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 www.hudsonreporter.com, www.theobserver.com and www.dailyrecord.com.