The State of Rutgers Basketball: Fred Hill Must Be the One to Get It Done

Jayson LoveCorrespondent IFebruary 8, 2009

If you are a frequenter of the Rutgers Message Boards, the New Jersey sports blogs, and the New Jersey newspapers, you know that when it comes to Rutgers basketball, there are those that want RU Men's basketball coach Fred Hill Jr. fired, and those that feel he deserves more time to build his program.

As this season progresses, the faction that wants him fired are screaming a little bit louder and its number of members have grown.  Some that may have been "on the fence" are now leaning toward the call for Hill's dismissal. 

The latest wooden log added to this fire (so to speak) was RU's latest loss; the 14th of the season, the 10th in Big East play, and the second consecutive loss to arch rival; Seton Hall.  While it's embarrassing enough to lose 10 of 11 league games, the program and its fans have great difficulty with going zero for the season against The Hall.

The positives about Hill are that he has brought the best talent to Rutgers in the past 15 years, and continues to have great success recruiting locally.  Despite losing the overwhelming majority of his first two-and-a-half seasons of games, no major recruit has de-committed from RU nor has the program lost any major transfers, despite more than sufficient reason to do so. 

Somehow, the kids are buying into what this man is saying and promising.

However, the negatives are: mind-boggling in-game decisions that have RU fans questioning Hill's knowledge of the game, and most obviously, the consistency of losing that the basketball team has done under Hill's watch.

It's frustrating for the Rutgers fan to hear about growth and development, as programs  that were recently in the same position as Rutgers, have risen to the middle and top of the Big East.  It was a few short years ago that Rutgers beat SHU in the opening round of the Big East tournament. 

It was a few short years ago that Rutgers routinely beat Villanova and West Virginia.  And finally, it was a few years ago that St John's hit rock bottom with major scandals and embarrassing NCAA sanctions.

However, St John's sits today with three league wins (two more than RU), an above .500 overall season's record, and a legitamate shot at post-season play.  RU meanwhile, sits in second to last place.  Even lowly South Florida is ahead of them!  It's certainly tough to take.

Looking at the overall situation, Rutgers has to hope and pray Hill gets it done.  He has to be the man to do it.  Rutgers simply will not pay a big name coach to take over this team.  In fact, I'm not even sure a big name coach would want to coach at RU. 

Rutgers has many obstacles in its path towards Big East Basketball competence.  Obviously, it competes in a monstrous 16 team league.  Louisville, UConn, Pitt, Villanova and Syracuse have top flight coaches that will always have their teams at the top of the league.  That means RU will have all it can handle just to get to the middle of the pack in this league. 

Rutgers plays its home games at the RAC; once a vaunted home court, but now, an out-dated, high school gym in which one cannot really imagine "big-time hoops" taking place.  The university recruits NJ and New York; home to top basketball players, also the recruiting ground of the very teams it hopes to replace at the top of the league.

So what is the school to do?  If Rutgers is serious about Big East basketball, and will not consider dropping down to a league like the A10 or the Patriot League, it needs to either step up and pay a big time coach to bring the program to the top, or put all its faith in Hill. 

Whether the school and the state have the money to pay an experienced and successful coach or the state is as poor as it claims to be, it seems to be that RU won't pony up what it takes to pay a top-level coach.

Therefore, it seems that RU will always be hoping that the hot assistant will pan out.  The school went that route in 2001 when it hired Gary Waters; the former head coach of Kent State, who took his Golden Flashes to the NCAAs, and led his team to an improbable win over Indiana in an opening round game. 

At that time, Waters was as hot as any head coaching candidate in the country.  However, his lack of NY/NJ recruiting relationships and determination with regards to recruiting of high school players, badly rounded out recruiting classes, and mismatched players that never seemed to fit his "system", led to his demise.

Enter Fred Hill Jr.,  son of RU's successful and legendary head baseball coach, it seemed RU made a superb hire.  Here was a man with the one thing Waters lacked; NJ roots and local connections.  His connections and relationships allowed him to land kids such as Corey Chandler, a four-star rated recruit, and RU's first McDonald's All-American; Michael Rosario. 

As Rutgers fans learn more and more about Hill, his lack of head coaching experience is what is holding him back now.  One can only hope for the sake of Hill and Rutgers University that Hill learns on the job in a similar fashion to RU's football coach Greg Schiano. 

Firing Hill doesn't really make sense now.  What would you do?  Hire a temporary fix like Kansas State did with Bob Huggins?  Get the one and done recruit, hope to find your way into national prominence and then fade to oblivion when the Bob-Huggins-type leaves for greener pastures? 

Or, do you look for an assistant that seems to be leading a mid-major in the right direction?  Do you start over, yet again? 

At the very least, this is Hill's dream job and he actually wants to be here.  Those are two things we cannot be sure any other coach feels about the State University of New Jersey.  We must be the two things we don't want to be: patient, and hopeful.