RTC Interviews Exclusive: A Conversation With Linda GonzalezPosted by nvr1983 on May 25th, 2011
Last Friday, Linda Gonzalez, the older sister of former Manhattan and Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez, posted a column (link to our post because she took her original post down) that drew a lot of attention across the Internet and within coaching and journalism circles. In that post, Gonzalez listed ten columnists (some local, but mostly national) whom she felt wrote with an agenda and often did not report the facts as they are, but instead tried to twist them to fit the story. After the post started a mini-firestorm online, we reached out to Linda Gonzalez to inquire about her thoughts and reasoning. What follows is a 25-minute interview with Gonzalez that touches on her reasons for writing the piece, thoughts on the media in general and specific individuals, and her impression of what led to her brother’s firing at Seton Hall. We have to admit that Linda Gonzalez turned out to be a lot more reasonable than we expected over the phone based on her initial post and some of the rumblings that we had heard from various media members before we spoke with her. She also makes some salient points about the media as a whole and about the perceived agenda that some media members have.
Rush the Court: By now, most of our audience is aware of your post listing the 10 writers you consider the most corrupt or biased in the country, but we don’t know much about you other than the fact that you are Bobby Gonzalez’s sister. Could you provide us with a little background information on who you are?
Linda Gonzalez: Before we start let me make something clear. There is a difference between a public and private person. I am not a public person. I used to be a public person because I was a columnist for a newspaper. That was a long time ago. Now writing is a hobby. I have a personal blog that I write. In fact, I have two. One I keep for notes and whatnot, but I have a personal blog that I write that people are welcome to read, but it is still a personal and private blog. I am a private person who lives in upstate New York. I am involved with my family. I live a quiet life.
I am a daughter, sister, aunt, substitute mom, nana, niece, and friend. I want for my family the same as you want for your own. I want my family to have love, success and to live a meaningful life with purpose. I do what I can, whenever I can to help them and myself to achieve that. I’m sure anyone would do the same.
I have a mother who is 84 and a brother who is a disabled Vietnam Vet. My sister died 20 years ago and she had four children. Now her children are starting to have children so I have got my hands full. Bobby is a part of the picture, a big part, because when one suffers, we all suffer.
RTC: You said that you used to write for a newspaper. What kind of writing did you do? Was it sports writing or were you covering something else?
LG: Oh, no. (Laughs) No sports writing. I was a regular feature writer for years then they gave me a column. I did a lot of police reporting as well. I worked for a Gannett newspaper. They kind of move their employees around. At one point I was even at USA Today for four months on loan. That’s what Gannett does. They use you in a lot of different positions. I did do a lot of street reporting besides feature writing and I had a column.
RTC: To go back to the post itself your brother has been — I don’t know how to put this another way — a controversial figure and a lightning rod in the media for the past few years. You have been critical in the past of those who wrote negative articles about him. What made you decide to write the post on Friday night, which is when I became aware of it?
LG: You probably have to go back some to get to the bottom of that. It wasn’t just a flash in the pan thing. It wasn’t a knee jerk-type reaction. I have been paying attention and watching writers carefully for over a year now. I read the stories they write. I watch the kinds of interviews that they do. I look at what they put on Twitter. I see who they talk to, who they communicate with, and who they promote. It wasn’t just a “Well I think I’ll do this” list. I looked at it. I looked at it very carefully. As I said writing is a hobby and I wish I had more time to do it. I have a lot of family and family commitments. Could you imagine the trouble I could get into if I had the time? With certain writers, it wasn’t so much that they set out to get Bobby fired, though they did, but it was about how they did it. The ten writers on the list definitely were involved in smearing Bobby, but they were not the only ones. I chose them because they were the best of the worst, so to speak. You should also understand that they do this to others so it isn’t just about Bobby.
