Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Bobby Gonzalez Interview: Full Transcription

As transcribed by Pat McCabe

The following is the transcript of an interview aired on Pirate Primetime by 89.5 FM WSOU.

Guest: Bobby Gonzalez
Host: Jeremiah Sullivan and Steve Faulks
Time: 60 Mins.

WSOU: Well Bobby, welcome to the studios, how are you doing today?

BG: I appreciate it you guys having me, Jerry and Steve, and I also want to apologize for our recruiting stuff that was going on the night I was supposed to be on the show a week or so ago, but better late than never.

WSOU: Alright, well we appreciate it. Today was a busy day for you guys, Meet the Team Party, great turnout, had a scrimmage yesterday against Fordham, so a lot of things going on for Seton Hall basketball, moving those wheels to the kick off of the 08-09 season.

BG: Well that’s right. Its been a busy 48 hours. We had our first scrimmage yesterday at 1 o’clock a closed scrimmage against Fordham. We were very happy with our effort. I think we ended up winning by lets say 17 or something like that. Coaches don’t care too early in the year about winning and losing in scrimmages, but you just want to work on stuff, get better, and to come back to back. Today we had the blue/white game along with the Meet the Team day, so its really been a whirlwind for the kids and I think that, uh, considering we had 8 guys yesterday and 10 guys today, they really played hard both days, and I liked what I saw.

WSOU: Now me and Steve were talking about this earlier, but what do you think you’ve seen out of this team today, exposure to the fans letting them see what is to come, how did you feel about the effort on the court today, good, bad, indifference?

BG: Well I think first of all, I got to believe, I didn’t get to talk to all the fans who were there, but I got to believe they saw the talent and the promise not only for this season, but the future. When you see a guy like Keon Lawrence and Herb Pope, you know, its got to be pretty obvious that they are special players and they are going to be big time, big time players. Then, when you look at the rest of the team, I think you got to see that a lot of guys have improved a lot, like a Mike Davis, uh, just different things jump out at you. And you know, a new guy like Jordan Theodore, I think is going to be terrific. And then I think that the team has a lot of heart, a lot of spirit, a lot of quickness, I think we’re talented. I think we’re going to be a dangerous team.

WSOU: Well before we start with basketball, since basketball obviously isn’t the full part of your life, earlier last season you had a daughter, so how is she? How are you adjusting to the role of being a father?

BG: I appreciate you asking. She uh, its now November so we are about 27 or 26 days away from her being one [year] old. She’s doing great, she is a little cutie, uh she is starting to be just about ready to walk and just about ready to talk. My wife is doing a fantastic job. She deserves all the credit, because, you know, I can only spend a little time with her in the morning, and sometimes by the time I get home at night she is already sleeping. But, it’s really fascinating just like everybody says. It really does change your life, it’s not just something people say.

WSOU: Now basketball, being a head coach in the Big East, brings a lot of work in general but do you lose a little bit of sleep with the new one running around?

BG: Well, I’ll tell you what, I never slept much anyway. You know, coaches don’t sleep a lot during the season especially when the games start. You know I once heard a couple of coaches, you know, who said, and it’s a great line, they said its [being a coach] is a great job until the games start. Once the game starts all heck breaks loose. I mean, coaches during the season, you know their stomachs are in knots, you come off a win. You see the toughest part about it is when the games get going, you win a game, you want to enjoy it, but you can’t really take too much time to enjoy it, because you got another game right around the corner. You lose a game, and you can’t hang on to it too long because you got another game right around the corner. So, win or lose, during the season, coaches don’t sleep a lot anyway.

WSOU: Well there you go, the nature of being a Big East coach. Now when you were hired, just about 3 years ago to take over for Louis Orr, what expectations have you set out for yourself, and which do you think you have accomplished, and which still remain ahead of you?

BG: Well I think first of all, from a standpoint of non-tangible goals, like not talking about how many games you want to win, or getting to the post season or things like that. Non-tangible goals like that, we had a lot of them, and we’ve reached a decent amount of them. And some of those would be like, we had to revamp the roster. You know, we didn’t have a lot of toughness, we didn’t have a lot of quickness, we didn’t have a lot of athleticism, we didn’t feel like we had a lot of guys who fit our style of play, like our system. And I think in the last two, two and a half years we’ve had to take a lot of chances and make some changes. You know, we took the job late, so, the first recruiting class was really a wash. You’re grabbing some guys, you’re trying to take some chances on what is available. Then the next recruiting class, you’re still behind the 8-ball because you’re playing catch-up So, its really taken us almost two full years and then some to sort of get 8, 9, 10 guys that are kind of comparably, like the way I want to play, with athleticism, toughness, quickness, uh, mobility, things we would look for. So I think those, they were some of things that were goals for us.
Some other things would be winning mindset, a defensive mindset, discipline, structure, getting in great shape, you know that’s always been a staple of mine, of me as a coach. I want to have great conditioning and I think that a lot of that stuff now, is established, kind of like, our style of play, our conditioning, the roster, the changes, so now its, ok, what are some tangible goals. One was, alright win as many games as you can, be competitive. I think we did that. Then we moved to the Prudential Center. Last year we wanted to get a couple of big wins, maybe have some sellouts, pump up the student body, uh improve the attendance. We beat Louisville, you know we won 17 games, we wanted to get to the Big East Tournament, we did that. So, I think that we wanted to over-achieve. We got picked 13th, we went to 11th. We got picked 15th, we went to 13th, we got picked 13th we went to 11th. Now I think that we have to take that next step. Now are we going to be able to do that this year? Maybe, maybe not. They kept us in the same spot, they picked us 13th. The way I see it is, we don’t have a lot of pressure, because their expectations aren’t high. I think they are underestimating this team, but we have to prove that on the court, and I do think that I’m not playing for next year because of our roster, so I’m not saying that the future is bright, or fans need to wait, you know, until we get Melvyn Oliver or Michael Glover, or Herb Pope or Keon Lawrence. What I’m saying is that in the next year, to year and a half to two years, we think we are not only going to be moving into the top 8, but could be one of the better teams, who knows, maybe even in the country, maybe we can move up into the top 40. This roster, to me, we have some scary possibilities with the future of this team.

