Pirate Culture- Developing A Winning Basketball Program With Uniforms

By- Tom Kubrak

Every year around September, Seton Hall Pirate Basketball Fans begin to check up on their basketball team pretty rigorously. Without a football team Seton Hall fans get their mustard from the basketball team. Recently it’s been some pretty sweet mustard too. 

I can remember growing up and hearing all about those pirate teams of the 80’s and 90’s…

The players they had and their legendary coach. It was consistent in our household. Being from The Oranges it’s inserted into your bloodstream; your a Pirate fan. Some get it later, which is great, but my brothers and I got it from the day we were born.

One thing they don’t talk about often, in my opinion, is, other than the players and coaches, truly, why they were so good.

Yes it’s important to have good players, but they were good for quite some time. And then they fell off. If you’re a Pirate fan you know what I’m talking about. Falling completely out of the national conversation for years, was hard to bear.

Could there have been another reason for the Pirate Success though?

Was there something else that the Pirates had that they may have given up during their rise to relevance and then fall to irrelevance?


Winning basketball games is an artform. If it wasn’t, all you would need was a Michael Jordan on your team and you could just sit back as a coach and watch reruns of Seinfeld while you’re team is on the court playing. 

Unfortunately, that’s not the case and coaches have to coach and players have to work together to win ball games. 

When recruits are going on college visits they have their eyes and ears open for everything. Some just want a place to play. But most players want to be a part of a culture; they want to be a part of a tradition. They want to feel the energy from day one when they walk onto campus. They want to feel that special scent in the air that signals they’re in the right place. If a basketball program doesn’t have any of those things and they don’t get that feeling well… good luck getting the players you want to join your program.

Part of being a part of that culture, and firstly building it, starts with the people at the helm.

Number 1- The Athletic Director

Number 1, it’s about getting the right Athletic Director(AD). This person is going to be the one responsible for getting “Number 2” later on. The AD needs to be someone who has a good vision for the program; someone who is willing to take bold moves and is a strong willed individual who will do what’s necessary like potentially firing a coach.

Number 2- The Head Coach

Comes right to the head coach. The leader for the players and coaching staff. Also the first person the fans and media want to talk to after a big loss or during the pre-season to hear how the team is looking like this season.

You could put so many things at “number three” ranging from: solid athletic facilities, weight room, health program, etc.

Number 3- The Team’s Armor

In the era of high end sporting good brands getting teams new uniforms every year; it’s becoming more and more a part of the hype for the season. But the question is though… is it helping teams win games and build a strong culture? 

Part of a teams armor, if you’re comparing it to armor, is the uniform. If you don’t have a solid, comfortable and unique look that everyone(mostly everyone) likes then you have a chip in the armor. Not that some of the uniforms aren’t cool and the pre-season hype they put on for it isn’t either…

Buuuut… it brings the same question up again, does it help you create a winning basketball team? 

Well it is hard to turn down a check staring at you for x amount of dollars from some of those big companies. 

Here’s another question….

Do you want to win and reap the great benefits of it later on or… do you want to sell out now so you can funnel that money somewhere else, where a “cool” uniform but at the same time put your team at risk?

One Legendary Winning Culture

I know this article about basketball, but please, allow me to deviate from the sport to bring up football. Not to talk about it but talk about one teams that benefits from a consistent set of uniforms.  

One of the most legendary set of uniforms in all sports, if not The most, is of course, Notre Dame’s football uniforms. The gold helmets, navy blue uniforms, and gold pants haven’t changed for over 50 years.

I can remember as a kid dreaming about putting on that gold helmet to play football for Notre dame. No, it wasn’t a black, silver, pink & purple, blue, orange or red.. It was gold. A gold helmet. And guess what… it’s still gold.

And they are still consistently winning games. Is it just because of the uniforms? Of course not. They have had wonderful coaches and players come through their program. 

There’s no way, statistically, you can point to Notre Dame’s uniforms as the reason for their success, but I think you can let their reputation, as one of the best college football programs ever, to speak for itself.

Here’s a quote from an imaginary Irish recruit who committed on the first call he got from one of the coaches,

“When do I get my helmet?”

It’s about the culture. It means something to wear those uniforms. The same uniform that other legendary Irish players have worn. It’s a tradition.  and I’m actually curious if some of those Irish Football Players committed right off the bat.