As for what they did to Bobby, if he had been fired for committing NCAA violations or bribery or cheated or if he did something that was a serious behavior issue and he deserved to get fired, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I’d be the first to say: you play, you pay. That’s not what happened. You have to understand the way I look at these writers and how they go after people. Anybody who has reached any kind of fame, whether it is sports, entertainment, or anything will tell you that what I am about to tell you is true. The fame thing is not real whether you are a basketball coach or an actor. It is not real. The media creates the perception and that perception becomes the virtual reality. The best writers out there do their interviews. They interview people or they do stories on programs and they do their best to portray people honestly. They don’t want to create a false impression or a false perception. The best of them care about what they do. The worst of them deliberately create their own perception. They want to create an image that they want you to see. They create the image then they write about the person that they create. It is not real. What they did to Bobby was terrible, but even after he was fired, they refused to stop. Even now, they refuse to stop. He was fired on March 17, 2010. We are almost in June 2011 and they still don’t stop with the mocking and the ridicule. Now, to me, when you deliberately set out to destroy a man’s professional standing and you want to take away from him everything that he has ever worked for in his life and you want to damage his character so he can’t work or take care of his family, that doesn’t just make you a bad person, that makes you a monster. What do they want? Do they want him dead?
If one-tenth of what they dished out was dished back to them, I don’t believe they would survive it. They’re thin-skinned as you can tell by the Internet reaction to my post. If what happened to Bobby happened to them, I think they would be curled up in a fetal position somewhere getting heavy doses of thorazine or lithium.
RTC: Just so I can try to summarize this and want to make sure that we are getting the point across — you think the media has the right to report negative stories, but they shouldn’t try to put a negative light on someone. For example, if someone is found guilty of embezzling or some heinous crime that you dealt with in the past when you were a writer, like rape, sexual assault, or murder, it is ok to report that, but you shouldn’t inject your own beliefs or personal opinions about the person into the piece. Is that correct?
LG: Well, if you are a columnist or an opinion columnist you are obligated to put your own personal opinion in there. You are being trusted by your news agency for your perception. You are being trusted to portray that perception honestly. Now you are talking about criminal acts and that is a bit different than covering something like entertainment and sports. What I am saying is that the picture that they portrayed of Bobby is a lie. It is an absolute lie. He is not who they say he is at all. He’s had success all of his life and he’s not some bad guy. He’s one of the good guys. He was treated like he was Al Capone. In fact, my mother said, Al Capone actually got better treatment. Why? Because a couple of writers had a personal agenda?
You know Bobby got texts and e-mails from all over the country after I posted that list saying you gotta stop your sister, she is hurting you, and that she is going to prevent you from getting a job. Why are you allowing her to do this?
I did this because writers need to be taken with a grain of salt. People shouldn’t just read them and say oh yeah, must be true. He didn’t do anything to deserve what they did to him.
Then, to say I’m preventing him from getting a job…these people who say these things…first they try to destroy him in the business, then they worry about whether he can get a job? Doesn’t make sense. He can’t do anything about anything right now. They did such damage to him that he is just trying to get by and deal with it all.
I just want his reputation restored.
RTC: Since you say that they have mis-stated what happened at Seton Hall, could you give us a little bit of background? I’m not from the New York metro area. I’m from Boston and I get a little bit of the news, so you know how it goes; they don’t really care between New York and Boston. We don’t really pay attention to each other unless it deals with the Red Sox or the Yankees.
LG: (Laughs) Boston is probably everybody in my family’s favorite city. If you go back in the blog there is a whole story about what happened. He was essentially set up. He didn’t do anything wrong. Anybody has the right to fire anybody. If they don’t like you they can fire you. Just fire them and be done with it. Instead they sort of orchestrated this smear campaign. Pat Hobbs, Joe Quinlan, Adam Zagoria, Lenn Robbins, and Steve Politi among others. There were 18 or 19 million Google searches and 64,000 stories within 24 hours. 50 coaches got fired that year and they got a line on the ticker on ESPN. Bobby just got vilified coast to coast. That night I’ll never forget it. I stayed away from most news accounts because it was too painful, but that night I put ESPN on and Dickie V was on the air and he was talking to another one of the talking heads there. He [Vitale] said “I understand why Bobby had to get fired after what he did.” Then I said, “Wait a minute. What did he think Bobby did?” That was the thing. Thousands of people who like and care about Bobby want to know, what did he do. His players got into trouble, but what did he do. They made it sound like he had some terrible behavior issue and needed to get fired. That’s not true. Nothing like that happened. He doesn’t have any marks on his record. There is nothing in his personnel file. There is none of that.
