Big night tonight. A traditional basketball power travelling on the road to a fledging program. That's right; Rutgers and C. Vivian Stringer travelling to the Carrier Dome for the only game of note on the night. Oh yeah, can't wait. Oh, wait, did someone say there was another Rutgers/Syracuse game on tap in some minor, obscure sport that no one's ever heard of?
Like pretty much everyone, I saw all the resulting hysteria on Monday after J.R. Inman supposedly posted an anti-Fred Hill screed on Facebook. Now that Carino, LFBall, et. al. are referencing it, it's probably safe to assume that it wasn't a hoax. That was one worry with posting a kneejerk reaction yesterday, but then Deadspin had to go and pick up the story. Inman has since deleted the message, and posted a followup.
Venting about coaching staffs is nothing new. Contradicting Inman's claims, players voiced similar complaints about Gary Waters to a far, far greater extent and severity (which J.R. does briefly allude to in his second post). His charterization of Waters is misleading at best; Hill may be an awful coach (as opposed to a merely bad one like Waters), but his personal failings don't come anywhere close to GW's profound lapses in judgment.
That's probably the most objectionable aspect of what Inman said. A close second would be airing the program's dirty laundry in public. Again, this is not exactly a new phenomenon, but those past players at least had the good sense to limit their venting, and not share their thoughts with the entire internet. Everyone at least realized that airing specific details in public will bring nothing but bad things to Rutgers basketball and the entire athletic department. This absolutely reflects worse on Inman and his (lack of) judgment than Freddie.
Inman's central point just isn't all that coherent. The very reason that Hill is on such thin ice right now is that he has an awful record, and the perception is that he's been awful at player development - specifically as pertains to the FIG (Farmer, Inman, Griffin) class. They came in under Waters, and had promising freshmen debuts, only to stagnate for the next three seasons. It's not even remotely plausible that Hill would be so willing to doom his entire tenure to settle a vendetta or make an example.
Hill's been such a lightning rod for criticism because of the perception that he couldn't get anything out of Inman, over and beyond all of the excuses like not having a point guard, or playing Inman out of position. J.R. wants to talk about 12 and 7 and the NBA? That's not going to go over so well when everyone thinks that he's capable of 20 and 10, and at points gave the impression that he wasn't willing to always give max effort on the court. That's probably at the core of this fractured relationship. Hill wanted to try to motivate his most talented, would-be star player. It backfired because there was so much losing to the point that he eventually the players all tuned the coach out.
The comments about Lance Thomas and Jeff Robinson are complete nonsense. Yes, Lance's hanger on "Uncle" Monty did indeed cite that as one reason why Thomas picked Duke, but it was a complete fabrication designed to deflect all the local pressure on Thomas to attend Rutgers. I remember that class well; he waited so long that Arizona pulled their offer, and essentially strung RU along until Duke was an option. Waters getting fired wasn't the reason that N'Diaye was the only signee that year; the staff weren't seriously in the mix for many other players.
Jeff Robinson? Please. One of the leading reasons why Waters is no longer at Rutgers is that he only seemed to sign a decent recruiting class every other year. Jim Carr did pull in FIG, and conceivably could have made some inroads, but look at who Robinson did sign with. How exactly is Rutgers going to compete when Calipari and World Wide Wes open their checkbook? Hill did end up signing a decent '07 class anyway, which ended up not working out for other reasons entirely.
The suspension bit is interesting. Do the names "Herve Lamizana" and "Calvin Wooten" ring a bell? There was a well-publicized incident back in 2003. In the resulting fallout, one star player got a slap on the wrist, and Waters kicked the backup off the team. Now, I don't know the surrounding context behind either event, but Inman's attempt to settle this score certainly gives off the impression that there may have been plenty of other things going on behind the scenes with that.
I don't really want to rip Inman too bad here, but his account is just one side of the story, and probably would have been best left under wraps. It certainly can't be good news for Fred Hill. Athletic director Tim Pernetti has very good reasons for presently resisting calls to follow DePaul's lead and ax a head coach, but I respectfully disagree. There aren't any good options here, not at all, but the likely to be considerable damage from canning Hill will pale into comparison to bringing him back for a lame duck 2010-2011. There's no time to waste, not after Villanova beat Bob Mulcahy to Jay Wright to get us into this mess in the first place. Hill has to go, but it should be on the merits; on which, the case is fairly indisputable.