WSOU: Commissioner Mike Trangehse during the off season, you guys sat down, had a nice conversation about a multitude of things. Coming out of that, his quotes saying that he loves your passion, and he said, you know you are basically learning how to coach within your passion, how does that, getting support from the commissioner to you, basically just knowing that he understands what you are trying to do and set out and accomplish, and that you have his support?

BG: Well, I think it’s a huge, I think it’s a great thing. What I think it did was, especially for the media members and anyone that was negative, and kind of just, there was such publicity this spring and summer. Different negative connotations and negative publicity that happened and I think he shut a lot of people up. And I think he sent a message loud and clear. Let me go back for a second, and maybe give you guys some history and hopefully I can freelance, I hope its ok, just take these,

WSOU: By all means.

BG: By all means, I don’t know if there is a certain amount of time, you know me, I’m dangerous, so you might have to stop me, I can give a long answer. But, I want to just give a little bit of history here. First, I was an assistant coach at Providence College, so I go way back with Mike Tranghese, I know Mike Tranghese you know, when he, before he became the commissioner, when Dave Gavett, just about when he was becoming, getting into office. Ok, and the other thing is, uh, I am very friendly with his wife, Susan, she is a part owner of a restaurant in Manhatten. She know myself and my wife very well, so I had a great relationship with Mike Tranghese’s wife, Mike was very instrumental when I was in Manhatten, the 7 years I was at Manhatten, he was very instrumental in me being involved with the Big East, people calling me about Big East jobs, talking with me about the Seton Hall job, being in my corner for me to be hired at Seton Hall. So Mike, believe it or not, behind the scenes, he doesn’t get involved, you know, in telling the school who to hire, but her certainly is a guy they, you know, whenever there is a job open in the conference, here’s a brain trust of a brilliant man who has been an incredible commissioner, that Presidents or ADs bounce things off of him. So you know, I was in touch with him a lot when I took the Seton Hall job, and we talked about the history of the program, and what I’ve accomplished before I got here, things like that. So that’s the first thing. I think there was a lot of, a lot of misunderstanding that people thought, well Mike Tranghese doesn’t like Bobby because he is young, he is cocky, he is coming into the league, he is too emotional, too passionate, he is too this, or too that. The media, I think there was a wrong perception out there and that’s the first thing. I also think that what happened was, that going into my second year, as you know, I think you guys are aware of this, not only Mike Tranghese and the conference, but everybody in the NCAA made a big thing about bench decorum, box rule, coaches behavior, everything being a big deal, going into my second season. And that was very well documented, well talked about, it was in the tapes that everyone had to watch at the beginning of the year. All the coaches had to listen in the meetings down in Florida, so I think that it was a combination of a lot of things. I think that it was the timing of everything, it was me going into my second year, and then when I think that me and Mike Tranghese finally talked, what we talked a lot about was, he wanted me to understand that I was no different, that Willy Macerino, Lou Carnaseca, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun. When they came into the conference 10, 12, 15, 20, 30 years ago, they all felt the same way. That the favorites are getting all the calls, that the guys who have been around the longest are getting hooked up, that the young guys get the toughest, you know a tough draw, that, you know, you know you’re fighting against the stream. So basically he was trying to say, Bobby, everyone knows you can coach, everyone knows you can recruit, you know, don’t feel like, you know you have to fight, scratch and crawl and battle, everything is life and death, you know, do your thing ,you’re doing great, and that was basically his message. You know that he was supportive of me and Seton Hall, he knew that Monsignor [Sheeran] was in my corner, that the administration hired me because they knew what I was about, they knew I was aggressive, they knew what they were getting when they hired me, and that was really what we talked about. The suspension was really just something, I made a mistake, I said the wrong things at the wrong time at the end of the year, and in a highly uh, highly emotional state after the Rutgers rivalry game, senior day, 3 tough losses in a row at the buzzer, St. Johns, Rutgers, the one before that was Villanova. So I think I was just very frustrated, we didn’t make the NIT, we didn’t make the NCAA, we had Paul hurt, we had John hurt, and I went into the press conference, and I just made a mistake, bad judgment, and I think Mike wanted to make it clear that Bobby, you had to get reprimanded because it’s the right thing for you, for the league, for everybody. And then I had to kind of take a step back and be humble and say, he is the commissioner, whatever the administration wants, I’ll do, I’ll take the blame, I made a mistake, I’m a young coach, I’ll be different in the future. And then from that point on, we all felt like it went away, but I think because of Lenny Robinson’s article in the spring from the [New York] Post, and from rival schools that wanted to use things against you in recruiting, they wanted to perpetuate and keep things going, and then all of a sudden you have such negative publicity that when Mike Tranghese finally came in this year, he shut a lot of people up by his statement, so, sorry for the long answer, but its important to me,

WSOU: No, its an important answer. It was a good answer.

BG: Ever since the Big East Media Day, every single time I read an article, they never really have the full story. They think Mike said something he had to say, or I said something I had to say, it’s not like that at all. I had a great relationship with Mike Tranghese, I respect him, I don’t know how they are going to replace the guy, I think he is brilliant, I think he kept the league together at a tough time, when the league could have gone south, when they lost Miami and Boston College to the ACC, and I think the guy is brilliant. So he has been helpful to me, he loves coaches, I think he is always in a coach’s corner, he would stick up and fight for any of the 16 coaches, and uh, I think he feels I am going to be successful here, that I’m going to win here, so uh, you know I’m looking forward to the whole situation. I think the suspension is going to be a blip on the radar screen more than it’s going to be something that will last very long.

WSOU: We appreciate you being so forth coming and honest in your answer and helping us understand.

BG: Well maybe it well help other people understand. Maybe it will help some of the media members can listen to this show and it will help them.

WSOU: Well there you go, hopefully they will tune in and hear how it all really went down. Another question for you, the in state rivalry between Seton Hall and Rutgers was dormant, prior to really you and Fred Hill both coming on. How has that changed? How is it on the recruiting scene? How is it to try to keep these guys in state, how difficult is it to keep these players within the state? Your thoughts?

