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Monday, December 29, 2008


By Zach Smart

Bobby Gonzalez’ proclivity for scouring the New York hotbeds for talent was quite palpable during his stay at Manhattan College.

Gonzalez, who recruited a number of highly-touted stallions and got them to stay local—even if it meant a MAAC school in the heart of Riverdale—knows New York like he’s piloting a yellow taxi cab for tourists.

Only Gonzalez’ cab captures coveted players and features stops at Rice High School, Xavierian, St. Raymond’s, Christ The King, Lincoln, and all of the other home city hotbeds.

Gonzalez was also at the helm during Manhattan College’s version of Pax Romana, when a tough-as-nails 6-foot-2 guard named Luis Flores lifted the program from under the bridge of obscurity and gave them the national visibility that the Public Relations dudes would kill for.

In seven seasons at Manhattan, Gonzalez left a lasting legacy. He posted an overall record of 129-77, punctuated by two berths in the NCAA tournament. In 2004, the Jaspers pulled off a mammoth, Godzilla-slaying 75-60 upset over no.5-ranked Florida in the first round.

Four seasons ago, the Seton Hall called for more change than Barack Obama vows to provide for the United States.

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Disgruntled fans become boo birds, hurling out “Fire Louie!” chants, calling for head coach Louis Orr’s job. Despite the fact that Orr piloted the Hall to two NCAA tourney berths and one NIT appearance during his five-year stay, he was treated to an ashcanning during his fifth year.

Enter, the Gonzalez Era.

Gonzalez’ wild sideline antics, gung-ho attitude, and promise of superior recruiting (highly-touted freshman Jordan Theodore has become a major presence in the passing lines thus far, who’s showed promise during games in which he’s played 25 plus minutes) has renewed firepower and confidence in the Hall.

He’s made it clear that he does not want to become another middle-of-the-pack Big East program and that new heights and uncharted territory need to be explored. He knows what upper-tier he wants the program at and the fans have bought into their game general.
It’s why they were chanting “Bobby G” 20 minutes before tip-off during last season’s Big East tournament.

After a signature early-season upset over USC, the Hall has slid recently. They dropped games to James Madison and IUPUI, which has one of most underrated freshman in the country in 6-foot-5 shootist Alex Young (19 points, 4-for-8 from beyond the arc against Arizona State).

Right now, the Pirates have an established go-to-guy in Jeremy Hazell. The 6-5 guard is averaging a sizzling 22.5 points. Hazell hung 32 in a loss at Memphis and hit up instate foe Farleigh Dickinson for 35 (15-for-26 fg) during a 101-70 blowout.

The Harlem World product averaged 19.5 points and six boards during SHU's back-to-back wins the week of Dec. 15 and is already drawing Terry Dehere comparisons.
The top three scorers—Hazell, 6-5 Robert Mitchell, and Eugene Harvey are all products of the city and Bobby G’s recruits.

The trio helps restore credibility to the Hall, but will they improve on the 30-31 record that Gonzalez has posted in his first two seasons? Is a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 (see Copeland, Donald, the pint-sized point guard, for more on that one) and a return to the March Madness betting pools as an upset special in the cards this season for Gonzo?

The Dec. 30 game at Syracuse, which is back in full force now that Eric “Halloween” Devendorf has returned, will be the first test of that. Unfortunately for the animated SHU head coach, he will only be watching on television most fans as he will be serving his one-game suspension imposed by SHU for behavior following a loss to Rutgers in the regular season finale last season.



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