College basketball coaches have always had to worry about their players on the court and in the classroom.
Now, they have to watch the players online, too.
Last season, the Seton Hall men’s basketball team fell from the top of the mountain. The Pirates began the season 13-3 and earned a No. 19 national ranking before spiraling out and winning just three of their final 15 games.
As the team’s on-court production declined, online activity rose.
Star guard Isaiah Whitehead deleted and reactivated his Twitter page. Coach Kevin Willard used the Mark Cuban-funded Xpire app to delete all of his posts. Media access was cut off as rumors of locker room tension and social media bans swirled. A source close to last year’s team confirmed the ban.
Speaking at Big East media day on Wednesday, Oct. 14, Whitehead said he was going to go without social media during the season, which begins with a scrimmage Oct. 31. He credited the idea to Los Angeles Clippers guard Lance Stephenson, who, like the Seton Hall sophomore, attended Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., five years before Whitehead.
“It’s just a distraction,” White- head said. “[Stephenson] said ‘There’s no reason for you to be distracted with social media during the season, because your mind should be focused on the season.’”
Whitehead said he and his teammates have agreed to drop social media as a group.
“I’m in favor of everyone getting off Twitter,” Willard said. “I’m probably going to get off it pretty soon. It’s nice to have the information flow, but it is a distraction at times. You can really get overwhelmed with trying to find out what’s going on here.”
While Willard jokingly called Whitehead “the king of Twitter,” women’s head coach Tony Bozzella also makes a strong claim for the crown.
Bozzella has nearly 10,000 tweets and 22,000 favorites online. He follows 1,072 Twitter users and has 2,510 following him. He actively interacts with members of Seton Hall student media in addition to interests outside South Orange. Bozzella bleeds blue and orange, so the Mets’ playoff run has been a heavy subject of his recent activity.
Despite his affinity for the platform, he recognizes the pitfalls for his players, who he and his staff do monitor.
“Our players being on it is very tricky,” he said at media day. “Twit- ter is where you can get in a little bit of trouble. I think sometimes the girls will say things like ‘We kicked blank last night.’ But I understand their excitement, their enthusiasm.”
Online activity is a slippery slope, for sure—one coaches and players handle in their own ways.
Khadeen Carrington, a guard like Whitehead, ceased use of his accounts at one point, but reactivated his pages over the summer. He and Whitehead frequently interact with one another.
“I got it back because I was bored,” he said.
Carrington also found it “kind of weird” that all his posts meet the eyes of coaches and school officials. “I guess that’s what you sign up for,” he said.
In retrospect, most coaches did not sign up for this part of the job. However, in a technology-driven world, tweeting and teaching are now one in the same.
Tom Duffy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TJDHoops.