When Sterling Gibbs hit that game-winning shot against Villanova in the 2014 Big East Tournament, many things ran through my mind. After the jubilant cheers and, yes, euphoric profanities settled, one word became repetitive: beginning.
It was just the beginning of what was supposed to be the turnaround of the men’s basketball program.
As a result of Gibbs’ shot, Seton Hall was starting to get noticed again. Heck, knocking off one of the best teams in the country at the time will do that. But even before that game the transformation started to take form. The team landed five-star recruit Isaiah Whitehead in September 2013 and formed the program’s best recruiting class since the early 2000’s. But Gibbs’ shot was the real beginning that this program was on the move on the court. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of a year-long rollercoaster ride, full of loops and an ending not much to the liking of Seton Hall fans.
Now Gibbs is gone, officially, with the announcement of his transfer coming Tuesday afternoon. The transformation that was supposed to be a dream turnaround in the abysmal 66-65 Kevin Willard era (prior to the 2014-15 season) has turned into a nightmare.
On Feb. 11, sophomore starting guard Jaren Sina dipped, telling the Asbury Park Press’ Jerry Carino, “It’s not a good situation for me right now.”
Not a good situation?
Five days later, accusations that tension in the locker room caused Sina’s departure sprout up, although Sina’s family has since denied that being the cause.
Seton Hall was left without a player whom Willard had referred to as his “rock” throughout the season, someone who had logged over 30 minutes per game for the Pirates. Six weeks later, the Pirates are also forced to replace their best player from a season ago, a senior and the true leader of the team.
I’m going to be blunt: this looks awful. The facts of Gibbs’ departure have yet to come out. But his father, Temple Gibbs, opened up on his son’s decision to Carino shortly after the decision.
“We didn’t want to do this, but it was just a tough situation,” Temple Gibbs said via the Asbury Park Press. “It was something he felt he had to do for his state of mind.”
State of mind? How bad is it at Seton Hall?
I’m not going to be the one who points fingers, that’s not my job at all. But eventually someone has to question the fact that two starting players, both highly respected within the program, have decided to bolt within six weeks of each other, both using the word situation in their closing statements.
Who knows what is going on in the locker room. Who knows what the situation is that caused two starters to leave. Who even knows what the real reasons are behind Sina and Gibbs’ decisions to leave the University. All I know is that this does not look good for a program who is looking to rebuild, a program that was supposed to be on the rise.