Wow. I thought the craziest college basketball news of the day would be DePaul hiring away Clemson's coach.
When Jerry Carino broke the story yesterday of Fred Hill Jr.'s outburst at a Rutgers baseball game against Pitt (his father, Fred Sr., is the long-time and well regarded Rutgers baseball coach), I dismissed what happened as a minor curiosity. Years of Bobby Gonzalez can't crack Hill Jr., but he flips out because of an umpire's conference? I didn't even bat an eye when athletic director Tim Pernetti was quoted earlier today as promising to look into the matter. That could mean anything.
On the heels of those reactions, the afternoon report that Pernetti is considering firing Hill over the incident is a complete bombshell. The athletic department is really going to go after Hill's buyout, when they couldn't jettison Gary Waters after he was caught in a blizzard? Hill survived last month because Rutgers and the state of New Jersey are in the midst of a historic budget crisis. Any buyout would bring disasterous negative publicity on the program. Forget all the talk about how Hill has class and wins with dignity (translation: he doesn't go out of the way to make media enemies ala Gonzalez). He does do things the "right way" off the court, but entirely deserves to be dismissed on the merits as arguably the worst coach in any major conference.
Not pulling the trigger in March means that rumored options like Fran McCaffery and Seth Greenberg are presumably off the table. Another concern then was that Rutgers would end up having to settle for a third tier candidate like Seton Hall did with Kevin Willard. Maybe those two change their mind, Eddie Jordan is fired in Philadelphia and is interested, or Pernetti places a call to the suddenly available Al Skinner. For reference, check out my coaching candidates lists, which probably needs some revisions by now.
Why now? It probably has something to do with the impending losses of Mike Rosario (and incoming recruit Gil Biruta). So much for the theory that Hill was the key to preventing imminent disaster. No, that was always coming, and anyone thinking otherwise was in complete denial.
Rosario repeatedly told Hill that staying at Rutgers was "hindering my chances to play in the NBA." Confirmation of the meeting came from several people, though Rosario denied the meeting ever took place.
I can't fault Rosario at all for wanting to get as far away from Hill as possible, or throwing Hill under the bus. However... there's no real good way to put this. Rosario is not in any way, shape, or form a NBA prospect. Not when Quincy Douby, a far superior player in every aspect and regard, never got a fair shake as an undersized shooting guard. He's a nice player, our best player (what's Miller going to do now?), but ultimately a volume shooter who's not particularly efficient. If they leave, it should be for the right reasons. All the best Mike, but if this is the price to pay for no more Hill, and finally getting basketball on the road to rebuilding, so be it. I only wish we had been able to get a head start instead of this ass-backwards clusterfuck that's worse for all parties.
The jig is up, and Pernetti clearly wants to win instead of continuing with a Penn State-style shell of a basketball program. It doesn't seem like one outburst, however embarrassing, should be sufficient to go for the jugular here. If Sargeant and Carino are correct, Hill was Leavitt'd, er, Nixon'd: brought down not by the initial act, but by subsequent lies.
The source, who requested anonymity while the university is conducting its internal investigation, said Pernetti addressed the issue with Hill on Friday, and the Rutgers coach immediately denied he cursed at Pitt's coaching staff. Hill later acknowledged that he did curse, the source said.
According to the source, Pernetti, in his original conversation with Hill, told the Rutgers coach to stay away from Bainton Field for the duration of the Rutgers-Pitt series. But Hill allegedly defied that order and was seen by Pernetti at Saturday's game.
""Tim couldn't have been more specific about staying away,'' said the source. ""And then Saturday, Tim's there (at the game) and sees Freddie parked by a tree, sitting in the drivers seat crunched down.''
That's the kind of quote that elicits intentional ellipses.
I think this is happening, folks. No one would be leaking that Hill's a dead man if their minds weren't already made up (let's hope to hell that the contract can be voided). Can't go back over that rubicon. Now he's the ultimate lame duck, and it's impossible to envision him returning in any capacity in this kind of poisoned environment. There's no possible way to justify bringing him back now.
I think Hill absolutely needs to go...but this is the wrong reason, and it's extremely easy to envision this going really badly and blowing up in everyone's faces. Moose (Hill Sr.) sure isn't going to be happy. If anyone CAN ride in on a winged horse and salvage this mess, it would be Pernetti and his seemingly supernatural powers, but I'm scared to death right now that this is going to be a disaster with nothing good on the horizon. Well, to use that classic Rutgers athletics refrain, outside of spring football.