Five Thoughts, Five Quotes: Willard opens up about Sanogo, Powell drama

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NEWARK, N.J. — No. 23 Seton Hall made quick work of Manhattan to close out their non-conference schedule 11-2, but it was an ejection and a suspension that have Pirates fans on edge.

It has become a bit of a habit for Kevin Willard to defer the first post-game question to Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press.

After his team’s 74-62 win over Manhattan today which included an in-game skirmish which left Myles Powell ejected but not suspended for any future games, Willard semi-seriously began his time at the podium by saying he was only taking questions about the game.

A few minutes later, the future status of suspended senior forward Ish Sanogo came up, but Willard cleared the air on that situation and went in-depth about what he thought of the in-game scrap.

Now updated with quotes from Steve Masiello and some of my own thoughts…

Five Quotes (bonus quotes from Steve Masiello):

Willard on Ish Sanogo’s status: “I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know when he’ll be back that’s the honest truth. I’m going to evaluate the situation after Christmas. I’ll evaluate on the 26th. Right now, I’m in no rush. You have to act a certain way at this University, you have to respect the program, the University, you have to respect your teammates. When you don’t do all three, that’s a huge issue with me. He’s a senior. If you don’t get it, then I don’t know. The timetable is nothing– it’s not like he’s back tomorrow, that ain’t happening. [Asked if off-court issue] It was definitely off the court. Nothing on the court. Not academics.”

On how this week has gone: “It was a tough week. I’ll put it this way, I’m not a happy camper. You put time, effort, and energy, and you hope you’re guiding men the right way, and when it goes off the rails, it’s like getting stabbed in the heart a little bit to be honest with you. It hasn’t been a good week, but it’s been a good week basketball-wise because the team showed they’re focus and took care of business heading into the Big East. I’m disappointed, I’m sad, I don’t think I’m going to have a very merry Christmas to be honest with you … It’s disappointing. It’s never smooth sailing, these are college kids, they’re trying to figure it out.”

On the in-game skirmish, specifically if he was concerned about how Myles Powell nearly got suspended for a big game: “But he didn’t. I love my team, because my team will always have each others back, plain and simple. I’d be a little more disappointed if he sat there and didn’t go.

[“You didn’t have an issue with it?”] No, not at all. I thought both teams played hard, both teams were playing aggressive, sometimes when both teams play hard and aggressive there are going to be situations where there is a little dust-up. I look at it like: the refs handled it great, the teams handled it great — they got back and played basketball. When you’re playing physical and you’re playing hard, you’re going to have situations where boys will be boys.”

On Taurean Thompson not being on the bench: “Taurean is dealing with a family issue. There was no reason for him to come. Come to a game and then shuffle back and forth.”

When asked if going up against Steve Masiello — a fellow Pitino disciple — was cool: “It was. We talked about this for a couple years, about trying to play each other. I think we may try to start a long term series where maybe we go there. I respect the job he does, I love the way his teams play, they play hard and aggressive, defensively they’re always phenomenal.”

Steve Masiello on Seton Hall’s potential to make a deep NCAA run:Without a doubt. I’ve watched every game they’ve played, and I can’t tell one weakness they have … I guess free-throw shooting, but they have good shooters, they’ll get better … They don’t have a weakness, that’s a team that’s very-very dangerous come March.”

Masiello on why it got chippy: “How many New York City kids do you have on that court? As long as its under control, and I thought it was, it’s kids competing, playing for pride. It’s kids playing for bragging rights … When you have competitors competing, sometimes things like that happen. But no harm, it seemed like everything got cleaned up pretty quickly. I’m OK with it.”

Masiello on going up against Willard: “Coach Pitino taught me so much about this game and this business, but Kevin Willard mentored me for two years about how to scout, how to prepare, how to study personnel. A lot of my basketball foundation has to do with Kevin Willard.”

My Thoughts:

Off the court, the proverbial Pirate ship has entered choppy water. First the Jordan Walker transfer scare, then a likely multi-game suspension for a senior starter who has embodied being a model teammate, all capped off with an ugly back-and-forth on the court today. While there may be nothing to Taurean Thompson also missing from the bench today — I’m very skeptical — there is good reason to be worried this Christmas. My take: Sanogo will miss out on at least the Creighton game, and perhaps one or two after that.

On the court, there are hardly any negatives to harp on. Ball movement has reached prior watermarks over the past two games, the team’s scoring is very balanced right now, and since the Brooklyn NIT games, Seton Hall has generally have looked like a top-15 team outside of the hard-fought Rutgers loss.

I was about 20 feet from the “fight” — it was intense. I still have not seen a replay (anyone? Bueller?), but Angel Delgado and Zane Waterman appeared to get it all started when coming down for a loose rebound, and Angel became fully engaged in the shoving match but it looks like an official intervened at an opportune time. On the opposite end of the mosh pit, it sounds like Myles Powell came from behind a Manhattan player with a forearm to the head area, but I missed most of that. Just a couple seconds into the scrap and I had a primal “how far can this escalate??” fear.

The crowd was good — despite my earlier tweet. While late-arriving, the crowd likely exceeded 4,000 actual, which is good given the holidays and the opponent. They were loud when they had to, which wasn’t often; decibels may have peaked with Sandro Mamukelashvili’s behind the back pass.

Willard is right to be looking into establishing a series with Manhattan — he pulled all the right strings against Masiello. At least in the first half, Seton Hall looked like they knew exactly what strings to pull in order to unravel their opponent’s distinct pressing system. Their full court spacing, when coupled with spot-on quarterback-like passes, is very hard to defend against as VCU and the Jaspers have figured out the hard way.

