Dear Steve Pikiell,
Hey. You're new here. Welcome aboard! We're really excited to have you. Usually, I write to Pat, but-you know-it's a holiday weekend, so I thought I'd give him a break.
Maybe, however, we should talk. Maybe you don't know who I am yet. I'm Dave. *waves* I like basketball.
Anyway, over the past, oh, ten years or so the basketball program has kind of crumbled under the weight of football and bad coaching choices and stuff like that. And, no pressure, but it's kind of up to you to fix them. It's not your fault this happened, but you're here now. And, since I am part of this wonderful blog and have a voice, I figured I'd drop you a note with some suggestions.
Nothing too major. It's not like I'm gonna say SUGGESTION ONE: GO TO THE NCAA TOURNAMENT TOMORROW. That's unfair.
But there's some stuff you can do to help make this program look a little better in the eyes of the people around town. You said on WOR the other day that you think the ground will be broken on the practice facility this summer. That's great news. I am trying not to squeal with glee.
But what can we do next season?
Here's a checklist. It's only three things. You got this:
Move the Band Back Behind the Basket: The youngins, the ones who show up, don't remember this and will be probably be annoyed about it. But when Gary Waters was coach, at least through 2004, the band was directly behind the basket. Then there was, I believe, a Big East rule created saying the band couldn't be there anymore and Bob Mulcahy moved them to the corner where they now reside. But, if it's not a Big Ten rule, then it's time to bring the band back. They are there *every* game. They are loud. They play, they chant. They distract.
No offense, Riot Squad, I love you guys. And the fifteen people in the front row do their jobs. But the rest of you? Man, it's like nap time at the RAC. And I get it. The team hasn't been good in a while. You're in show me stage. But the band brings it. They're crazy and clever. They don't just curse and swear at the other team (it's okay college kids, you're college kids, I still get it). Seton Hall has the Rock Lobsters. Duke has the Cameron Crazies. And, until we we get our nicknamed lunatics, it should be the band doing the cheering behind the hoop. Don't hide them in the corner.
Bring Back Princeton and Monmouth: Okay, here's another one where people might not agree with me. I don't mind playing in their gyms too. But basketball is a different animal that football. While football is all corporate Pepsi vs. Coke nonsense, basketball is local. It's neighborhood. And Princeton and Monmouth are our very evil neighbors. We need to keep playing them. In fact, Princeton is our oldest rival. I'm going to be blunt: Eddie Jordan ran and hid from Princeton because he couldn't beat them. And he stopped scheduling Monmouth too, according to beat reporter Joshua Newman.
Both of these teams should be on the schedule in the near future. They don't hurt our RPI--in fact, at this moment, we hurt thiers. But, Coach Pikiell, it's time to bring some Jersey Jazz back to the schedule. Keep Seton Hall, and bring back these guys.
And then beat 'em.
Get Yourself a Radio Show: Back in the Golden Age of the Gary Waters era (yeah, I actually consider that a Golden Age), Gary Waters had himself a radio show. See? There's proof! It was kind of like Kyle Flood's, held at a bar and open to phone calls and audience questions. You could listen to it streaming on NJ.com.
And then, when the illustrious *cough* Fred Hill took over, the show went away. And it never came back. If there is any program in the world that needs to have it's fans reached out to, it's Rutgers basketball. And this is an easy way to do it and create excitement. It doesn't have to be for the whole season, it can be for the Big Ten portion, if you want. And, yeah, we know the season might be rough and fans might not come out, but you need to start somewhere.
How about this, Steve (can I call you Steve? How about Pikes? What should I call you?), if you have a radio show that is open to the public, and I don't have work or any family stuff to take care of, I will be at your first show. I will order wings and a beer and listen to you wax poetic in the best of ways about Rutgers basketball.
But we need some outreach.
So, how's that Pikes? Yo've survived my first letter. I didn't ask for miracles. And I love the Matt Bullock commitment. This program needs more than wins going forward. It is a shell of what it once was. It's a laughing stock and filled with irrelevancies.
But there are people out there, like me and Aaron, who love it. And want nothing more than to see even a modicum of success.
We will be patient, assuming you show progress. (And, by progress, I mean don't go 0-17 in the Big Ten and show a little urgency when talking to the media.) You're already off to a good start.
And maybe these extra tweaks will help more.
Get excited, Pikes!
Dave White is the author of the Jackson Donne series. You can check them out here.