Thursday, December 31, 2009
Top 10 Hofstra hoops moments of the ‘00s (Or: In which the Best of the Decade lists officially jumps the shark)
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
In which, for the second straight year, I wish Jay Wright (and my wife) a Happy Birthday and all of Dutch Nation a Merry Christmas
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
It took Jay Wright six years to end one epic drought at Hofstra. But even after the Flying Dutchmen reached the NCAA Tournament in 2000 for the first time since 1977, the other dry spell that defined the program seemed as deep as ever.
Local rival St. John’s continued to dominate Hofstra by cruising to double-digit victories in 1996, 1998 and 1999. Those wins extended the Red Storm’s lead in the all-time series to 19-0 and their average margin of victory to nearly 18 points per game.
Hofstra lost by less than 10 points just four times, and the nearest of the near-misses—a 58-56 loss in 1992 in which St. John’s won at the buzzer—ranked, with little sense of irony, as one of the finest moments in Flying Dutchmen history.
Relief for Hofstra finally arrived on Dec. 16, 2000. And all the Dutchmen had to do to end 60 years of misery against St. John’s was walk 100 yards across the street.
The Dutchmen, playing as the road team at Nassau Coliseum so that St. John’s could have a “home game” that allowed it to serve as the host school when the Coliseum hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament the following March, mounted a second half comeback to knock off the Red Storm, 86-80, in front of 8,771.
Norman Richardson scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures for the senior-laden Dutchmen, whose experience proved to be the difference against a young St. John’s squad that featured precocious freshman guard Omar Cook but just one senior in Reggie Jessie.
“I felt good about the game because I knew we had a very mature team,” said Tom Pecora, who was in his final season as Wright’s assistant. “Jason Hernandez was a transfer, so he was in his fifth year. Norman Richardson had gone to prep school, so he was in his fifth year. Greg Springfield was a transfer from Western Kentucky, he was in his fifth year. And Roberto [Gittens was a senior].
“I felt good about it. It fell right into that formula of experienced mid-major versus young BCS conference team.”
The formula seemed awfully familiar in the first half, when St. John’s maintained a small but steady lead on the Dutchmen and entered the locker room up 42-36. But the seniors, who were confident of their chances against St. John’s after losing by 12 a year earlier and determined to end the program’s losing streak against the Red Storm, gathered at halftime for a pep talk.
“We always had to play them on the road—we had to play them at Carnesecca and [in] real, real tough environments,” Hernandez said. “Coming in we [felt] we could do some good things, especially them coming through us at kind of a home game at Nassau Coliseum. We were a senior-laden team who had been to the tournament the year before and we just felt like it was a good time for us to get one.
“At halftime, the seniors and the captains really got after it and said ‘We’ve got to take this game.’ We didn’t want to leave Nassau Coliseum without that victory.”
The seniors did plenty to back up their words in the second half. The Dutchmen went on a 25-9 run to turn an eight-point deficit into an eight-point lead about midway through the half before St. John’s crawled back to tie the game 68-68 with seven minutes left.
But a pair of free throws by Gittens gave the Dutchmen the lead for good and the Dutchmen responded with multiple big stops on defense and clutch shots on offense down the stretch. Hernandez scored all 13 of his points after intermission and hit a pivotal jumper with 1:32 left that extended the Dutchmen’s lead to six, while Richardson scored 14 points in the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers that gave him the program record (159).
“We just had to keep grinding it out and play our type of defense in the last six minutes of the game,” Hernandez said. “We prided ourselves, really, on wearing teams down and just grinding out wins. I think we did a good job of taking good shots at the end of the game—and what we did best that year was really defend.”
The victory turned out to be a season- and decade-defining one for both programs. The Dutchmen were struggling to establish some chemistry following the graduation of Speedy Claxton and had already suffered narrow losses to rivals Delaware and Iona.
But the win over St. John’s lit the fuse on a sensational run by the Dutchmen, who won 21 of their next 23 games. They ended the regular season on a 15-game winning streak and won three more America East tournament games to win the conference crown and the automatic NCAA berth for the second straight season.