BG: Well it’s a great question you know, because I don’t want to knock Gary Waters, who you know I certainly have a lot of respect for, we once shared the same agent, Louis Orr, good guys, both from Ohio, uh, different personalities from a guy like Freddy or myself. But when I got here, everybody kind of told me the same thing, that you kind of got two guys who are from the Midwest that aren’t really recruiting a lot of local New York/New Jersey kids, and for whatever reason the rivalry has kind of lost its luster, lost its flavor, lost its east coast. You know, at least guys like Gene Halloway and Jerry Walker, guys who, you know, guys that were telling me about Seton Hall were kind of telling me this, that, you know coach, I think Seton Hall/Rutgers rivalry has changed a lot just because the coaching staffs and the recruiting philosophies. Now, all of a sudden, Freddy Hill gets hired at Rutgers, he is an aggressive east coast recruiter, he is a Jersey guy, he was born and raised in the state of New Jersey, so he is going after all these guys. He got the job there before I got the job here at Seton Hall. He had a year under his belt with Gary Waters and then of course, he got the job before I got to Seton Hall so he is going after Randy Foy, I mean, I’m sorry, Cory Chandler and all these other guys. So he gets the job and we’re trying to recruit in New York and Jersey, so I think what has happened over the last two years is that, first of all you have two young, well I don’t know how young, aggressive recruiters, east coast style of recruiters. He might be a little more in Jersey, I might be a little more in New York, but you have two aggressive east coast recruiters. Then what you have are kids who have grown up playing against each other, ever since they were in 8th grade, 10th grade, 11th grade, AAU circuit, a guy like Keon Lawrence grew up with Cory Chandler from Newark. A guy like Jordan Theodore, yesterday we scrimmaged against Fordham, he played against Gio Fontana, from St. Anthony’s. So what’s going to start happening is, the longer I’m at Seton Hall, the longer Freddy Hill is at Rutgers, and the more east coast kids we recruit, the more heated, and the more flavor, and the more excitement because there kids have all played against each other, the know each other, they grew up together, they battled in high school, they battled in AAU, so that’s the major thing, that’s the first big part of it. I think the next big part of it is that we’re both in the state of New Jersey, and we’re both fighting to get good in a Big East Conference with 16 teams, where the league is so darn good, where we grab Eugene Harvey and we really split the last two years. Last year people thought we were better than Rutgers and we beat them at their place and then at our place we are up by 17 but then we lost to them at the buzzer, so were we better? We had a better year, we had 17 wins, we got to the Big East Tournament, they didn’t, but we split when we played them. The year before that, they got picked ahead of us, and we split when we played them. So what happens in a rivalry sometimes, rivalry games, you might think one team is better than the other, but once you play them, each other, you might split, or one team might go 0-2. So I think that its just the better they get and the better we get the better it is for the state of New Jersey, both schools, and I think the better it is for the conference, because I think now, maybe we can convince more kids from New York/New Jersey that they don’t have to go to the Pittsburghs, the Louisvilles, the Syracuses the Connecticuts in order to be good. Hopefully Seton Hall and Rutgers can continue to move up. Now I think we got picked 13th, and Rutgers got picked 12, I believe, so right now we’re still a work in progress, and they are supposed to be better than us this year, but it goes in cycles. See we’re waiting on guys, the brought in Gregory Echinique, and Mike Rosario, they got some seniors this year, which we don’t have, and then next year, maybe we are supposed to be a little bit better than them. Its going to go back and forth, the key I think is, if we can both get good, and we can move up into the top 8 in the conference, now you’re talking, cause now its really a rivalry if we’re both in the top 8 of the Big East out of 16 teams.

WSOU: Talk about replacing the guys that left. Shaheen left, Steve Sowers left. You brought in Denis Kazimir and Roderick Rhodes, talk about why they fit into Seton Hall University and to your program, and what else they can bring themselves into the program?

BG: Definitely, I think first of all, we’ve had some great assistants so far, and I think the only problem is when you get guys at the lower level spots. When I say that, I mean, Administrative Assistant, Director of Basketball Operations, they tend to be young, single guys who work hard and don’t make a lot of money, so they’re real good, cause we’re at a place like Seton Hall were they are visible, so the only bad part about that is that their upward mobility is very high. So I hire a guy like Jeff Billet, and he gets snatched up at his dream school, at CBA where he played. A guy like Sheen Halloway who is in the 5th spot here at Seton Hall and all of a sudden he is full time at Iona after one year, so those guys were great for like a year. Then you turn around and you hire Steve Sowers and Elvis, Steve did a great job, and Elivs did a great job, all of a sudden Steve gets hired as a top guy at Iona, Elvis goes to the NBA, 26 years old, he is the Phoenix Suns video coordinator. So, that’s the only problem with having good guys, is that sometimes you lose them quick, but now you replace those guys with two more guys who I think are quality guys, Denis Kazimir, who went to Seton Hall, he is from the Seton Hall family, he is from around Jersey, he loves Seton Hall, he has worked here for 3 years. He has done the Hoop Group for Rob Kennedy for 5 years, he knows like every high school coach, AAU coach, he knows a lot of kids. He got about 30 kids in the house today for our blue/white game. So he is just a hard working, kind of a bull dog, a pit-bull kind of guy that is going to come into the office everyday and chip away and be a lot like Steve Sowers and Elvis. Then you get a guy like Rhodes. Its kind of like, you know you don’t even have to talk about it. A guy like Roderick Rhodes who is a 6-7 guy, was a number one player in the country at St. Anthony’s 3 years in a row, 10th, 11th, and 12th grade on the number one team in the nation. He goes to Kentucky to play for Rick Petino, but then he ends up playing for Henry Bibby at USC he makes the the NBA for like 5 years, ends up playing for Rudy Tomjanovich and Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets, I think he was with the Grizzlies, he played overseas. He has a long and illustrious career, 10 or 12 years, making a lot of money. Last year he was with Travis Ford at UMass, you get a kid like Roderick Rhodes who is 35 years old, he comes back to Jersey City. He was a huge name in the state of New Jersey who was recruited heavily by PJ Carlesimo back when they had Jerry Walker and Terry Dehere. They tried very hard to get Roderick, but Roderick went to Kentucky. Now all of a sudden Roderick is here on the staff and he is just an unbelievable role model for our players. I mean if you want a guy that the players can look up to, here is an African American guy who came from Jersey City, got his degree, made the NBA, I mean if our players can’t relate to that, plus he is just a classy guy, well spoken, just if you ever meet him he is a sweet heart of a guy. So I just think he brings a lot to the table and the fans are going to love him.

WSOU: Not considering Keon or Herb Pope, this recruiting class, is this the most talent you have on his roster?

