As the final minutes expired on the Pirates 2009-2010 season on Tuesday night, emotions ran high at the Prudential Center.
Although the fan turnout was quite pathetic at 1,829 for the first round NIT game against Texas Tech, the team’s first postseason game since the 2005-2006 season, the fans made their presence known.
The drama began early in the game when sophomore forward Herb Pope was charged with a flagrant foul and ejected from the game for hitting Texas Tech forward Darko Cohadarevic in the groin.
“I was very disappointed, especially after Pope went out,” Rutgers freshmen and Seton Hall basketball fan Palsy Ragonese said. “I thought they could win this after they almost made it to the NCAA tournament.”
The crowd only got more energetic from there, as “Bring back Stix” chants could be heard.
The chant referred to Robert Mitchell, who was released from the team on Sunday evening.
As the game went on and the Pirates kept falling further behind Texas Tech, the crowd kept getting more ruthless.
At times the fans began calling for the firing of head coach Bobby Gonzalez.
“This shows how Bobby coaches in big games and how the team performs in the spotlight,” freshmen Quemars Ahmed said after the game was over.
This Texas Tech game was an important one for the Pirates because they were expected to win as the higher seed and potentially make a run to the NIT championship game.
“We (the fans) got our hopes up and they didn’t even show up to this game,” freshman Gino Manjardi said.
In their games against better ranked opponents, notably ones that were nationally televised, the Pirates did not fare well.
They lost four games in overtime this season, all against teams that, if they would have defeated, could have greatly increased their chances of getting an NCAA Tournament at-large bid.
“I’m a little let down, considering that people said if we moved further in the Big East Tournament we would have been in contention for an NCAA bid,” freshmen Nick Costa said. “We settled for this and I expected better.”
“Fire Bobby” chants only grew stronger as the end of the game approached. Fans questioned his demeanor towards the referees and ability to motivate the team.
This culminated when Gonzalez got called for a technical foul with under 10 minutes to play.
“This game was a joke, and this team showed no heart at all,” junior Bruno Gasulla said.
An undercurrent to this game was that it was the final night in a Pirates’ uniform for seniors John Garcia and Eugene Harvey.
“This was a tough way to end for Harvey and Garcia,” AJ Sweetin, a student at Chatam High School said. “They gave us four great years and will be missed.”
In the post game press conference, Bobby Gonzalez was jittery and clearly stressed.
Not only was he at times physically shaking, but when asked by a reporter after the game if the fans added to the negative feeling and overall mood, he repeatedly said “No.”
With the season ending abruptly and adjustments already underway, it will be interesting to see how the fans handle all the change.
Nicholas Parco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.