Former Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez embraces his former assistant Steve Masiello shortly after Jaspers defeat Iona 75-72 on buzzer-beating three from Manhattan freshman Emmy Andujar. (Photo courtesy of the author's personal collection)
He may be nearly two years removed from coaching a college basketball program, but the time away from the bench has done nothing to change the side of Bobby Gonzalez that too many people out there fail to see for a myriad of reasons. The charismatic, engaging, enthusiastic and personable Gonzalez that spent seven years turning Manhattan College into one of the most successful mid-major programs in the nation before matching or surpassing his previous season's win total in each of his four seasons at Seton Hall before his unceremonious firing in March of 2010 was back in full force last night, sitting two rows behind the Iona bench at the Hynes Center in New Rochelle to watch the Gaels take on his former Manhattan team now coached by former Gonzalez assistant Steve Masiello. When I reintroduced myself to Gonzalez, (I had done play-by-play on WSJU for three St. John's-Seton Hall games and attended each subsequent press conference, and spent 35 minutes with him at Big East media day in October of 2009) he could not thank me enough for how much I have defended him since his dismissal from Seton Hall, which included this piece after rumors linked him to the coaching vacancy at Miami ultimately filled by Jim Larranaga.
"Michael Glover called me last night," said Gonzalez before I could even ask him why he was in the crowd. "He said, 'Coach; you've been promising me that you would come to one of my games, and I'm a senior now.'" Gonzalez admitted to me that he had his reservations about attending the game last night; as he had not been to a MAAC game since coaching Manhattan in 2006, and did not want the media or public to get the wrong impression about his motives for attending the game. "I didn't want anyone to think I was rooting against Manhattan or Steve Masiello," Gonzalez told me; "but I told him (Glover) I would go and I would watch him. I'm not here to root, I'm here for Michael."
Glover; who was initially recruited to Seton Hall by Gonzalez before being declared ineligible, which started a year-and-a-half battle by Gonzalez and Glover to get the Bronx forward cleared, scored his 1,000th career point midway through the second half on an alley-oop from point guard Scott Machado. Glover finished the night with 18 points, good enough to give him a career total of 1,004 by the end of the night. Unfortunately for Iona, Glover's milestone moment turned out to be bittersweet; as Manhattan outscored the Gaels 27-7 over the final eight minutes of the game, punctuating the dramatic comeback with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from freshman Emmy Andujar. For someone who is more like Gonzalez than he may let on publicly, Masiello once again channeled his former mentor by taking down the popular choice to represent the MAAC in the NCAA Tournament in a similar fashion to how Gonzalez; with Masiello as an assistant, upset Florida in the first round of the "Big Dance" in 2004.
After the last-second shot was upheld following a review and Manhattan continued a celebration that actually started while the officials went to the replay monitor to deliberate whether or not Andujar actually beat the buzzer, Masiello made his way toward the Manhattan locker room. However, his journey was interrupted by the guest of honor that came to see the home team's star player.
"I thanked him for everything he's done for me," said Masiello after the game when asked about the interaction with Gonzalez. "It was great to see him." Shortly after the current Manhattan coach made his way off the court, I went over to discuss the aforementioned meeting of the minds with the former Manhattan coach. "I said 'You did a great job of keeping your kids in this,'" Gonzalez told me when I mentioned that it was nice to see Masiello engaging him after the game, which dispels the public myth of their icy relationship. Gonzalez later told me that Masiello said he "had a great teacher;" which prompted him to respond by crediting Rick Pitino for Masiello's evolution after the coach left Gonzalez to serve as an assistant coach at Louisville, where he had spent the last six seasons before his introduction in Riverdale last April as Barry Rohrssen's replacement. Masiello then told Gonzalez that most of his coaching was attributed to him, eliciting a congratulatory embrace from Gonzalez.
It really is a shame that Bobby Gonzalez makes headlines for alleged misdeeds involving a satchel; because he really should be gaining media attention for his positive impact on college basketball, which was once again exhibited last night just outside the New York city limits.