BG: Without question this is the most talented team. I know the fans out there, there is a little [anxiety], and they are frustrated, and I understand that, with hey, we’re all holding our breath, we’re waiting to see what happens with Melvyn Oliver, we are confident that he will be cleared, we know its taken a long time. To educate some of the fans out there, by the way with some of these things, is that there is a new eligibility center, it used to be different than in the past when they went about getting kids to be eligible. There was two separate things with the NCAA. There was an area that dealt with, a clearinghouse that dealt with courses, and another part that dealt with SATs and ACTs and things like that. They moved it all under one roof now, out in Indianapolis, it’s a whole new things starting this year, and its called the eligibility center, and I’m not saying it was easier to get guys cleared in the past, because maybe they weren’t in the same building, but its hard to kind of explain that, but what is happening now because there is a whole new situation set up, is that they are a lot more thorough, and its takes a lot more time, I think they break everything down now, its just a whole different system than it used to be. So I just want to throw that out there for fans who are thinking why is it taking so long and what happened last year with Michael Glover, and why is it taking so long for Melvyn Oliver. Its not that you can really predict or project that. People said, well coach didn’t you know that this could happen when you took these guys? But you have to understand that these guys on paper and in writing are eligible, so when we bring them here, we expect them to be cleared. Now if it takes longer than we expected its because you can’t know all the time which cases the NCAA is going grab and see, well these guys went to multiple high schools, this young man I need to look at over here, this guy I need to check this out, this guy has a learning disability, this guy doesn’t. So I just want to throw that out there to educate our fans. I don’t want to go off too much and get to your original question. I want to say I am confident in this roster. I have concerns, yeah I have questions, are we ever going to get Michael Glover on the court, is Melvyn Oliver going to get cleared, if so, when? What is going to happen with Keon Lawrence, is he going to play in December. Yes we have questions, but the coaches job at the end of the day, when I look at the team, everyday in practice, when I look at the future of the program, I walk away saying, this is the most talent I have had here at Seton Hall, it’s the most comfortable I have felt with the roster since I took the job, I know what it take to build a program because I was at Xavier with Pete Gillan, I was at Providence and we got to the Elite 8 at Providence, when Rick Barns left we were kind of down at the bottom. When I left Providence and went to Virginia, we took over for Jeff Jones and started at the bottom and helped Pete build that up. When I came to Manhattan they were picked at the bottom of the league and we built that up. When I came to Seton Hall and we were picked 15 out of 16, I had already been through 5 or 6 rebuilding jobs. So when I say that this roster has the most talent that I’ve seen, I mean that in the next couple of years, this team could be a Sweet 16 type team with some breaks. You need some luck, you have to keep everybody healthy, make sure they are eligible, you have to get a couple of pieces to go with what we got, but I know I’m probably putting pressure on myself by saying something like that and the fans out there might think that is a bold prediction but I’ve been to the Elite 8 at Providence, and almost to the Sweet 16 at Manhattan, so I’m telling you that this team is going to be terrific in the next year to two years.

WSOU: Now coach this team you are talking at has three captains this year. These captains, how did you pick these players, you look at them, what do you expect from them, how did you pick these players?

BG: Well I think that’s another good question. Paul Gause, natural leader. 4 years, senior, fan favorite, energy guy, toughness, battle back from the ACL injury, he looks tremendous to me, you can’t even tell he was ever hurt. He has got that football mentality, and I think he’ll be a great captain. John Garcia, the reason why we went with him even though he is not a pure senior is that he is another 4 year guy. He has battled through some surgeries, just a hard working guy. Eugene might have been a little bit of a surprise pick for a couple of people, but the reason why I did it is he is a junior now, he has played a lot minutes. He was a big recruit who took a leap of faith in believing in me when I first got the job. I wanted to sort of reward his loyalty. He has grown up a lot and has matured on and off the court. And I always like to put a junior with the two seniors because I always like to have the junior coming back as a captain for the future. So we wanted to reward Eugene a little bit, and I think he has responded to that. The other thing I think it forces you to do when you are picked as a captain is then all of a sudden you are forced to be a little more verbal, and the more verbal he gets, I think that will make our team better.

WSOU: Now with the short roster, and a couple of situations waiting to be worked out, you made the choice to take walk-ons. What went into the thought process of whether we should, and now that you are taking a look at walk-ons, how many do you expect to add or at least hope to add, and then once they are on the team, what are you expecting from them?

BG: I am ready to answer all of those things. First and foremost, it wasn’t that I was against coaching and picking walk-ons, in my lifetime, its just the problem is being at small schools at a place like Manhattan or Seton Hall, its not like a big school where there are a lot more kids around who are willing to sacrifice that kind of time to be apart of a team even though they are not on scholarship. A lot of kids get academic money so they have to keep their grades up to a certain level to keep that money. Its not easy to take a kid who is not on scholarship and say look, we want you to practice 3 or 4 hours a night, 6 or 7 days a week, you know maybe not get into a lot of games, maybe not get into a lot of practice and half a big part in the drills. When kids want to be managers, you know they really want to be around the team. When kids want to be walk ons, you know they want to be a part of the team, and it’s a big sacrifice. Though I almost feel a little guilty, that its unfair that you’re not giving them a lot, you can give them some gear, they can travel, they can go on some trips, get some food here and there, but you can’t do that much for them. So I found that its hard to keep walk ons because its hard for them to stick with it. It’s a five or six month season, sometimes guys want to do it at first but they quit because they can’t stay with it and I don’t like to take guys on and then they don’t last. Its not that I’ve ever been against walk ons, its just that I’ve always felt that its so important to take care of the guys, the young guys who are coming off the bench, and making sure they get a spot in drills, and making sure that you don’t just coach the top 7 or 8 guys, but that you coach all 12. So in the past, I have kind of shied away from it. But this year, we need the help in practice, we need the help off the bench, in terms of the camraderie. We need a couple extra bodies to help us in terms of the scout team, things like that in order to get ready for the games. So what we are planning on for this Tuesday [November 4th] we are expecting a great turnout. We sent out a flyer and advertisements on the internet, and we actually got 19 kids who signed up, which I’m shocked about, because I thought we would only get about 5 or 6 kids to show up. And of those 19 kids we’ve already gotten some phone calls and done some research and we are certainly aware of a young man who came out of Long Island who was a 6-5 Division I recruit that could have gone to some D-I schools but came to Seton Hall again, because he got some academic money, he came here for a certain major, and he is going to try out, he filled out his paper work. We are pretty excited about him, because he is a 6-6 kid who if not a Big East player he is at least a D-I player who could have gone on scholarship to some Division I schools. Then there is a young guy who apparently transferred here from Canisus who I heard is a pretty good guard. Then there is another kid who apparently came here from Holy Cross. So there are going to be some kids that my staff is going to put through some workouts and the number that we’re looking for, you know we though that 2 might be too little, 4 might be too many, so I’m looking in the neighborhood of 3 guys who we feel that if we feel comfortable with, that is a pretty good number. Now you never know we could get surprised and say wow there are more than 3 really good guys here or we could say that it only makes sense to take 2, but what we’re going to do is to let everyone know, we wanted to get through the first 6 or 7 weeks of the preseason so that it wasn’t unfair to these guys to go through the boot camp like stuff so when we do bring them in and they have to get in shape and learn some of the plays we will be closer to the games so it will be more fair that they didn’t have to go through all the stuff the scholarship guys went through. But what we are going to do is, the tryouts are Tuesday night, we are going to try to move quick we are going to try to settle on 3 or 4 guys, do some interviews, check with their high school coaches, check what kind of character they have we want to make sure their parents are ok with it. We certainly don’t want them to be distractions to the team, so its things like that. If we find the right two or three guys we will have them join the team, and hopefully the student body can relate to that, and come to the games and cheer for some of the guys that are on the bench, and some of the walk ons. And hopefully we will have a couple games where we are up and they will be yelling for me to put them in, because that means, when they are yelling for the walk ons they are either up 20 or down 20, and I like to be up 20 rather than down 20