Hofstra has not been back to the NCAA Tournament since (insert snarky comment about Tom O’Connor here), but the Dutchmen have nonetheless become the premier program in the metro area. St. John’s is just emerging from the wreckage of created by Mike Jarvis, who had a non-existent relationship with local AAU and high school coaches and who presided over a program that had to forfeit 47 wins due to NCAA violations earlier this decade.
Pecora, meanwhile, has regularly brought Big East-caliber players to Hofstra, which has won 20 games four times in the last five years and has beaten St. John’s five times in seven meetings this decade, including four straight heading into today’s game in the Holiday Festival.
“It’s great to set the tone and kind of pave the way and let guys know that Hofstra is a very viable basketball program and one that is always going to be tough to contend with, regardless of the year,” Hernandez said. “It’s great to see the guys now going to those games [and feeling] that they can win, where early on in the Hofstra years, we kind of went into [the St. John’s] game [thinking] ‘Man, hopefully we can keep it close.’ Now it’s a different mindset, where guys are coming out to win the game. To see that shift in attitude is really what’s the best thing about it.”
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
(All members of the Hofstra community are invited to share their thoughts about the dropping of the football program by emailing Defiantly Dutch at email@example.com.)
Me being around the program for the last 10 years, I wasn’t that surprised, because I kind of knew that’s what Rabinowitz wanted from the very beginning, when he took over for Shuart. I knew he was against the program from day one. But I was still shocked that it actually happened, Everybody—all the alumni—was trying to get the program to be better. The last [few] years [were] a little questionable, because the new coach wasn’t the coach that we all wanted from the ‘90s. The guys that played for Gigantino wanted him to be the head coach. So the guys from the ‘90s kind of rebelled a little bit against he program. And then, prior to that, with the new regime coming in, we knew changes were amongst us.
I think that was definitely part of the plan, because from what I understand, they didn’t even interview him. And he was by all means the leading candidate who should have taken over for Coach Gardi. He’s a proven winner, everybody loved him, guys played for him, would all kill for the guy. He was the perfect person to take the job. And when Rabinowitz and Jack Hayes totally nixed him, that was a major downfall for Hofstra.
I’ve met Dave Cohen. He did a very nice job from the beginning. I kind of doubted him as well as everybody else, but as I got to know him, he was a great guy unfortunately set up to fail. Obviously, he didn’t know what was going on either. He got blindsided. He was definitely set up to fail. If they wanted the program to succeed, they would have hired Greg Gigantino, because just from Gigantino joining as the head coach, you would have had everybody from the ‘90s supporting the program. It’s a no-brainer. And Gigantino would have been the guy, who, like coach Gardi, called people up and told his player to come support the program. They would do that. If they get a call from Dave Cohen, nobody’s going to listen, you know what I mean?
I wasn’t privy to the financial situations of what was being pushed into the program. But just knowing how they marketed the program…they didn’t push the program like it should have been pushed. When you leave it up to a coach—first of all, the new coach, Cohen, was trying to get the team going. He shouldn’t be worried about how the school’s marketing the program, you know what I mean? And the school didn’t market the program. The program marketed itself because of all the pros, from Wayne Chrebet on. The program marketed itself. And the program did well—well enough, better than average, without any push from the school.
Basically [Rabinowitz] did a two-year investigation into the program. Why did he not involve the alumni? Why didn’t he tell the alumni at least, or at least the football program, that you’re on the chopping block? Because if that would have happened, people would have come out of the woodwork to make sure that we would make it successful, you know what I mean That’s what kills me the most. They did this all behind closed doors with a committee that had no ties to Hofstra football, [no] current ties with Hofstra football. He claims that there were two people that used to play football [on the Board], but they’re not currently involved with what goes on at Hofstra football.
What shocked me also is that he basically said it’s not financial, it’s strictly a business decision. And the business decision is based off of people who don’t have any interest in football. That’s like a blind side [to] and backstabbing of everybody that graduated that has anything to do with the football program. And not just football players—Kickline dancers, cheerleaders, pep squad. They say that Hofstra wasn’t a nationally recognized program. You kidding me? Wayne, when Wayne made the NFL, that really boosted Hofstra’s notoriety all over the country. I go places, I go all over the country and I say I’m from Hofstra. They say ‘Wayne Chrebet.’ That’s what they know about Hofstra. Yes, it’s a good school. It’s always been a good school. But what gives you notoriety is the sports, the publicity of the sports. I can’t understand how they don’t see that.
