Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Knights Continue Climb Up Hill; Gonzo/Hall Update

On a day where Bobby Gonzalez was surprisingly fired at Seton Hall, Fred Hill will be returning to Rutgers next year after wide speculation that he would also be dismissed. (Photo courtesy of Newark Star-Ledger)

So much for the chances of all three New York-area Big East programs starting next season with new coaches.

After Bobby Gonzalez's shocking dismissal from Seton Hall, and Norm Roberts' future at St. John's still in limbo, Rutgers will be ushering in some continuity next season, as head coach Fred Hill will return to the Scarlet Knights for a fifth campaign on the sidelines in Piscataway. Hill met with Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti earlier this afternoon, and both share a commitment to continuing to build a program that has shown signs of improvement under guard Mike Rosario, who will enter his junior season next year, as well as 2009-10 standouts Jonathan Mitchell and Dane Miller.

While Rutgers will no longer have to look for a new coach, the same cannot be said for their Garden State counterparts, as Seton Hall fired Gonzalez after four seasons that saw just one postseason appearance for the Pirates, an NIT loss to Texas Tech last night by the score of 87-69 in a game that was essentially over before it even started. In a conference call earlier today, Gonzalez's official reason for termination was due to behavior not reflective of the university, a sentiment echoed by Seton Hall president Msgr. Robert Sheeran. Gonzalez's replacement has already been rumored to be selected from a list that includes Siena's Fran McCaffery, Iona's Kevin Willard and Hofstra's Tom Pecora. All three are also on the short list of successors to Norm Roberts should the St. John's head man not be retained. Another possibility, though highly unlikely, is that Bobby Knight, the NCAA's all-time wins leader among coaches, will return to the court after working as a color commentator with ESPN.

Gonzalez's tenure at Seton Hall was brought down by other factors than last night's loss, such as guard Keon Lawrence causing an accident driving the wrong way on the Garden State Parkway with a suspended license this past November, not to mention the off-court transgressions of junior forward Robert "Stix" Mitchell, unceremoniously thrown off the team by Gonzalez shortly before the Pirates learned of their invite to the NIT.

Mitchell was arrested last night in Newark for kidnapping, robbery, burglary and possession of a weapon after breaking into a South Orange, New Jersey home and stealing cash and other personal items from eight people, binding them with duct tape in the process. This incident comes just days after Mitchell voiced his discontent to the Bergen Record, where he bashed Gonzalez as "inconsistent," blaming him for a lack of consistency in his game as well.

Gonzalez was 66-59 in four seasons at the Hall, and had just signed a contract extension that would keep him on the sidelines for the Pirates through the 2014-15 season. His recruiting class for next season is now uncertain, although his prized commit, Paterson Catholic's Fuquan Edwin, is leaning toward maintaining his commitment to Seton Hall.

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