WSOU: Just to clarify in the rules, is there a limit on how many kids you are allowed to have on the bench?

BG: Boy that’s a very good question, I have to check that. I know that like there is a certain number you can travel with, say, right now you might not be able to travel with more than 15 guys, so we have to find out how many guys are in the travel party, and as you say how many can sit on the bench and suit up. But most likely, we won’t go over that number. We have 9 healthy eligible guys until we find out about Keon, and then you throw another 3 in there, so we want to be close to the 14-15 guy range and the reason we want that is, in practice, you always want to have 2 teams, even if a guy is a little banged up or injured or banged up, so you can sit them on the side, but you can still prep 5 guys, and you want what is called the scout team, and you can take the walk ons, and maybe a guy that sits out and a young guy and have them run the other teams’ offense, or Saint Francis’s defense, or Columbia’s offense, or USC’s stuff. And that is why you need the bodies, because you need to be able to prep for the games. But I want there to be a down to earth kind of guy, I don’t want them to think I’m some guy sitting up in an Ivory tower and you know they never see me, except for at games, you know I want to be a coach where the student body comes and they are at the games and I’m high-fiving them and they’re high-fiving me, and getting me pumped out and we’re getting them pumped up and we all win, and they are connected with our players, and that means a lot to me. And the more we get this arena going, and I think the more energy we get down there, I think the better it is for our program and our team and I think that starts with the student body.

WSOU: Was the win over Louisville really the pinnacle of what that building can become with a force in there like that?

BG: Absolutely, I mean in the last 3 minutes of that game when we were down by 14, when Jeremy Hazell just got in the zone and starting hitting threes, and the student body got going, and I think they rushed the court when the game ended. It was just a shot in the arm to your program when you beat a top team at home I mean them and Georgetown were the top teams last year that fought all the way down to the last regular season game to see who was going to win the league going into the Big East Tournament, and being an epic coach like Rick Petino and I just though that the student body was our 6th man, the fans were just tremendous, and our players, every time a game comes up from last season, the first thing people bring up is the Louisville game from last season.

WSOU: The next set of questions is going to break down the in game strategy especially since you are going to be going with probably only 8 guys on scholarship, and a short bench. How do your offensive and defensive strategies change from years past, if you even consider changing them?

BG: No I think those are very fair questions, and I think that what you do is you still want to be who you are the core of what you do remains the same in terms of pressure D, up and down the court offense toughness, you know, fight, scratch crawl, but I think the place we have to be a little different is we have to be a little judicial about how much we are going to press, maybe turn it on like a light switch, maybe you are going to play a little more zone, maybe you are going to use two big guys with 3 guys, and then play smalls. Sometimes be big, sometimes be small. In other words, be creative. Use new substitution patterns, use things that aren’t traditional you know. The thing is, I’ve never had to, I’ve always had to coach that way anyway, and that’s how I’ve coached all my life, so I’m comfortable with it. Like, I’m not that worried about what’s going to happen. Obviously everyone would love to have a 12 or 13 all healthy, eligible roster with 2 shooters, 2 big guys, 2 this, 2 that, like Kansas, they’re like Noah’s arc, they have two of everything. We would love to be like that, but I think most of the time, at a place like Seton Hall if the 8 guys you have are tough, if they are mentally tough and willing to go to war and play hard I think they can win games.

WSOU: You answered it a little in the last question, but how are you going to use the big men? John Garcia, Mike Davis, and Brandon Walters, even Robert Mitchell. Are we going to see 20-25 minutes at the 4 for Robert Mitchell, kind of like Brian Liang? Or are you going to try to use two of the traditional big men, Mike Davis, John Garcia on the court most of the time?

BG: I think what you just said, and what I said are both. We are going to do both. Early in the year like when we play the St. Francis’s and Columbias of the world we are going to play Sticks [Robert Mitchell] at the four and go quick and play 4 in, 1 out, and play John Garcia inside and Melvyn Oliver if he is eligible and Mike Davis and at times when we get against the USC and the Big East that start two big guys, we are going to try Garcia and Mike Davis, John Garcia and Brandon Walters, Mike Davis and Brandon Walters, you know different combinations of bigs along with different, the other thing we can do is that is kind of interesting is you can play Jordan and Eugene together, you know two guards, times that we can play Eugene, Jordan and Paul, I’m sorry, three little, quick guards. There will be times when we can put Jeremy at the 2 and Robert Mitchell at the 3, which means we have big wings, two 6-5 wings that can really score with a point guard and two big guys. So even though we will only have 8 guys until we find out about Melvyn and Keon, and maybe Glover can join the December thing. But whats going is they are pretty interchangeable and pretty reversible so we can kind of use a lot of combinations within that 8, so obviously the big thing is going to be foul trouble, and keeping an eye on foul trouble.

