Sept. 21, 2011: According to ESPN.com, Hearlihy gives a verbal commitment to Utah.
Nov. 9, 2011: The University of Utah announces Hearlihy's signing in a press release. In the release, head coach Larry Krystkowiak has this to say about the 6-7 small forward from Harvard-Westlake HS:
"We feel Josh could be a real diamond in the rough for us. He is long and skilled at 6-foot-7, who could be at 6-8 and still growing when he gets here. What stands out is his skill level and ability to make the right play. He is a good passer and has a great feel for the game. We think he will do far better in a system as opposed to AAU ball, where he has the possibility of being overlooked. He should fit really well in what we want to do at the `two' or the `three'. He is a great student and a great kid."
Nov. 28-Dec. 3: Hearlihy begins his senior season by averaging 18 points on 40 percent shooting from the field and seven rebounds per game. H-W goes 3-2 in those games. One of those games, ironically enough, was a two-point loss to Pacific Hills -- home of recent Ute signee Brandon Taylor
Dec. 14: Hearlihy has his first single-digit scoring game, scoring just eight points against South Torrance. This would be Hearlihy's last game until Jan. 28.
Jan. 26 and 28: Hearlihy attends Utah's games against UCLA and USC. Prior to the USC game, Hearlihy plays in his first game since Dec. 4, scoring nine points on 3 of 4 shooting -- all from 3-point range -- in a 62-60 victory against Torrey Pines.
Feb. 7: Krystkowiak meets with Hearlihy and his parents and tells them what Hearlihy told the L.A. Times on April 10 -- that he is/was encouraged to seek a release from his letter of intent. This comes one day after Hearlihy's worst outing of the year, a 2-point, zero-field goal, 2-rebound performance against Crespi.
Feb. 15-21: Hearlihy is as close as he ever was to top form, averaging 12.3 points on just over 50 percent shooting as H-W goes 2-1. Since his return from injury, Hearlihy connects on 13 of 25 3-point shots.
April 10: The day before the start of the late-signing period, Hearlihy, through H-W, issues a release detailing Krystkowiak's desire for Hearlihy to seek a release from his letter-of-intent.
Some conclusions that can be easily drawn:
1. Hearlihy had little, if anything, to hide regarding his health when he signed his letter of intent. After a summer of doing nothing but playing (and a summer in which he would not have earned any offers or interest if he wasn't playing) his body appeared ready to go from the start of the season, which came about three weeks after he signed his LOI. Certainly his production matches that of a player who is being leaned on to produce big.
2. Something happened on Dec. 13-14, when Hearlihy played in back-to-back games, scoring 21 points against Mira Costa before slipping to eight against South Torrance. Those turned out to be the last games Hearlihy would play for six weeks. It seems highly unlikely that Hearlihy had missed six weeks of basketball to this point, so it's highly likely that an injury occurred here. It has been reported that Hearlihy's injury did not require surgery.
3. Listening to Larry's interview on ESPN 700 on the Bill Riley show on Wednesday, and contrary to my first point, Larry gives the impression he knew about Hearlihy's health issues before the LOI was signed. So why sign him then? Because you thought he was a diamond in the rough? Then why give up on him for him missing half of his senior season and doing what he can to return to the court? Honor the scholarship and give him a medical hardship if Hearlihy proves unable to ever be 100 percent.
(Then again, maybe Larry saw what happened with Jim Boylen, and figured acts of good will wouldn't help him in the event he suffers through another losing season in Year 3, or another single-digit win season in Year 2. Why do the right thing if you're going to get fired exclusively for W-L anyway?)
If Hearlihy was worth taking a chance on in November, he should be worth taking a chance on now. If offering and having Hearlihy sign was a mistake, that becomes Larry's problem and not the Hearlihy family's problem. Larry has to start being accountable for his own mistakes and one year into his tenure, he's incapable of doing that. In fact, at the very beginning of the interview on ESPN 700, he refers to the departures from the program upon his hiring as "something out of our control." Talk about passing the buck. (EDIT: In fairness to Larry, his explanation for the latest exodus appears above-board and matches with what many of us suspected all along regarding opportunity for one year for guys like Farr, Dawson, Odunsi, etc.)
At the most crucial period in recent Utah hoops memory as far as the future is concerned, the Hearlihy development could be a damaging blow, and perhaps fatal. Our competition for Givon Crump and Renan Lenz now has a very fresh piece of meat for those recruits to chew on. Our name in Southern California -- long the bedrock mined by Utah for next-level talent -- has been sullied. Maybe we could overcome this when we were in the MWC, but every Pac-12 school has a major presence in Los Angeles.
But just as important as this development is to our recruiting efforts, it has had a major blow on the morale of the fanbase. Whereas Utah had had departures from the program for a variety of reasons -- some of which, in case you've been led to believe otherwise, actually fall on the doorstep of the head coach -- we are now experience departures before players ever set foot on campus.
Forget eking out a single-digit win against an NAIA Division II team; Utah hoops has reached a new low on the embarrassment scale. And adding to that embarrassment is the insistence of some fans who are painting Hearlihy as the bad guy, a dishonest ingrate who deceived Utah basketball into believing he was something that he really wasn't.