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Gonzalez should top Seton Hall's list

INDIANAPOLIS -- Administrators at major programs keep shuddering at the thought of hiring Manhattan's Bobby Gonzalez to lead their program. Their fears are ridiculous. Gonzalez should have had a big-time job a couple of years ago, and maybe Seton Hall will come to its senses and make the logical choice by hiring the Buffalo State graduate as its replacement for Louis Orr.

Word around the Final Four is the Hall is not going to be able to entice George Mason's Jim Larranaga, a Bronx native, and it might still talk to Ohio University's Tim O'Shea. But it seems like the job is down to Gonzalez and Pittsburgh assistant Barry Rohrssen. It shouldn't be a choice. Rohrssen is a terrific recruiter but he's never been a Division I head coach, and that has to count for something.

Year after year, Gonzalez has been a winner at Manhattan. He's gone to the postseason four times in seven seasons, and this might have been his best coaching job yet. He was named Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after directing a sophomore-laden team to the regular-season title even though his best player, forward C.J. Anderson, was declared academically ineligible at midseason.

The Jaspers suffered a disappointing upset to St. Peter's in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament but won their National Invitation Tournament opener at Maryland and lost at NIT semifinalist Old Dominion when a last-second three-pointer spun out.

New Seton Hall Athletics Director Joe Quinlan, a former assistant at St. Bonaventure, is trying to make this choice and deal with his school's administration. Hall officials are reportedly skittish about Gonzalez's fiery personality, and some higher-ups are holding an incident against him from 2003, when Gonzalez confronted Seton Hall students in the Meadowlands during a game against Manhattan. Memo to Hall higher-ups: Gonzalez was defending his players after racial epithets came from your student section.

Gonzalez has a reputation of being a high-maintenance coach, but who doesn't? St. John's was scared away. Miami didn't hire him. Massachusetts foolishly went with Travis Ford on the advice of Rick Pitino.

St. John's, Rutgers and Seton Hall are the three Big East programs in the New York metro area, and all of them are a mess. St. John's passed on Gonzalez for Norm Roberts because it didn't want another coach with a Manhattan pedigree (previous bosses Brian Mahoney and Fran Fraschilla coached the Jaspers as well). Rutgers just replaced Gary Waters with top assistant Fred Hill.

Seton Hall shouldn't make the same mistake. A program that hasn't been relevant since it went to the national championship game in 1989 could suddenly became a key player in the Big East again -- if it makes the right decision.

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More coaching carousel

*If Gonzalez gets the Hall job, look for Fraschilla, an ESPN analyst, to take his old job back. If Gonzalez doesn't leave, expect Fraschilla to surface at Fairfield.

*Look for Temple to secure Penn's Fran Dunphy early next week.

*Hofstra's Tom Pecora was the Hall's top choice, but he signed a five-year extension earlier this week to stay at the school. With Buffalo native Loren Stokes heading into his senior year, the Pride is a good bet to be in the NCAA field next year. Of course, as George Mason has proved in the past couple of weeks, Hofstra was clearly an NCAA team this season but the bright lights on the NCAA selection committee felt better about Seton Hall, Air Force and Utah State. Yeesh.

*Arkansas assistant Ronny Thompson, son of Georgetown legend John Thompson, and North Carolina-Wilmington coach Brad Brownell, an Indiana native, are the two likeliest replacements for Tim Buckley at Ball State.

*Connecticut associate head coach Tom Moore will talk to Canisius but is far more interested in Northeastern or Fairfield.

*Waters is expected to be involved with Wright State along with UNCW's Brownell. Waters, who made $500,000 at Rutgers, was interested in Canisius but is clearly out of the Golden Griffins' price range.

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MAC gets it right

Big East coaches plan to make another move to get all 16 teams to Madison Square Garden next year in the conference tournament. I'm betting Atlantic 10 coaches would like to find a way to get all 14 of them to Atlantic City next year, rather than just 12. But the Mid-American Conference has got it right.

The MAC has signed a new deal to keep its tournament in Cleveland through 2011 and will bring all 12 men's and women's teams to Quicken Loans Arena, eliminating the prequarterfinal round at campus sites.

The men's tournament will run on four consecutive days in Cleveland (from Wednesday to Saturday) while the women's event will be split over two weekends, with the first two rounds played to determine the final four teams.

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K.C. making a pitch

Kansas City officials are angling to get the 2013 Final Four -- which would be the 75th anniversary of the event -- if two ballot measures pass Tuesday to fund improvements at its sports complex that would include a rolling roof over Arrowhead Stadium. More than $700 million would be raised if voters approve the sales taxes, and that money would renovate Arrowhead, home of the NFL's Chiefs, and Kauffman Stadium, which houses baseball's Royals.

NFL officials have already pledged the 2015 Super Bowl to Kansas City if the improvements are made, and Major League Baseball is pledging an All-Star Game at Kauffman. The Final Four, which is in Atlanta next year, is awarded through 2011. The NCAA will name more future sites in the summer of 2007.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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