Friday, March 9, 2001
Griffin leaves Seton Hall in quandary
By Adrian Wojnarowski
Special to ESPN.com
NEW YORK Tommy Amaker was talking in his office on the Seton Hall
campus one November afternoon, the selfless words of his fab freshmen
lingering like a sweet song in his mind.
They hadn't played a game for the Pirates Eddie Griffin and Andre Barrett and Marcus Toney-El but they had the coach so sure the kids had come to college with the most noble of intentions.
"I don't know how many times you hear that from kids in high
school anymore," Amaker said. "How many times do you hear that they want to
go to a Final Four, that they want to win a national championship? It's
usually, 'When are you leaving?' or, "How long are you staying?' 'How many do
you have to average to get out?' or 'I'm going there to do my thing.' You
rarely hear that kind of talk about winning anymore.
"And when you do hear it, I mean, what a joyous moment."
Finally, Amaker caught his breath and confessed: "I'm very lucky."
Four months later, Griffin, talking at the start of the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, confessed: "As soon as we started to lose (players), I just said, 'Forget it, I'm going to get mine.'"
Was it worth it?
Bobby Cremins and Georgia Tech never recovered from Stephon
Marbury. Villanova had Tim Thomas for a year and he did his part to
obliterate the Wildcats' chemistry; still, Villanova made it to the NCAA
Tournament. All Seton Hall has to show for beating out North Carolina for
Griffin's services could be a lousy NIT banner, unless he surprises everyone and returns
for his sophomore year.
Was it worth it?
After the Pirates lost to Boston College 75-48 on
Friday night in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, stumbling to the
National Invitation Tournament with a 16-14 record, it's hard to believe
Griffin, on his way to being a one-year wonder, was worth the trouble.
Everything centered on Griffin for the Pirates this year. He was the No.
1 high school player in the country, a kid who considered the NBA Draft out
of Roman Catholic in Philadelphia. He was thrown out of that school in the
spring for getting into a fight with a 6-foot-10 teammate in study hall. He
had an anger problem, he confessed, and underwent counseling. This wouldn't
happen again, Griffin promised. Only it did.
As soon as Seton Hall started to struggle, as soon as upperclassmen responsible for a Sweet 16 season were resentful of the freshmen on the the magazine covers, all hell broke loose for Seton Hall. Griffin was convinced a Pirate junior, Ty Shine, wouldn't pass him the ball in a January loss to Georgetown.
"You look me off again and see what happens after the game," Griffin blurted
in a timeout huddle.
Griffin, 6-foot-9, stayed true to his promise, trailing Shine into the locker
room after the game and punching him in the face. Shine needed several
stitches to close the cut, but the blood still trickled out of the Pirates
program for months.
It wasn't until two months later, in the Big East Tournament, that the Pirates started to recover. For months, the Pirates lost and Griffin was first in line to Get His.
Now, the dysfunctional Pirates are gone out of the Big East tournament,
losers to Boston College, which doesn't have the big, fancy names from the recruiting lists just an amazing, unflappable togetherness.
Seton Hall is playing a different game, a race against time with Griffin's
college clock counting down with the passing of every day.
Now, the Pirates are going to the NIT, and maybe, just maybe, Tommy Amaker will sit back on Selection Sunday and ask himself a most uncomfortable question:
Was it worth it?
Adrian Wojnarowski, a columnist for the Bergen (N.J.) Record, is a regular
contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at NJCOL1@aol.com.