WSOU: Coach, next month when the team heads down to Puerto Rico, you have a big tournament coming up down there at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip Off Classic, what do you expect from your guys suiting up against the likes of USC, Memphis, Tennessee-Chattanooga, stuff like that on the docket that is coming up for you guys, what do you expect?

BG: Well, I’ll tell you what. I think my team’s tradition is like last year when we played down at the Polestra when we surprised everybody and beat Virginia when they were number 23 in the country. I’m not going to come and say we’re going to beat USC or beat Memphis, I’m aware you know with the suspension of Robert Mitchell and its been a little bit of a controversial thing. You know we’ll be concerned with how many bodies we have going into the tournament and we’re going to play the best teams in the country, best coaches in the country, I think that our kids are going to be excited to be there, excited to play against the top 25 teams in the country, uh national TV, uh ESPN, we are going to see Ramon Ramos, a kid who played on the ’89 championship team and the 20th anniversary I think there is going to be a lot of motivation, and we are going to be pumped up to be there. I think we are going to get our kids to over achieve and play great basketball. You know its not easy, do you make predictions on wins and losses? Its tough because you know the bracket can go a lot of ways. You know the Chattanooga team is actually picked to win their league this year, I was just studying the magazine and they are picked to win their conference, so Memphis doesn’t have a walk in the park in the other game, and we’re playing USC, which obviously they are picked 2nd in the PAC-10 behind UCLA and then you look on the other side and you got Virginia Tech who is a top 25 team in the country, you got Xavier who is picked top 20th in the country, and then you have Fairfield, they are a MAC team, that is supposed to be one of the easier games, but you know sometimes there are never easy games when you are at a neutral site and you’re pumped up and you’re either up or you’re down. And the last team I left out was, um, Missouri, who is from the Big 12, so you know there are 6 out of 8 teams that are from power conferences, BCS schools, and then two teams, Chattanooga is not easy, so you have 3 tough tough games, so anything can happen in those games, but that’s what its all about. You get challenged early in the year and that will help you learn a lot about yourself.

WSOU: How does it feel to be representing the Big East in this tournament?

BG: I think its great, it is a compliment that they called us this year. Providence went last year, and they called us to do it this year, and we could have waited and hemmed and hawed about waiting for the Legends Classic right here in the Prudential Center in Newark, we were talking about some other things that were going on, but you know we said, chance to go to Puerto Rico, national TV, early in the year, represent the Big East, I said yes, lets do it, and I don’t regret it even though there are some concerns I think it’s a great challenge and I think when you coach against the best you want to play against the best and I think our kids will get pumped up for the game.

WSOU: Alright, lets take a look at some individual players. I’m going to put you on the spot and see, starting five, do you have a starting five that you feel comfortable with? And who are those players?

BG: Well, it’s a little early, but lets say we had a non-conference game tomorrow and I thought we could get away with playing Sticks at the four, if I thought that I would probably go with John Garcia at the 5, Robert Mitchell at the 4, Jeremy Hazell at the 3, Paul Gauze at the 2, and Eugene Harvey at the 1. Just because they are all experienced. Even though Robert did sit out last year, the other four guys were here last year they played, and you have uh less uncertainty. Now, yes, you have to worry about rebounding because that team is kind of small, but its quick and its also a tough team to match up with offensively, because now you have Eugene and Paul who can dribble-drive, you got Jeremy and Sticks who can shoot it, and John who can be a beast inside. Then you have Jordan and Mike Davis and Brandon Walters who can come off the bench and you can go big right from the start. You can sub someone in at the four, so that’s probably what I would do if we had a game tomorrow.

WSOU: Can you rank your bench? Where you would go, you are the first off, if everything is going normal, and say John Garcia is not in foul trouble or Eugene Harvey or Paul Gause, sometimes in a rare game they pick up a couple fouls. If everything goes normal, who is the first guy off the bench.

BG: Well right now its pretty simple since we don’t have a big bench. Mike Davis would be our first big man sub, and Jordan would be our first small guy sub. And what I’m really happy about is in the last two days I played Jordan Theodore 40 minutes against Fordham, and I have to find out what his line was in the game, but I thought he was outstanding. I mean I threw him into the fire against Gio Fontana from St. Anthony’s who is also a great freshmen at Fordham, and uh Jordan really responded. And Jordan played 40 minutes today in the blue/white game cause we didn’t have any subs and I think Mike Davis has shown the fans that he is one of the most improved players in the program that he dropped a lot of weight, he is playing harder and he is doing a lot of things better so I think they would probably be our top 7, with the names we mentioned, again depending on what happens. Because Melvyn Oliver is a very talented guy and if he gets eligible he will change some things.

WSOU: You had mentioned Mike Davis, some say he could be the catalyst for this team and could push the envelope one way or another, what have you seen over the summer and what are your real expectations for him, and where is the ceiling for a player like that?

BG: Well what I think what everyone get excited about with a player like Mike is that he has flashes of real talent and promise. Here is a big kid with long arms and long legs like Sam Perkins, reminds me of a long lefty, he steps up big in the Louisville game and blocks Earl Clark’s dunk and hits a base-line jumper with 10 seconds to go, and he can make some plays now, Mike Davis. And I think that what we did in the off season, where we saw the big strides and changes he made since last year where he didn’t understand how hard you had to practice, how hard you had to play, he was not in the condition to be able to run the floor like he had to like we wanted him to when he was playing the 5 or the 4. Offensively he is big enough to play some big 4 men. The question is, it’s a challenge defensively, cause if he is guarding a mobile 4 man, can he move his feet quick enough to guard a guy out on the floor, or do we have to play zone when he is at the 4. So those are some of the challenges for him. I like that he is in better shape that he is playing harder, he, I, here is how I would say it in a nutshell. Last year I think he was going to come in and roll hook shots and shoot jumpers and run around and be kind of a big finesse guy, but now he understands he has to do a lot of the dirty work, like block a shot, rebound, run the floor, be an energy guy, be like a 6-10 Paul Gause. And if he can do some of those things that he did today in the blue/white game, I think they caught some of the fans attention and said wow, Mike Davis really looks good. So I think if he can really do some of those things he will be a big part of the team.

