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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.