Monday, April 28, 2014

Gonzo Back In Town

Constantly engaged in television, radio, and NCAA analytics the past few years, Bobby Gonzalez is excited to renew his basketball jones this spring.

Gonzalez, who helped propel Luis Flores-led Manhattan to an NCAA tournament berth and a wild 75-60 opening round upset of Matt Walsh, David Lee and Florida in 2004, will host a one-night clinic at Hooperstown in Mount Vernon tomorrow.

"I'm looking forward to it, because I'm going to have some former players there," said Gonzalez, who last coached Seton Hall before being fired in March of 2010.

"Luis Flores told me he's going to be there. Maybe Felipe Lopez, who I coached way back in the day under Lou DeMello at Rice High School. It's going to be fun, because you gain so much knowledge after being in Division-I for 17 years, the last 2-3 years doing TV and radio."

Now a motivational speaker and top NBA consultant, Gonzalez anticipates appearances from hordes of coaches on the youth, high school, and college level.

"It's interesting because it gets you back in the area, it gets your name back out there. Good exposure, good experience. And, it forces you to work on the game so that you are still learning and picking people's brains and absorbing even while you're not coaching."

Gonzalez established a steady New York pipeline while at Providence under Pete Gillen. Gonzalez, ingraining a disciplined style, is known for the high-risk yet high-reward players of checkered pasts, which helped vault him into the nation's top recruiter in 1999 and 2006.

He was never a minimalist.

Gonzalez challenged refs at maximum volumes, warred with the vindictive metropolitan media with maximum energy, and beefed with rival coaches such as Fred Hill with maximum ferocity.

 The Binghamton native was once anointed as the NCAA's most insanely aggressive coaches. Of course, at the time, media coverage was minimal at Robert Morris University, where a guy named Mike Rice was routinely immersed in verbal and physical warfare with his players.

When the fiery Rice embodied a professional dodgeball player in 2013, he supplanted Gonzo for the title. And while Gonzalez' ruthless style was certainly not embraced by everyone, few can argue his credibility amongst the players.

Gonzalez holds an overall coaching record of 195-136, a 60 percent winning percentage, and has two NCAA tournament appearances and three NIT berths. After getting his teeth cut alongside Derm Player under DeMello at Rice, four straight 20-win seasons made Gonzalez a mainstay at Manhattan. He wouldn't rule out a return to coaching and wants eagerly to renew his competitive juices.

Flores, Manhattan's all-time leading scorer (22.7 PPG) and a three-time All-MAAC selection and Lopez, the nation's most highly-coveted recruit during a storied career at now-defunct Rice, have been instrumental in giving back to the NYC basketball community.

Both players shouldered the burden of basketball savior for the Dominican community.

 Lopez, an inspirational figure at Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church, is one of the most electrifying high school players of all time. A prodigious vertical leap and unrivaled finishing and shot-blocking ability solidifed his legacy. He thrived at St. John's but spiraled into obscurity during a city-to-city NBA journey ride.

"They are both here for the kids," Gonzalez said.

"I don't get a Big East job without Luis, he took me to two NCAAs at Manhattan. I had the opportunity to coach Felipe. He went on to become a success story, played in the NBA and now he's giving back."

Gonzalez continued, "They are both back in the New York City area. Their just great kids that I once coached and hopefully helped them with their lives. I'm going to use them with the younger kids, just as examples of success stories of local kids who made it out of the area and went on to do great things."