Claiming his superiors were fully up to speed with the histories of his Seton Hall squad (“they were very well aware of all of their backgrounds…they admitted every one of them”) recently fired Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez was unusually forthcoming with the Newark Star-Ledger’s Brendan Prunty this morning, especially considering the 66-59 educator has a wrongful termination suit against the school still pending.
Star-Ledger: Take us through that meeting on March 17. How were you notified? How did everything go down?
Bobby Gonzalez: Going back to the night before, obviously was a tough night for us. The student body was a little negative. Herb Pope was thrown out of the game. A lot of bad things happened. We didn™t play well. I think we were very, very let down to be in the NIT because our goal was really to get to the NCAA. There wasn™t a big crowd and the wind was really out of our sails. It was a tough night. So from that negativity, the next morning I got a phone call to come in and meet with Monsignor. I had a feeling that it was not going to be a positive meeting. But certainly I didn™t expect it to be a meeting of termination.
SL: Do you feel that you were fired because everything came to a head in that NIT game?
BG: I think it was a hasty, knee-jerk reaction to a public relations nightmare and they needed somebody to take the fall because they didn™t want to get any dirt on their hands. Because as you know, at times ” especially at Catholic schools ” there can be a very hypocritical, ˜We want you to win, but if something goes wrong …™
SL: There was a lot made of player conduct ” both on and off the floor. Do you feel that you took on too many risk players?
BG: In 11 years as a head coach, I never had a player arrested, thrown out of school, failed out of school. Never had anything like that. Certainly I did take a chance on some risky students, some borderline kids that were transfers. Maybe a junior-college kid here and there, but you know, I talked to P.J. Carlesimo when he was there and he told me it took him six years to get the program going. And he almost got fired.
I looked back at all the coaches at Seton Hall and what they did to be successful and they always took the same type of kids. Foreign players, transfers, some JuCo kids, some inner-city kids. And I felt that was what I needed to do to be successful at a place like Seton Hall. Once you win, you can be a little more selective and you can be a little more shrewd in who and how you™re going to recruit. And I felt like we were heading in that direction.