Seton Hall forward Herb Pope will play in his first regular-season game tonight following a tumultuous offseason that saw him declare for the NBA draft, collapse during a workout at the school, have surgery to correct a heart defect, and return for his junior season.
Former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez had a crazy time, too, getting fired by the school, being charged with shoplifting and settling a wrongful termination suit.
Somewhere in there, Gonzalez needed to find time to visit Pope in the hospital as one of his players fought for his life. According to The Star-Ledger, that didn't happen. Even worse, it didn't surprise Pope.
Pope didn't want to talk much about Gonzalez, but the little he did, he sounded like a guy who had gotten out of a dysfunctional relationship and was appreciating a saner life.
He was in the hospital for nearly a month but had no contact with his former coach during that time -- or, maybe more telling, since then. Gonzalez told The Star-Ledger in an interview this spring that he had tried to reach out, but if he did, the message never got to Pope.
"No, no, no. I haven't talked to him. Not once," Pope said. "He was the only one who didn't show up (at the hospital). It kind of shows you his character. It didn't surprise me because you expected that out of a man like him."
Wow. Pope, who led the Big East in rebounding for Gonzalez, should have had his old coach there.
And now, Pope is playing for new coach Kevin Willard, someone who hadn't gotten the chance to really get to know him until the collapse.
From Dana O'Neil's story last month:
It had been all of 30 days since Willard was hired at Seton Hall, taking over after Bobby Gonzalez was fired. And now he stood next to the hospital bed of one of his best players, a player who up until that moment had been toying with going pro.
"You see someone with such a bright future … I cried a lot,'' Willard said. "This kid had his whole life in front of him.''