WSOU: Are there any players you see that could, like Jeremy Hazell, come out of nowhere and explodes, opens eyes, anyone on the roster?

BG: I think probably Robert Mitchell, even though some people probably know that he has a lot of talent and he was rookie of the year in the Atlantic-10. I just think its going to take him a little while, he’ll have the rust on him early from sitting out last year, and I also think that Justin Theodore, he is not just a back up point guard to Eugene Harvey, he is going to be an impact guy. His on the ball defense is fantastic and I think he is just going to be, again he is like a point guard version of Paul Gauze, so I am very excited about him.

WSOU: John Garcia, how is the knee? He looked real good in the scrimmage today, will he be able to hold up for a full season, and also what do you expect from him in general?

BG: I think that John is at the lightest he has been, 250 255 it’s the best weight he has been since I’ve been here now for 4 or rather 3 years. I’m talking to him a lot about where I want him to play at and he is finally right there. I think he is running better and he is healthier than I have ever seen him, so and he played both days back to back without even blinking so he has had a tremendous pre season, hasn’t missed a practice hasn’t had any swelling, he really looks good now, knock on wood, because I think he is going to have a great year, and what we want from him is pretty much what we got yesterday in the second half against Fordham. We want him to assert himself and he just came out on fire and he was like a walking double-double in the second half, and he was a brute yesterday. And that’s what we want him to do is be an aggressive guy in the paint and assert himself and give us a sold threat inside. He has great soft touch inside, uh soft hands, and he is rebounding the ball better and is running the floor better so I think he is in better shape, and uh, again I think if John has a good year and if Paul Gauze has a good year that they kind of have to be the guys that when we get screwed up they have to step in and steady the ship and be staples for us.

WSOU: Eugene Harvey, had a different season then his first season here. A lot has been talked about here and there about why, what went wrong. What has he done this summer to right the ship, as you were saying and what do you expect from him, you know being your junior captain, he will be here senior year, the long term for Eugene Harvey?

BG: Well first and foremost I think last year was, it was his second year and I’m certainly not going to make excuses for him, but it was his second year in a row without having a back-up point guard and I think mentally he got, it was more mental than physical, you know people say well coach you just played him too many minutes he got beat up and hit the wall, but to me it wasn’t so much physical, to me, physically he was alright, but mentally he got worn down because he got frustrated he was thinking do I want to make people around me better or when do I shoot, when do I pass, I think Eugene is the kind of kid who has to play off instinct and I think his freshmen year he played wide open, guns blazing with nothing to lose and he was just playing with a lot of freedom and green light. I think when people last year adjusted to him with scouting they played off him and he struggled and I think he had a little bit of the sophomore jinx, but I think this summer was he went to the gym and lifted weights and put on 15 or 20 pounds of muscle so he is a lot stronger. He worked on his outside shot a lot, and I think he is going to be a better outside shooter when people play off him this year, and I think all around he has just matured and grown up a lot and he understands that hey, you know what, I don’t have to get the stats I got as a freshmen, that I can play less minutes and still be an effective player. And the last thing is Jordan Theodore, because now Eugene gets a shot in the arm because he doesn’t have to play 38 minutes, he can play 28 minutes and be more effective.

WSOU: Where do you see Theodore topping out in terms of minutes off that bench for you?

BG: I’ll tell you what, I think he could play anywhere from 8 to 12 to 15 minutes a game, and then as things progress if we have confidence in him, we could play him up to 18-20 minutes, so you just never know. You’re reading combinations and obviously you’re reading the Keon Lawrence thing and Keon could change the equation for a lot of people because he is a special player.

WSOU: Lets talk about Brandon Walters. From his first year through the off season, how has he progressed? And also what does he need to do to continue to continue the progression into where Mike Davis and John Garcia are at?

BG: Well here is what I think , I think last year, Brandon Walters is probably a guy we should have red shirted and we didn’t and that was our fault because we went though the Michael Glover thing and we weren’t sure and we were worried about bodies and insurance and how many guys we had and did we have the depth and this and that. But I think it was still a good learning experience year for him, but its kind of a general rule in college basketball and college coaches, an im not saying that everyone subscribes to this, but a guy is not going to play 8 to 10 minutes a game as a freshman, especially when he is a big guy because they sometimes develop late, and especially a guy like Brandon who is kind of a project because he didn’t get the ball a lot at Lance High School when he is playing with guys like Lance Stevenson and he is a guy who, you know needs to get stronger, you know he is a shot blocker, a rebounder, but he needs to develop the rest of his game and we probably should have redshirted him and we didn’t. So that was one thing that happened. I still think that this summer he went out, worked really hard on his body, worked hard on his game, and has made some major strides. He has improved, and he has gotten a lot better than he was last year. I have a lot more faith and trust and confidence in him now than I did a year ago. Now he still has to come a ways. I still think he will make some mental mistakes that I think are more of an experience thing. He is a kid who does not have a lot of game experience, and then I think he also has to figure out his role, and I think the more we can make that clear for him, if he can bring rebounding, running the floor, keeping it simple and again like Mike Davis doing some of the dirty work, I think Brandon can help us because Brandon is 6-9 and he has some attributes that can help us and he is talented.

WSOU: What besides Jeremy Hazell’s shot, because I’m sure he works tirelessy to improve his consistency, in his game, do you feel he needs to do for him to be a top guard or small forward in the Big East, what else does he need to work on?

BG: Well what we told him this spring and summer was that now you are going to be circled and you are going to be scouted and on their scouting report so they are going to try to beat you up, to double team you, to chase you off screens, you are going to have to stronger, you know get your legs stronger and you’re upper body stronger so you can continue to improve your body so people can’t wear you down physically. Secondly, was obviously, driving to the room, and working on making him confident to take it to the rack and get fouled and go to the free throw line. And then the last thing is, the stronger he gets at the mid-range pull up, the in between game, the better he will be. I think he is getting better in a lot of areas, and might be ready for a break out campaign.

WSOU: Now former Pirate Brian Laing, minute eater, 1000 point player, now in Europe. Can Sticks Mitchell fill that role? He is a smaller player than Laing was overall in terms of size, is it possible?