When they talk football, it’s “little ol’ Hofstra.” Yes, but they’re talking about Hofstra, you know what I mean [laughs] I mean, the last 10, 15 years, they talked about Hofstra on a national stage. Nobody would know Hofstra unless you saw football. Unless you were in [film] production, you wouldn’t know Francis Ford Coppola went to Hofstra. There’s big name people—you wouldn’t know they went to Hofstra unless you went to Hofstra. People don’t know that there’s a lot of big names—Governor Patterson got his law degree from Hofstra. Nobody knows that unless you’re in politics or know Governor Patterson or look at his resume. You wont know that. He doesn’t mention that he went to Hofstra. Every time they talk about a football player, they say ‘Marques Colston from Hofstra University.’ There you go. Right there, that’s publicity. Kids grow up, they say ‘Marques Colston, I want to go to here he went to school. Wayne Chrebet, I want to go where he went to school.’ It’s a good school too, you know what I mean? It’s crazy.
If he wants to talk about national notoriety, he’s getting it now. It’s bad publicity. They’ve got problems if they don’t have a football team. If you’re going to go to a good communications school, you know what? I’ll find a communications school that has football. He’s producing bad publicity for Hofstra.
You can go back when I played, when we were 8-1-1, we had probably one of the best teams that we ever had, we didn’t have tones of people there. But you know what? We had a good TV contract and everybody saw the games. They got rid of the TV contract. Why? Well, talk to the administration. They got rid of the contract because they didn’t want anybody to see Hofstra football. It’s all part of the plan to get rid of football. He executed it perfectly. But you know what? He pissed off a lot of people. Football has been around at Hofstra since the inception of the school. He’s not attributing anything that’s happened to Hofstra and how big Hofstra has gotten over the past 10 years—nothing as even been attributed to football. He’s blind. He’s blind about that.
I’m actually really happy that everybody is speaking up [and protesting the decision]. It’s a major part of school. You take it for granted, kids take it for granted. But you know what? Every major big-time school—all the Ivy League schools have football, they don’t make money from football, but you know what, its part of life. It’s part of the school atmosphere. And to get rid of that part of the school—you get rid of football, you’re getting rid of 100 football players. That would be 100 students. You’re getting rid of cheerleaders, getting rid of Kickline, getting rid of reporters—everything that is involved with football. Yeah, football costs the most, because it’s the most important. He says football costs the most. Of course it does, it involves the most people and it’s going to give you the most notoriety. Take the program to the highest level and you’re getting more people involved.
That’s kind of why I went to Hofstra University—my uncle went to Hofstra [and played football]. Hofstra was a great family, it was a great place to be because everybody knew each other. But as President Shuart left, Rabinowitz took over and he pushed, he broke the family up. Basically, to put it into simple terms, he systematically dismantled the family and everything that [Joe] Margiotta and President Shuart built up, he just crumbled down in a matter of a couple weeks. They built it up over 50 years, these guys went to school in the ‘50s, they grew up, they lived and breathed Hofstra football. Those guys are the heart of Hofstra. And my uncle went there and a lot of his friends. I know it’s more of a family. Hofstra was more of a family then.
My uncle went there, his son, his daughter—my niece—goes there. She doesn’t play sports, but she goes to school there. She never would have gone to Hofstra if we didn’t go there. There’s tons of other schools to go to, but she knew how the program worked. She knew when I say ‘the program,’ the program is all of Hofstra…the whole experience is more of a family.
My uncle met his wife there, she went to Hofstra. Many of their friends all went there. It was a big blow to us. It hit us really hard.
This was kind of a wakeup call to everybody, [to] the alumni and everybody that took it for granted that football will always be there. The old saying ‘You don’t realize how great you have it until it’s gone?’ You know what? If we get football back—when we get football back—it’s gonna be bigger and better than ever.