Sneaky FDU Hires Greg "Shoes" Vetrone As Interim Coach

Michael Ielpi@ielpiCorrespondent IJune 11, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 18:  A detail of the footware of Austin Croshere #44 of the Milwaukee Bucks as he awaits action against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 18, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Bucks 114-105.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

On Monday, after an exhausting three-day search (joking), Fairleigh Dickinson University announced that current assistant coach Greg Vetrone has been named interim head coach of the men’s basketball team.

I wrote an article after former head coach, Tom Green, was fired by the University after 26 seasons at the helm on Thursday.

The decision by Athletic Director David Langford took all of one day. All three of Green’s assistants were interviewed. Only one had a real chance.

Long time assistant, Ron Brown, a former head coach at Florida A&M and Long Island University is 58 years old and has a career coaching record of 20-71. I doubt he had much of a chance.

Jared Stephans, was FDU’s Graduate Assistant from 1998 to 2002. In 2002, he was given the title of assistant coach. Stephans only experience is what I have listed. His chances were doubtful at best.

That left Vetrone. Vetrone had been a FDU assistant from 1988 to 1991. He moved on to be the assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at UC-Irvine and then he moved on to UNLV in the late 1990s. He came back to FDU in 2008.

As someone who has a day a job in Human Resources, where I have been involved in hiring, promoting and firing people of all levels; I have been through similar situations.

This particular situation usually means that upper management made this decision already and tried to figure out the best “politically correct” way of making this look like it was not pre-planned.

The administration gave Vetrone the interim title of interim head coach. I do not know why when he will be the coach on day one of the upcoming 2009-10 season? It does not make incoming and potential recruits feel more enthusiastic about playing for the team if they feel that coach could be around for a short time.

I really do not know much about Greg Vetrone. So, I did what any normal person does when they need to know more; you Google them.

At one point, Greg Vetrone was in the top 20 as an Assistant Coach/Recruiter at UNLV. That is the good news.

Here comes the bad news.

On the first page of my search, this article archived from the Las Vegas Sun in 1997 appears.

Vetrone was an assistant under Bill Bayno at UNLV in the latter part of the 1990s.

During his time there was a scandal involving Vetrone and recruit, Lamar Odom, yes, that Lamar Odom who is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals this week.

Greg Vetrone also appears on the Wikipedia page for former St. John’s and NBA player, Zendon Hamilton. You may say, well that’s odd; here is a snippet from that page:

“According to the story, Nate Cebrun a 51-year-old sports agent said that on June 3, 1994, Hamilton met him at the L.A. Marriott the night before the 6'11" center took his last SAT test.

"According to Cebrun, Greg Vetrone, an assistant coach at UNLV, and Gary Charles, the coach of Hamilton's AAU team, were also at the meeting in which he received $1,500 of the total $2,000 that he would eventually receive.”

Odom and Hamilton were not just the only players, Sports Illustrated ran a piece on this in 1997.  Vetrone denies the allegations, but the article traces this possible SAT fixing back to his days at UC-Irvine.

Kevin Simmons, a New York City player recruited by Vetrone at UC-Irvine, was a high school All-American out of Queens’ famous Christ the King High School, had his SAT score go up 210 points and was questioned by ETS because of this impressive jump in his test score.

Simmons followed Vetrone and transferred to UNLV from UC-Irvine.

ESPN’s Andy Katz wrote a very good blog entry on the hiring of Vetrone and started by saying that, “Greg Vetrone was unofficially banished, sent away through a mutual understanding so UNLV could move on after violations emerged in the late 1990s.”

FDU’s Athletic Director, David Langford had this to say on his decision to hire Vetrone as interim coach:

"I had heard the rumors about everything that went on [at UNLV],'' Langford said of Vetrone's involvement.” I did a diligent search of what had transpired at UNLV and interviewed Greg personally.

"I had the heart-to-heart with him as two adults, and at the end of the research process, I was convinced that Greg deserved an opportunity to get back in coaching at Division I. Nothing that I've seen since has indicated it was the wrong decision."

In 26 years, you can Google, scour newspapers, search in microfiche and you will come up empty when searching for violations by Tom Green.

I believe that Greg Vetrone will use FDU as a stepping-stone to get back to a higher level of Division I basketball. Vetrone has seen and been part of the glamorous side of college basketball. At FDU, Vetrone will most likely not be recruiting players who have the chance to play on ABC in June.

If he can build this team back into a winner and win the Northeast Conference Tournament to get back to the NCAA Tournament; I believe that other schools will call and Vetrone will be happy to say thanks and depart.

Fairleigh Dickinson traded 758 games, 407 wins, four NCAA Tournament appearances,  a coach with a clean record, and most importantly a coach who wanted to retire at Fairleigh Dickinson.

In return, the University now has a coach who has never coached a minute of college basketball and has a checkered past. For a man whose nickname is “Shoes,” his past sure is not squeaky clean.

Greg Vetrone probably deserves a second shot; I could be wrong. It just did not have to be this way.

In a move that some have called “fairly ridiculous,” I disagree; I say it is completely ridiculous.


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