushing the spring season's opening day back to April 15 from April 1, where it now stands.

It simply makes no sense to have teenaged kids out in this wicked weather, trying to compete. Chances are that we're going to get a serious arm injury or two out of baseball players who simply cannot warm up. If that's the case, then what good is having a baseball season at all?

Starting the season on April 15 and ending it during the first week of June, with the state playoffs then to follow, makes too much sense for New Jersey. Who cares if the season runs into the first weeks of June? Some say because some schools are already done for the summer by then. So what makes it wrong for those kids to compete in high school sports after they graduate? Who made that rule?

Have the practices begin in the first week of March, then the season begin April 15 and play until June makes too much sense.

Now here's to hoping that the NJSIAA agrees and changes the dates for the 2016 season. Because what has transpired over the first 10 days of this season has been nothing short of brutal.

You can read more of my work at, and, where there is a special tribute to the late Dave Minsavage of Hanover Park, the long-time baseball coach who died Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Exciting times for NJIT hoops; sticking by the Seton Hall blog

When Jim Engles took over the totally moribund men's basketball program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology seven years ago, the Staten Island native had an inkling of what he was getting into. After all, NJIT had just become an NCAA Division I program, much to the dismay of the former coach, who liked things the way they were as a Division II organization.

So in perhaps one of the most spiteful moves in athletic sports anywhere, the former coach (who will remain nameless here) went out and gave scholarships to kids who simply could not play and had no rhyme or reason being a Division I athlete. The Highlanders had perhaps two kids who could play on the Division I level _ and the rest could have a tough time playing Division III. That's how bad it was.

The results were just as bad. The Highlanders were 5-24 in their first year as a Division I program, playing with the Division II roster, then with that band of misfits, they went a robust 0-29 in 2007-08, forcing the school to fire the old coach and bring in the new and energetic coach from Staten Island.

Engles, a former assistant at places like Wagner and Columbia, knew that NJIT wasn't exactly the plum coaching position. But, hey, it was a chance to be a head coach at the Division I level. It was his opportunity, even if the program didn't win a single solitary game in the year prior to his arrival, even if he was inheriting an entire team that was already on scholarship _ but in essence, couldn't really play.

So Engles had to be patient and take his lumps. The losing continued, with a losing streak of epic proportions. NJIT lost an incredible 51 straight games over the span of two years, setting a new NCAA record for consecutive futility. Of course, there had to have been times when Engles had to wonder what in the world did he get himself into.

The streak finally ended on a cold night in January of 2009, when the Highlanders defeated Bryant. But the losses returned and the Highlanders ended the season with another 12-game losing streak and a 1-30 record in Engles' first campaign.

Imagine that. Engles gets his chance to be a head coach and the team he coaches wins one of 31 games.

Undaunted, Engles worked diligently to rebuild the tattered program he inherited. A year later, the Highlanders won 10 games, including a win in the opening round of the Great West Conference tournament.

Yes, that season, NJIT joined a conference called the Great West. The league didn't have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but it did offer home and away games with programs like North Dakota and South Dakota (yes, both of them), Utah Valley State, Chicago State and Houston Baptist. Those were some road trips.

In 2010-11, more improvement. The Highlanders went 15-15, including nine wins in the Great West Conference. They won 15 games again in 2011-12 and advanced to the Great West Conference tournament title game. A year later, the Highlanders won 16 games and won the Great West Conference regular season title.

But that year signified the end of the Great West Conference. The other teams in the league found permanent homes in established Division I leagues that owned automatic bids. The Highlanders became the nation's lone Division I independent, having to search far and wide for games, especially in February, when most conferences are in the throes of league play.

The Highlanders went 13-16 as an independent last year in what was a trying season, but the program welcomed in two recruits from New Jersey who were legitimate Division I studs who could play anywhere.

Guard Damon Lynn somehow flew under the radar from Union Catholic H.S. and had very few Division I schools interested in him. Forward Tim Coleman came from perennial national power St. Anthony, but wasn't really one of the top Friar players.

The two came in and electrified the program. Lynn was one of the top freshman scorers in the nation, averaging 17.2 points per game, the highest scoring average of any Highlander since the program went Division I. Coleman averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds as one of the more versatile performers.

The two this season have lifted the Highlanders to unthinkable heights. In December, they went to Ann Arbor, Michigan and managed to knock off the mighty Wolverines of Michigan, ranked No. 17 in the country at the time. The win helped to put the Highlanders on the national radar. Sales of NJIT merchandise skyrocketed in the school bookstore by an estimated 290 percent after the upset win.

The wins kept coming. There was a solid win over St. Francis of Brooklyn, which eventually came within a basket of going to the NCAA Tournament. There were great wins at the University of Maine and the University of South Alabama and a dominant home win over Hampton, which defeated Manhattan in the NCAA Tournament play-in game in Dayton two weeks ago.

But without a conference tournament and without a conference, the Highlanders literally had nothing to play for. Or so it seemed.

