Dear Pat Hobbs,
Well, you got your man. Well, one of your men. I mean you took a great shot with Hurley, but it just didn't work out. So here we are with Steve Pikiell.
I gotta say, I like it.
Thursday and Friday nights, as rumblings were starting to say that Rutgers was looking at either Pikiell or Tim Cluess, I started reading up on our new head coach. I watched his Stony Brook team fall to Kentucky by nearly 30 points. But the blowout wasn't what caught my eye. It was the way Stony Brook defended early on in the game. Keeping Kentucky from getting to the hoop easily and frustrating the Wildcats on their drives. The beginning of the game was ugly for Kentucky and, to my eye, that was mostly due to to the Seawolves defensive strategy.
So, what's next?
Well, Pat, I'm sure you know this, but what the heck. Steve needs to get to work.
Step 1: Keep Shoes. I know not everyone agrees with this and wants a clean slate, but if you keep Shoes, you likely keep Corey and Laurent. And Issa Thiam still brings his length and shooting ability to Rutgers. There are, no matter what you believe, Pat, pieces on this team. They just have to be molded correctly. Sanders knows how to share the ball. Laurent can get to the rim. And Shoes? Shoes can recruit. He had Rutgers' in with some big names last summer, he just couldn't compete with a fifteen game losing streak and a 61 point loss.
Step 2: Build a staff. Maybe Shoes becomes Director of Recruiting or Basketball operations. Or maybe he stays as part of the staff. The rest of the staff has to be full of big time assistants. Sharks who can walk into a gym and have connections. Someone who can help Steve game plan and develop players. But it's time to be a Big Ten team, and that means having a Big Ten staff.
Step 3: Be everywhere. Word is starting to leak out (or actually flood) on social media that Eddie wasn't anywhere on the recruiting trail. He didn't make the effort to make connections, and he didn't pound the pavement. Pikiell has to make up for that. High school gyms and AAU tournaments should be his second home now. Get to know everyone. And maybe land a player like Matt Bullock and keep building that connection you have with Roselle Catholic.
Step 4: Defend. That's right. Start teaching defense today. Close out. Deflect balls. Get stops. Start teaching defense on Tuesday. Get some stops.
That's only the start of things, Pat. Steve has a lot to do. He needs to remake Rutgers basketball. But you picked him, so I think he's up for it.
As for you, Pat? Get that facility built. And then you can take a break. Have your coffee. Watch Meet the Press. Maybe you'll even want to read and review my book.
Steve won't have time though. There's still so much more to do. I hope he works hard at building an atmosphere at the RAC. Make it loud again. Reach out to the students. The band. The season ticket holders. Steve Pikiell has a lot of handshaking to do in the next 8 months.
But he'll do it.
Just like you, Pat Hobbs, you're doing your part. Now the rest of us have to make Rutgers great again.
Thanks for taking the first step. Thanks for keeping me in the fold, because, under Eddie I was *this* close to breaking up with Rutgers basketball.
But I'll return next year. I'm ready to watch some competitive hoops. I don't expect to win quickly. I don't think you do either. I think by year 5, you want to be .500 in conference. That's the goal.
But let's hope, next year, with some good solid defense and Corey leading the way, we'll end the blowouts and upset a few teams.
That will be fun.
Pat? You still there?