RTC: Is that the reason — he wasn’t in control of his players — that they gave for firing him?
LG: They didn’t give a reason other than to say at first that it was for conduct. Then a few weeks later they changed it to conduct of others (players). It was Pete Thamel’s story that set the stage. He embarrassed Seton Hall with those stories that basically came out of the blue. Thamel tried for a month or two to get negative stuff interviewing all kinds of people. We knew about it because we have a lot of friends all over the place in upstate New York. They were calling saying “What’s the matter with this guy?” They told us the questions he was asking. You couldn’t talk to him about anything positive because he wouldn’t listen. Obviously he was out to get [Bobby]. He had to go back 12 years to when Bobby first became a head coach to find anything. He used maybe five or six people who had something against Bobby and none of the few hundred that had something good to say. He dragged out some old anecdotes that he got wrong anyway. Then you had this perfect storm at the NIT a week or so later. There was the infamous groin punch and the Robert Mitchell arrest. They used that.
RTC: I looked over the Pete Thamel article you were referring to recently because he was one of the primary figures that you identified there. There were quite a few people who had negatives to say about Bobby. Were these just random people who don’t get along with him? I know random people who don’t get along with me and I think I’m a decent person [Ed. Note: I think.] Or do you think these were people who were misquoted?
LG: There weren’t quite a few, there was only a handful really. There’s a story there, but Thamel didn’t have any interest in getting to it. He had his own agenda.
RTC: I was curious about how you differentiated the “good” writers from the “bad” writers. In your column you listed a couple. I’ll just list the national writers because I don’t know the New Jersey people very well. You listed people like Gregg Doyel, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Dan Wetzel as the “good” writers and others like Pete Thamel, Pat Forde, Jeff Goodman, and Gary Parrish as the corrupt, biased ones who are trying to swing things in their way. Just in my background research it seemed like the “good” writers had written positive pieces about Bobby while the “bad” writers had written negative pieces about Bobby. Is this kind of the driving force? Just to go with this, I know that Wojnarowski and Wetzel got a lot of acclaim for their pieces on Nate Miles and the UConn scandal. Do you feel that it was more personal this way or just something about these writers individually?
LG: Actually it is not personal with the good writers. In fact, Adrian Wojnarowski has raked Bobby over the coals. (Laughs) There was a time I would have put my hands around his throat. (Laughs) I don’t know about Gregg Doyel if he has ever written much about Bobby.
RTC: He [Doyel] wrote a very positive piece about Bobby after Manhattan beat Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a few years ago. He said something along the lines of even though some seniors are graduating the program is in good hands with Bobby Gonzalez at the helm. [Ed. Note: Link here]
LG: I like Gregg Doyel and it actually has nothing to do with Bobby. You can tell that what he writes about he has paid attention to. He doesn’t have a narrow focus. He has heart and substance and wit. You can see that he has spent time on his subject. These other guys just don’t. Their focus is very narrow. Their lives are tied up with this whole little Internet planet. They take a simplistic idea and they run it all over the place. Like for instance Parrish with NC State or with some of these guys with Debbie Yow. The general public has this idea about this program or person and it could be very, very far from the truth. They take a simplistic idea and put it out there. People latch onto it. Doyel, Ian O’Connor, and Billy Reynolds, who I think is an absolute treasure and I have read his column for 20 years. He does know Bobby and has written positive things about him, but that’s not why I put him on the list. He is one of the finest writers in this country. I am sure I am not the only one who thinks that. [Ed. Note: She called back a few minutes later to add "Bill Reynolds writes this column called "For What Its Worth" and he does book picks and recommendations. I gotta tell you if people aren't reading and taking his suggestions they are missing out. He is better than Oprah."]