Like the sign they hit before home games, running out of the tunnel.

Play Like A Champion Today.

Back to Basketball…

… and The Seton Hall Pirates of course.

Check the first box… they have a new enthusiastic, passionate about Seton Hall, athletic director in Bryan Felt who just came in after Patrick Lyons who did a tremendous job for the program.  

Check the second box. They have Coach willard who believes in the Pirates, loves the community, and isn’t just in it for the money. Check this post out by Jp Pelzman, to get a hint at what I’m talking about…


I don’t know who to credit with the making this bold move but as the pirates started their rise back to national relevance, behind the 2014 recruiting class, which was one of the best in the nation that year; with guys like Whitehead, Delgado, Carrington, Rodriguez, and Sanogo. Someone was responsible, someone executed on the vision and ultimately those guys bought in. And made thousands of Pirate Fans very happy as their team began to win again. 

Bringing “The Glory” Uniforms Back

They made another big move when they brought back the late eighties early nineties uniforms in 2015 to honor the legendary teams of that era. Those teams that reached the sweet sixteen three times and were the national runner ups in 1989. 

Everything about these uniforms screams Seton Hall: The old pirate logo with the blade in his mouth, on the bottom left of the shorts, the two blue stripes on the waist and at the end of the shorts and shoulders. Oh, and of course, the cursive “Seton Hall” on the chest. 

Whoever did that is incredible and deserves to be alongside the final four banner…in my opinion.

The designer/s of that uniform, created a uniform that players want to wear. A uniform that players get excited about. A uniform that is bringing back the tradition the pirates had, now that they’re wearing it again.

Anyway… whoever’s idea it was to bring those uniforms back, have begun a long lost culture in Seton Hall Basketball. A culture that the old Pirate fans forgot. A culture that the new Pirate fans only heard legendary stories about but never experienced.

One that my father, and many other sons fathers of Seton Hall grads, watched every game, or listened to on the radio. They loved their team and throughout everything though; the goods and bads they stuck by them.

The Ones Who Built The Pirate Culture

There’s many people who helped build the program. The first name that comes to mind is a coach by the name of PJ; Pj Calisimo, who had the energy of a lion, brought so much energy to the court, and to the fans. It was an era that had players like Gerald Greene, Andrew gaze, Danny Hurley and Terry Dehere lighting up the scoreboard every night.

One who’s 1989 team brought the small school in South orange to the final four for the first time ever. We all know how it ended but they sparked a fire that was going to burn for a long time.

Authors note- I can still see my father replaying that game film against Michigan and hawling up a storm about that last call.

So… a few questions are… do the Pirates have what it takes to continue to build this winning culture? 

Will they keep the “Glory” uniforms. Inspired by Bruce Springsteen.

 WIll they continue to make bold moves?

It’s not that these uniforms are magical or something either. We’re going to have some bad games in them and lose some(like we already have since bringing them back). 

It’s about consistency, and consistency wins basketball games. A part of that too is uniforms. It takes a lingering question off of the players minds, “What uniform are we wearing today coach?” and the response, 

“Hmmm I’m not sure, let me consult my fashion advisor?” That won’t happen anymore. No questions asked. If they keep them. 

It’s cool to sport a different uniform every once in awhile, but all the time, if that’s not your culture(like Oregon football) than that’s not a recipe for success.

Another question that will be parlayed out of the fans minds, 

“I hope the uniforms are good this year.”

The Foundation is Set

The Pirates have something now. We have our uniforms now and we have a strong foundation laid for years to come. Thanks in large part to Coach Pj Carlisimo, Coach Willard,  Athletic Director Larry Keating(80’s-90’s) and Patrick Lyons-( 2011-2019’s

We have something back. All pirate fans are in jubilation from the last few years and now, more than ever, we’re ready for this coming season.

We have a team who believes in Seton Hall and a leader on the floor named Myles Powell. He’s a Jersey Native and knows what it takes to survive in this basketball crazed state and in this blood thirsty conference known as the Big East. We shall see Pirate Nation…

We have some incredible individuals leading our program. I think we can all put our trust in these people. 

So let them run the ship and we’ll stay behind in full support.

By- Tom Kubrak

Email- tomkubrak.writing@gmail.com

IG & TWTR @tomkubrak