The College Tournament, known as the CIT, has been giving mid-major Division I programs a chance to extend their seasons. Recognizing the fine work by Engles and the Highlanders, the CIT extended an invitation to the Highlanders to participate in the CIT _ an invitation that NJIT gladly accepted, even if it meant defraying some of the cost to host games in the tourney.

The Highlanders hosted New Hampshire in the first round and with a packed sold-out crowd at Fleisher Athletic Center, they won and advanced. They then took on Cleveland State in the second round, also at NJIT, and won that game to move on.

Saturday night, the Highlanders took on Canisius in the quarterfinals and came away with a 78-73 win to advance to the CIT semifinals at the University of Northern Arizona Tuesday night at 9 p.m. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network beginning at 9 p.m.

Yes, this program that just eight years ago didn't win a single solitary game now has 21 wins this year and is headed to the Final Four of the CIT.

Sure, it's not the Final Four like the one in Indianapolis where Kentucky and Wisconsin are already headed. But it is a Final Four. There's only one college basketball program left playing in New Jersey and it's remarkably NJIT.

Some people may downplay the fact that it's not a big-time tournament. Try selling that to the 1,500 avid fans that were in the Fleisher Athletic Center Saturday night. They were electric and alive and loud. For the third straight game, there was a marching band and the band was certainly loud _ and not to mention brilliant.

In a stroke of genius, NJIT athletic director Lenny Kaplan found Cicely Tyson School for Performing and Fine Arts in West Orange to come and play for each of the three CIT games. No question, the band made a difference and helped the electricity in the gym.

Legendary Marquette head coach Al McGuire used to believe that a band was critical to a team's success and once hired a high school band in Atlanta to play at the 1977 NCAA Final Four. Well, thanks to the Cicely Tyson School for Performing and Fine Arts, the Highlanders are jetting off to Arizona today.

But the fans were really into the game last night _ and in fact, all three CIT games. Don't tell those people in attendance that the game didn't matter. The students, the fans, the faculty and alumni, they were all out in full force. So was Gov. Richard Codey, who attended all three CIT games. As did Mayor Raz Baraka. They were supportive of the Highlanders.

If this little postseason run doesn't help the Highlanders get into some league, any league, then nothing will. It has to give the Highlanders some credence, as does the news that the school plans on building a new $100 million athletic facility within the next two years.

Who knows if Engles will still be around to see the ribbon cut on the new building? His stock has skyrocketed this year. Yes, the guy who once had one win for an entire year is now on the list for three possible national Coach of the Year honors and is getting talked about for possible openings throughout the Northeast _ and beyond.

One thing is for sure: NJIT, whom I've had the pleasure to do the public address announcing for their men's and women's basketball games for the last nine years, as well as an assortment of baseball games, is no longer a laughingstock. You don't win 21 games and go to the Final Four of a Division I tournament by fluke. You're not the last Jersey team still standing in college basketball by accident.

Last June, the NJIT athletic family suffered a tremendous loss, when the affable Joe Caiola, the assistant athletic director and a former NJIT basketball standout in the 80s, died after suffering a heart attack in Florida. Caiola was only 57 years old. He was NJIT through and through and worked his tail off all year, coordinating events and the facilities for the athletic program.

Late Saturday night, as I walked out of the Fleisher Athletic Center and headed home quickly to see the end of the Notre Dame-Kentucky NCAA Tournament game, I got in my car, sat in front of the steering wheel and wondered just how truly proud my friend Joe would have been of his Highlanders.

Joe would have been gearing up for the trip to Arizona, getting out his best NJIT gear to wear with pride. He would have danced around the gym on a cloud Saturday night, wondering if what was happening was actually happening. It's almost criminal to think he's not here to enjoy all of this excitement. I have to hope that he's smiling down on all of us. I know he's still with me. I can picture him coming up to me during the game and saying with his big smile, "Isn't this great?"

Yeah, Joe, it's great. The only thing that isn't great is that you're not here to enjoy it with the rest of us.

There's an old saying that says, "Good things happen to good people." Heck, there's even a book, written in 2007 written by Dr. Stephen Post and Jill Neimark, that has the same title.

Well, Jim Engles is truly one of the good people in the sport of college basketball. He's been nothing but style, class and grace since the first day I met him more than seven years ago, when he was announced as the new head coach. Legendary sportswriter Cormac Gordon of the Staten Island Advance, who has known Engles since his high school days, told me that day, "You're going to love this guy. He's one of the best."

Well, no one should ever doubt Cormac. He was right. Engles has been nothing but the best since he came to NJIT. He's good people. And if good things happen to good people, then Engles should be entitled to all the good wishes the world has to offer. Right now, he's enjoying life with the NJIT Highlanders, the program he constructed from the utter depths of despair to an airline trip to Flagstaff later today. No one deserves this ride more than Engles. No one.

If it means he gets another job elsewhere, then it's our loss, but he's leaving knowing that the program is light years better off than where it was when he arrived, that he turned this thing around in miraculous fashion. If Engles somehow stays and NJIT somehow finds a league to call home, then everything is good in the world _ and the good things that happen to good people are the ones who work in the Garden State's biggest city.

