March 29th, 2006
Seton Hall Basketball: State of the Program
Things wont be easy for new head coach
On Friday, new
athletic director Joe Quinlan pulled the trigger on a move that many have
been expecting for months now: he fired head coach
The fact that
Orr was let go is not a
surprise at all; many considered his job to be in jeopardy before the season
even began. But true to his character,
ignored the speculation and led the Pirates to a record of 18-12, and 9-7 in
the Big East. Quinlan said many times that he would wait until the end of
the year to fully evaluate the program, but was Coach
really given a fair chance?
Trouble began back on July 2, 2005,
when a story appeared in the New York Post entitled “Pirates Looking to Buy
This followed a 12-16 year in 2004-05, a disappointing season for all
parties, and the resignation of then AD Jeff Fogleson. What ensued in the
aftermath of the NY Post article was a level of uncertainty that
program could not combat in the end. Recruits backed away, leaving next
season’s cupboard bare. But what direction is the
basketball program headed in? This question must be answered before a new
coach is hired. And to be frank, maybe the prospective candidates should
demand an answer before signing on the dotted line. Here’s a breakdown of
the Pirate program, and some possible candidates for the position.
Being located a short drive from New
York City certainly has its advantages. You have access to the nation’s
largest media market, which is also a breeding ground for some of America’s
top basketball talent. You also have some of the more successful high school
and AAU programs within your reach, both in New York as well as the home
state of New Jersey. It was the inability to tap these areas that ultimately
led to the end of the
era. Having access to this area is essential to the long-term success of the
Big East Conference.
program was down on its luck back in the early 80s, they were able to sell
playing against the best talent in America to the core of recruits who would
lead the Pirates to the 1989 NCAA championship game. With the expansion and
subsequent resurgence of the Big East, they can once again do so. With no
recruits slated to come into the program next season (you have to imagine
that the new coach will be able to get a couple of late signings), this is
an advantage that the program will have to sell to recruits. With the loss
of seniors Donald Copeland and Kelly Whitney, the next year or so will be
tough for the
Hall, which is the downside
of playing in the Big East. Rebuilding projects don’t run smoothly, so
patience will be required of the fan base.
The Big East is also a selling point
when looking to find a new head coach, especially if they come from a non-BCS
league. In the MAAC, for example,
9-7 league record would have put them in the position of having to win four
games in four days to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. In the Big East, the
seventh place finish was one of the major factors in the Pirates receiving
an at-large bid. The schedule is tougher, but if you can get to .500 in
league play while navigating a good non-conference schedule, the ultimate
reward is usually a trip to the NCAAs.
in an off-campus arena.
Pirates currently play their home games in the Continental Airlines Arena.
While the arena is a short drive from campus, it’s not a drive that fans
look forward to making. It’s not exactly in the most appealing area from an
aesthetic standpoint either, which is part of the reason why for most home
games the arena is only about half full. Yes, more seats sell for the likes
of Rutgers, Connecticut and Syracuse, but the majority of those seats are
purchased by fans of those teams, canceling out the small home court
advantage that the Pirates usually enjoy. There has been talk for a few
years now of an arena in Newark. While this would certainly help matter with
the games being even closer to campus, that’s pretty much been talk for now.
Recruits want concrete proof of the improvements being made, and empty
promises will do nothing but see you to the door that much quicker.
compromising of last off-season’s recruiting efforts has left the cupboard
leading returning scorer for the Pirates next season will be guard Jamar
Nutter, who scored 12.1 points per contest in 2005-06. Role players such as
Paul Gause, Brian Laing, and Stan Gaines will be counted on for more
scoring. And a post presence will be required from the likes of rising
senior Grant Billmeier, David Palmer, and Marcus Cousin. The Pirates leaned
heavily on Whitney and Copeland this past season, so recruits were needed in
order to pick up some of that slack. But the story in the New York Post
effectively ended their hopes of landing a solid recruiting class.
Three players of note visited the
school between September 20th and October 24th,
according to scout.com. Guards Brian McKenzie (Xaverian HS, Brooklyn), Ruben
Guillandeaux (St. Patrick’s, Elizabeth, NJ), and Lazar Hayward (Notre Dame
Prep, Fitchburg, MA) all made visits, and none will become Pirates. You have
to think that the coaching situation played a role in this. It may seem
drastic to say that
could replace South Florida at the bottom of the league standings, but the
Pirate program will have a tough time capitalizing on their recent NCAA
Tournament appearance due to the coaching situation.
may be unrealistic.
“Keeping up with the Joneses” is the
way of the college basketball world, and that of sports in general.
is a private Catholic institution. And while it would be tough to compete
year in and year out with a public institution like Connecticut, Villanova
finished tied for the regular season title in the Big East. This brings the
inevitable comparison…if they can do it, why can’t we? There’s nothing wrong
with this type of thinking, so long as people are realistic about the
resources at their disposal. To use Villanova as an example, they have an
on-campus facility where they play the majority of their home games, with
the big games from a competition and monetary standpoint being played at the
doesn’t have this luxury. Marquette plays in the Bradley Center, but the
campus is only blocks away from the arena, making it easier for the students
to get to home games.
has had great players throughout the history of the program, but the first
NCAA Tournament appearance for the school was in 1988, when the
was led by Mark Bryant. 1989 was a magical year, and the Pirates won Big
East tournaments in 1991 and 1993, but this has been a middle of the pack
program in the league for the most part. It will take a lot of hard work and
handshaking to get
consistently into the upper echelon of the Big East; this is by no means a
Well, who could end up with this job?
The leading candidate for the job,
Hofstra’s Tom Pecora, just signed a five-year contract extension to remain
in Hempstead, which takes him out of the running. Coaches who will get a
look include Iona’s Jeff Ruland, Manhattan’s Bobby Gonzalez, Davidson’s Bob
McKillop, Florida Atlantic’s Matt Doherty, and Pittsburgh assistant Marry
Rohrssen. These five have New York area connections, and can also work the
room when it comes to appeasing the area high school and AAU coaches, not to
mention the boosters. This was an area in which
was criticized. This shouldn’t have an impact on whether or not a coach gets
to keep his job, but this day in age money is nearly as important as the
wins and losses.