BG: Well, I think here is what is going to happen. Its going to be a work in progress. Brian was a four year guy that was forged and etched over time. I got the job he was averaging six a game, then 16 a game, then 19 a game, you know what I mean? It was built over a course of two years with Louis Orr, two years with myself with our style, our style of play, him benefitting from more touches up and down, more minutes, more shots, you know, being a 4 man, being a 3 man playing in the 4 was a matchup problem for some people, us giving him confidence to step out and shoot threes. I think it was a process with Brian, whereas Sticks, what is going to happen with Sticks is that he will be different than Brian Liang, different body type 6-6 thin guy, whereas Brian was 6-5 tough, high jumping jack guy to go inside, but where I think Robert will be similar to Brian is that Robert can score, in a variety of ways. And Brian got points, and Robert gets points, Robert gets points a little differently than Brian Liang got them, but he gets points. So I do think that Robert Mitchell with be different, but we do hope that he can get back some of those 19 points on a given night once we get into Big East play.

WSOU: The process of trying to get Herb Pope his transfer request approves now looks like its going to enter its 2nd stage of appeal after the first initial request was denied. If through all the resources, if he is not granted eligibility and he has to sit out the entire year, is there any concern or a feel that Herb might take the leap to Europe? And do what Brandon Jennings who was going to go to Arizona did, go play professional in Europe before trying to get in the NBA? Is there any concern of that?

BG: No, we have no concern on that, and let me tell you why, and I had this discussion with a bunch of writers and with his guardian, a guy who has been very instrumental in his life. See Brandon Jennings came out of high school, and wasn’t eligible for Arizona and he is a lottery number pick, he will be a lottery pick, and he didn’t want to wait till he was 19 to go to prep school, he had already been in prep so he opened new doors and new avenues by going to Europe. Where Herb Pope is different is he is an older kid who was already eligible in college, in other words, he could have stayed at New Mexico State and played this year, he didn’t have to leave. He could have waited and played, he was up for player of the year in that conference. He easily could have stayed there, played, and gotten drafted in the second round or go to Europe. He could have done that stuff before he came here, so when he came here, he came because one, he wanted to be closer to home, his family, uh, he has a baby, he wants to be on the east coast. The second is, he wants to have a chance to make the NBA, and he felt that, in order to get to the NBA and maybe be a first round draft pick, and if he stays at New Mexico State, and I am certainly not going to knock their conference but he knows to get the major exposure you need to play against the best, and to prove himself. If he comes to Seton Hall, he knows there is a chance he might not win that appeal. Sitting out is going to be tough for him, but at the same time, if he waits a year, works on his body and works on his game, and gets through it and he comes out the following year at Seton Hall playing against Pittsburgh, Louisville, Syracuse, Connecticut, on national TV, night in and night out with the Nets, the Knicks, the scouts, the NBA people watching him in the Big East conference, he knows he has a chance to be in the NBA whereas he knows that Europe is probably there for him at anytime. He probably knows that he could have gone to Europe literally out of high school and made some money, but I don’t think he’ll get frustrated and leave and pull up the plug, he has been through too much, uh, he is too committed to making the NBA and I think that if he was going to do it, he would have did it before he got here and even if it, uh uh, basketball is his motivating force, and its not going to be easy to not play in the games this year, and its going to be tough for him to watch the team and practice when he is not playing, I still think the fact that he came here for a reason, and there is something he wants to get and he is not going to be lured to go to Europe because he is not, he is not a guy that would go play in Europe and then get drafted in the first round next year or the year later, he is not a can’t miss guy. Brandon Jennings is probably going to go into the lottery no matter where he goes this year in Europe and that is just a different situation.

WSOU: Coach, our final question of the sit down today, and I want to thank you for stopping by, pretty self-explanatory, foul trouble was a big question mark last year at times, how will that be remedied going into this year?

BG: Well I think that what we did, what we did was, we kind of had this mentality that our first year, we just got kind of beat up, and we just didn’t have any size, we just didn’t have any bodies, so we said look, lets have a 3-headed center, lets use our 15 fouls we don’t want to just run around hacking people and put them on the free throw line too much, but lets make sure we are a little more physical, that we don’t give up easy lay-ups and easy dunks, and lets try to be a little bit more of a physical team, and we kind of got thrown around and beat up and thrown around like a rag doll last year. So last year we fouled more because we were trying to be a little more physical, now what we have to do this year, not just because the shortage of our players, a good defensive team, the difference between a good defensive team and a great defensive team is a great defensive team doesn’t foul, and a good defensive team plays good defense, but they may foul too much. And we need to get to the point where we learn how to play good defense without fouling too much, and the way we are going to do that is by constant drilling. You know, people think that its like the Mike D’Antoni thing like that little bit, because Mike D’Antoni was in Phoenix and he cared about offense and now he is with the Knicks and they think he is just trying to outscore people, but when he was with the Suns he got to a Western Conference Final and then some guys got suspended, you remember some guys got in some fights, and he was very close to winning a world title and when people knocked him he said, look, we won 55 games, alright. Last year, people said to me, coach, you guys were third in the conference in scoring at 77 a game, but you were last in the conference in points given up, so you know you are the worst defensive team in the league. Well here is the thing people need to understand, we led the conference in shot attempts per game. So when you play a faster game, there are more shots going up which means there are more possessions and more points scored which means the games are going to be higher, so some of it is style of play, but don’t get me wrong, we still have to a better job on the defensive boards, we still need to guard in the defense, half-court defense better, and we have to foul a little less. So there are things we know we have to work on, and we fell we are going to spend a lot of time on them this year, and uh, but I like where we are at, because I think we will be a tough out for people.

WSOU: Coach, I want to thank you for coming today, good luck on the rest of the season, one we will be looking forward to.

BG: I appreciate it, I just want to continue to insist that the best way to say it is, my belief is stronger than anybody’s doubts, so that’s probably the best way to say it.

WSOU: Coach, thank you and good luck on the rest of the season. And that will do it Pirate fans for this addition of Pirate Primetime. Be sure to check us out next week, for round robin picks, how we think your Seton Hall Pirates will do, and an interview with Adam Zagoria of, part of the SNY blog network checking in to see what he thinks the Pirates can do in 08-09. I want to thank Bobby Gonzalez for coming on the air, and hopefully we will see you sometime mid season on air, you never know. Until next time guys take care.

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