This has clearly been the worst winter of my existence. I don't care about snow inch totals, because obviously, we've had more snow. But in terms of just brutal cold from the end of November straight through to today, there's just been nothing but hideous conditions.

The high school baseball and softball seasons are supposed to begin Wednesday. That idea is ridiculous, considering none of these teams have had enough time outdoors to properly prepare.

The NJSIAA should do the right thing and delay the start of the seasons for another week. I know that means a lot playing games in late May and early June, when things like proms and graduations are also taking place, but there are far worse things to happen than pushing back the entire calendar.

Will that happen? Of course not. So the seasons will begin Wednesday and the level of play will be diminished because of the lack of preparation. It's really sad how the spring sports always get the short end of the stick. Football has months to prepare. Baseball gets four weeks and five of those four weeks are in insane weather conditions. It makes only sense to do something to compensate for the poor spring weather locally, like starting the seasons on April 15 instead of April 1. Just a thought.

Finally, I took a ton of heat from people in the sports media business and then others who are just fans about the blog I wrote last month about Seton Hall.

There were some sportswriters who claimed I made up what I wrote, which is totally absurd. I'm not in the business of writing fiction and since I don't get paid for writing this blog, I certainly want to make sure it's as accurate as possible. There was one sportswriter, who has not been in the business that long, who went as far as to say that I didn't know at all what I was writing about.

Well, I've been doing this now for 32 years, which is longer than the unnamed critic has been on the planet. I must be doing something right if I keep getting work after three decades. If I was making up crap, I think I'd be working in the pet care department in Walmart or washing dishes at a local diner by now.

I wholeheartedly stick by that blog. I wasn't making anything up. I got the story from TWO very reliable sources, two people who don't even know each other, but had the same exact details. Now, wouldn't that be enough to go on? I stake my entire reputation on that blog.

I also put up Mergin and Jaren Sina's request that they refuted what I wrote, saying that the reason for Sina leaving the Seton Hall program was not racially based, which is what I wrote. So I obliged to what they wanted to have said and reported that the same day here.

Do I believe it? Actually, no, because something had to have happened to force a kid who was starting and playing 32 minutes a game suddenly leave in the middle of a season. Disgruntled kids quit over a lack of playing time, not when they're starting and second on the team in minutes played.

The elder Sina wouldn't confirm or deny that the racial taunts took place, rather he just didn't want it out there that Jaren left because of racial tension because the kid still wants to play college basketball somewhere for the final two years of eligibility. And there aren't a lot of schools who would take a kid who claimed racial problems was the reason for him leaving the previous school. I understood that.

I pressed both about the racial taunts that I heard and neither chose to answer it. So they might have refuted what I wrote, but they didn't address the reason why either.

Also, something had to have happened to have a team that was once nationally ranked totally collapse like no other college basketball team in history, losing 13 of their last 15 games and winning only once after February 1. Something triggered the rapid demise of that team and the obvious discord that the team had, despite what head coach Kevin Willard claims.

Willard tried to paint a picture that everything was just peachy keen with his program and nothing was wrong. Some writers even bought that claim from Willard, citing that he deserves another chance to win with this team.

Well, that's just garbage. A team doesn't get that bad overnight, regardless of whether the players are freshmen or even in diapers for that matter. Imagine using the excuse that the team was filled with freshmen? Well, "The Fab Five" were all freshmen. Did it hurt Michigan? Talent is talent is talent is talent. It overrides age and experience every day, especially when the talent is considered to be the one of the best recruiting classes in the country and definitely the best in the Big East.

Again, the purpose of the whole blog last month was to hopefully have the head coach stop blaming everything else under the sun for the team's problems and take a long look at himself, which obviously has not happened. Willard was using the young and inexperienced excuse for his team at season's end.

And since Willard has three years left on his contract _ and since he's the one that helped get AD Pat Lyons hired at Seton Hall, and then Lyons in turn gave Willard a ridiculous and unearned two-year contract extension _ Willard is going nowhere soon. Seton Hall is not going to buy out Willard and pay him for three years after they did the same thing with the bastion of basketball brilliance Bobby Gonzalez, when that shyster was shown the door five years ago.

Here's the one thing that cannot be ignored. Since Willard has taken over the Seton Hall program five years ago, the Pirates have a collective record of 82-81.

That's right _ just one game over .500 in five full years. But this is a coach who deserved a contract extension? Heck, the school fired Louis Orr and he only took them to the NCAA Tournament twice. At this rate, in comparison, Orr would be deserving a parade down Springfield Avenue.

To the detractors and critics, I say, "Bring it on." I've been at this for too long to stop now. To the people who say I fabricate things, that's just so untrue and wrong. At least the people who truly know me know exactly what I am. I might be full of bluster and hot air, but I'm not full of you know what.

And to those who wrote nasty e-mails saying that I didn't write the blog because I was avoiding the truth, the only reason why there was a blog delay is because I've been so busy with work (yes, paid work, thank God) I haven't had enough time to catch up on my needlepoint and butterfly collection lately. Like Cyndi Lauper once sang, "Money changes everything." 
You can read more of my work (yes, paid work) at,, and Or Google my name and have a field day.