  • SHU95

    Overall, 11-2 with some really nice wins in there is about what was to be expected in the Non Conf. A buzzer beater against a good URI team & a collapse at our rival were the only blemishes, not bad. Hope we can get it together off the court… Sounds like Ish is going to miss a few games here. He will be missed for sure, but that position is an area where we have some depth so hopefully it won’t cost the team…

  • TheRealDewski

    I think Ish is back for Thursdays game. KW is leaving the door wide open and still making sure everyone understands how upset he is. If KW wanted him out for Thursday he would have said it.

    • Matty P

      I wonder if it’s truly a university issue that if some of the decision is out of Willard’s hands. Hope there’s no more issues or distractions going forward for this season.

    • PadrePirate

      It’s hard to say without knowing more about the issue, but KW might send the wrong message by bringing him back after only one game out. It sounds semi-serious as the “either arrogant or incredibly stupid” pre-game comment suggests. Helas, we’re dealing with college kids. This stuff happens.

  • Matty P

    Nice ending the non conference schedule and looking forward to getting the conference games going. Good to see the bench guys getting significant mins. Whole they might not be putting up a lot of points they need to at least keep the score even to give the starters a rest. Feel like Mamu is getting more comfortable which is promising.

    • SHU95

      As soon as Mamu stops thinking and just plays he will be fine. The skill is there, it just a matter of getting him out there

  • PadrePirate

    Ready or not…the BE is coming. Creighton and John’s before hitting the road. No easy games from here on out. Hope these guys come back refreshed and focused after the Christmas break. 11-2 OoC not bad, about what most of us predicted.

    With Ish out for a while, early foul trouble vs Angel or Nzei could spell trouble. Angel usually plays conservatively with a couple of fouls, but Sandro is not ready for big minutes and we wouldn’t want to have to dip into Gill’s red shirt year.

    • VinBick

      Help mem Padre. Is Gill the 7′ guy on the bench? Yesterday, during a timeout, he was standing right next to Angel and MuMu. He is three or four inches bigger than those two giants. Can someone here fill me in on this big fellow?

      • Matty P

        Yes, Gill is the 7 foot guy you saw on the bench. He came from a juco school so he’d be available to play, but there was talk during the preseason that he’d be red shirted. The thought being that he wouldn’t get much court time so it would be better to save a year of eligibility.

        • VinBick

          Thanks, Matty. He looks like a real player, not a project. For many moons, the Hall never seemed to be able to get any really tall players. Not so anymore.

          On the other hand, Walker is a little guy, but plays with lots of energy, speed, and tough “D”.

  • LBP

    Ish not playing will be a big deal. Especially with the first Games being against Creighton and St Johns , Ish is a key to the Hall’s D. So it must be very hard for Coach to take this stance but I am pleased that he has. I have no doubt that Coach has all the proper intentions to have Ish become more than an ex- BBall player

  • Andrew Herbst

    Nice win. I liked the balance scoring attack. Good momentum going into BE play. I’m pleased we finished 11-2. That’s what I expected. We’ll need Sandro to step up on Thursday. This could be a good opportunity for him. Can’t wait for Creighton. GO PIRATES

  • LBP

    BTW Chris– went over the Pre-Big East poll (Nov. 8, 2017) –congrats on Ur 11-2 prediction ( I took 10-3) but 57% had 12 or better– so I guess more are not satisfied with 11-2.
    BTW I will take 12-6 in the Big East with 2 Big East Tournie wins– need to do better than this for a 4-5 seed but let’s see.

    • Thanks Leon. Got the Lville/Rutgers games flipped, then again most do. Going to post a Big East prediction poll soon.

      • Hallbuster

        Chris u obviously know what happened and are choosing not to disclose which is fine and I respect. BUT given u have a very good idea of what went on can u give us in ur view how serious u think it is. Would u expect to have him back in 1,2,3 or more games??

  • Louie Dee

    Delgado on Ish: “We were in this position my freshman year. We understand what’s going on right now and we have to fight through it.” Makes me think, perhaps a fight between teammates? That’s what happened freshman year.

    • Not a fight. He was referring to off-court stuff.

      • Hallbuster

        Chris u obviously know what happened and are choosing not to disclose which is fine and I respect. BUT given u have a very good idea of what went on can u give us in ur view how serious u think it is. Would u expect to have him back in 1,2,3 or more games? Thx

        • I’m thinking he’s back for the Butler game on 1/6, at worst. I’d say very doubtful for Creighton, as my understanding is this is a black/white issue (as opposed to Willard’s discretion), but that the program just isn’t disclosing this fact.

          • Hallbuster

            Thanks Chris that’s helpful framing

          • Youre welcome. Its a delicate spot when media knows but the program wont be specific and its a semi-private issue.

          • Louie Dee

            Thank you Chris and Merry Christmas.

          • Merry Christmas Louie! Thank you.

  • LBP

    Merry Christmas Chris and to all my Seton Hall Brothers and Sisters. Hope everyone has The bestest Holidays ever.

    • Merry Christmas, right back at you. Look for a BE prediction poll & another treat over the coming days in lead-up to Creighton.

  • PadrePirate

    Thanks for the good work as usual, Chris, and merry Christmas to all our regulars on the board. Hope our team comes back refreshed and focused for Creighton and St John’s.

  • Matty P

    Merry Christmas and a Happy holidays to Chris and everyone on this board! Thank you Chris for everything you do and looking forward to getting this Big East season started.