Unfortunately, I only had five on that [good] list and I really should have had more like Andy Katz, for instance, but I think he would have been, except he is more of a TV personality so I just stayed with the five. It wasn’t just that I chose these because they said bad things about Bobby or I picked these because they said good things about Bobby. I know who they are and the kinds of things they do. If you look back and pull up work from these guys, you will find classic, timeless stuff.
If you look at the “worst” writers, you will find a lot gossip and innuendo and obvious attempts at breaking news about hoops gossip. Not that they can’t or don’t ever do anything good, because that wouldn’t be fair either, but from what I’ve seen with my own eyes and from what my family has personally experienced, fair and balanced is not a priority.
RTC: I just wanted to clarify that because I think that is one of the misconceptions that the general public might have. You are Bobby Gonzalez’s sister and you said these people are good writers while these [other] people are bad writers, regardless of what they had written about him. As for your blog, it is down right now. Is that a permanent thing or just a temporary hiatus until things calm down a little bit?
LG: The noise had kind of stopped after about 24 hours. That blog got something like 20,000 hits on it and that seems like overkill to me. I closed it for awhile then reopened it. I think the people who should have seen it have seen it. Bobby has got a lot of friends all over the country saying that this shouldn’t be out there and it is hurting you and all of that. His reaction was that he was pretty surprised actually. He was saying I have got a sister in Binghamton, New York who writes a personal blog and 20,000 people are reading it. He doesn’t get why anyone is all that interested. Doesn’t matter now because it’s permanently closed. It’s one thing if writers want to insult me, another to blame Bobby and go after him. Not worth it.
RTC: Some of the criticism you has was about your fantasy sequence. I forgot the exact wording that you used for them. [Ed. Note: They were called "Prediction fantasy".] Could you tell us a little bit more about what happened there?
LG: I’m not sure what you are talking about there.
RTC: At the end of each of the things where you talk about Thamel you had a fantasy sequence or what would happen to him in an ideal world.
LG: That wasn’t in an ideal world. In an ideal world all reporters would be fair. It was just a little piece of fiction, just a little humor. Obviously I don’t care for Pete Thamel. I don’t like the way he does things and I know what he has done. Unfortunately, that’s why he is #1 there. But those predictions are just fiction. I don’t much care about writing hurtful things, and I don’t like seeing people get hurt. But it’s over, everyone had a good joke about it. I’m truly sorry – tell Gary Parrish – that I made him #6. If I’d known he would get that upset, I would’ve moved him up.
I’ve decided to close the blog though because in the end, controversy is just not something my family can handle right now.
I wanted to, of course, help Bobby, but it seems I’m not.
If I’ve softened his image any for some people then great. More likely these guys are just going to get madder and try to get even. The last thing I want to do is hurt Bobby more than he’s been hurt already.
So I’ve had to make the decision to close it. If anything changes, I can always put it out there on Twitter.
RTC: One last question. I know that you have stated in the past that Bobby would speak for himself. Could you give us an update about what he is doing now and if he plans on getting back into coaching, because he was a successful coach and we were wondering what his plans are at this point.
LG: Well, I believe he would like to get back into coaching. I think that he has taken the time this past year to spend a lot of his down time with his daughter and to just regroup. He is getting new ideas. He talks to a lot of people. Larry Brown, for instance, Pete Gillen, lots of basketball buddies in the business. He is sort of getting himself reenergized and refocused. Now we will just have to see. I don’t think he knows yet what he is going to do. Until all of these people stop killing him and damaging him I am not sure that he can get back into this business. He’s a good coach, he deserves to be coaching somewhere.