As great as the Steve Fishers and Gregg Marshalls and Jim Crews of the world are — and they’re pretty darn great — several other O26 coaches have also achieved remarkable success so far in 2013-14, often with less to work with and more to prove. Let’s examine a few of those head coaches around the country who have stood out to this point despite leading lesser-known programs.
Tony Jasick has raised the bar at IPFW this season. (gomastodons.com)
Tony Jasick– IPFW. At 18-7, Jasick’s team has already tied IPFW’s highest win total since it joined the Division I ranks 13 years ago, vastly exceeding expectations along the way. The Mastadons were picked to finish sixth out of eight teams in the Summit League preseason poll, making their current 6-2 conference record — enough to be tied for first place — quite a surprise, especially considering that they’ve already beaten the next three top contenders. In its win against overwhelming league-favorite North Dakota State, IPFW went 20-of-21 from the free throw line and committed just 11 fouls en route to a double-figure victory. It took Dayton some last-second heroics at home to beat Jasick’s club, and after falling to Illinois by just two points in late November, Illini head coach John Groce said of the Mastadons: “I thought they were going to be the best execution team that we have played so far. And they were.” Only 35 years old and in just his third year, Jasick could very well lead his program to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance this season and is sure to become a hot coaching name in the near future.
Michigan’s dreams of making another March run were dealt a major blow on Friday when the school announced that sophomore Mitch McGary would be out for the rest of the season after electing to have surgery on his lower back. McGary, who was one of the top recruits in the country coming out of high school even after a late slide down the rankings, started slowly as a freshman before turning around things late in the season to become perhaps Michigan’s second most effective player in the run to last season’s title game. Had he elected to enter the NBA Draft there is a good chance he might have been a lottery pick, but slowed by a back injury that had been bothering him since late August he was less effective (9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game) than the Wolverines would have hoped. Although we have seen college players make some strange decisions we assume that this will probably mean that McGary will return to Michigan next season to prove he is healthy unless some agent convinces him to leave with a guaranteed first round spot.
In a somewhat similar way, but for a completely different reason, we may have seen the last of suspended Utah State forward Jarred Shaw this season after he was charged with felony drug distribution. Shaw, the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, and shot blocker, had already been suspended after police found marijuana after responding to a call at his residence. According to police, the amount of marijuana that they found was “more than personal use.” Given the latest information, we would be surprised if we saw Shaw, a senior, back in an Aggie uniform. Our best guess is that Shaw is headed overseas for a pro career assuming he is not playing in a prison league first.
Seton Hall has already suffered several significant setbacks including both injuries and an Israeli military call-up, but those pale in comparison to what happened to Gene Teague on Friday night. Early in the second half of the team’s win over Lafayette, Teague went up for a lay-up and was undercut by a Lafayette player leading to an ugly fall (video here). Teague was immobilized, put on a stretcher, and taken to a local hospital when he was diagnosed as having suffered a concussion. The overall outcome is somewhat fortunate because based on the way he fell it could have been a lot worse. For now, Teague will be undergoing a series of tests as part of the standard concussion protocol to determine when he is fit to play again.
Many of our younger readers might not be familiar with King Rice, the former North Carolina point guard from 1988-91. If they are familiar with him, it would either be through replays of old games or his history of arrests that continued up through his coaching days. So it was good to read a New York Times profile on Rice that appears to indicate that he may have turned a corner. Now the head coach at Monmouth, Rice has been arrested on several occasions including once as a junior at UNC on charges of assaulting his then-girlfriend, resisting arrest, and destroying public property. Many of Rice’s issues, including that arrest, appear to have revolved around alcohol. According to Rice, he has been sober for 17 years, but as anybody who has ever interacted with an alcoholic knows that can change very quickly so we hope Rice can continue on the new track that he appears to be on.
This season has been a challenging one for Marquette and head coach Buzz Williams so it would not have been entirely shocking to see them try to get heralded freshman Duane Wilson healthy in order to try to salvage the season. Wilson, a top-100 recruit coming out of high school, has been sidelined with a stress fracture in his left leg since the preseason. On Friday, the school announced that Wilson would be taking a medical redshirt. Regardless of the status of Wilson’s recovery, which we have to rely on Marquette’s reports for, it seems like a redshirt is the best option for both parties as we doubt Wilson would have been unable to turn this team around and it seems reckless to throw away a year of eligibility on this Marquette season.
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the NEC.
A Dynasty Grows In Brooklyn: It’s probably fitting that the Northeast Conference administrators chose the brand-new Barclays Center to host its annual media day. The NEC trophy has resided in this borough two straight years and LIUBrooklyn is planning on a unique ‘three-peat’. In the NEC’s 32-year history, no team has captured the title for three straight seasons. LIU Brooklyn is primed to finish the trifecta, but there will be stiff competition. Mainstays Robert Morris, Quinnipiac and Wagner will be in the hunt, and don’t forget ‘Battle of Brooklyn’ nemesis, St.Francis, just a mile away in Brooklyn Heights. The Terriers surprised last season and have enough returning talent to continue their recent success.
They’re Watching And Noticing: One of the significant aspects of the NEC’s improvement can be seen in coaching mobility. The higher-level schools are looking at and hiring mentors who prove they can X and O in this conference. Three years ago, Mike Rice went from Robert Morris to Rutgers. This past season, Duquesne chose LIU Brooklyn’s Jim Ferry, while Rhode Island, another Atlantic 10 school, obtained the services of Danny Hurley, who quickly reversed fortunes at Wagner. As one coach noted at media day, “you have a group of good, aggressive coaches here who can build and run a program.” No surprise NEC coaches are on the big boys’ short lists.
LIU Brooklyn’s Julian Boyd Returns For NEC Favorite LIU Brooklyn. (AP)
Circle the Date: Wagner faces off against Temple, Syracuse, Penn, Princeton, Hofstra and plays in the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara. However, a relatively early game of note is January 10 at LIU Brooklyn. The Seahawks have a four-game losing streak in the series and Wagner coach Bashir Mason all too well knows the the road to the NEC title will go through Brooklyn.
Reader’s Take I
Early Power Rankings (last season’s record in parentheses)
LIU Brooklyn (25-9, 16-2 NEC): The Blackbirds seemingly have it all: Experience, depth and recent success of enviable excellence. And talent. Start with returning NEC Player of the Year, Julian Boyd. The 6’7” senior forward put together a sterling season where he averaged 17 points and nine rebounds per contest, highlighted by 14 double-doubles. Jamal Olasewere, another first team All-NEC pick, returns up front as well. In the backcourt is junior Jason Brickman. Seventh nationally with 7.3 assists per outing, Brickman has drawn praise from rival coaches for his passing ability and expertise in controlling the game. Coach Jack Perri is now at the helm with Jim Ferry gone to Duquesne. The transition has been very smooth for the former LIU assistant. Winners of 34 of their last 36 conference games, the Blackbirds are NEC favorites. Read the rest of this entry »
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.
Reader’s Take I
Coaches Enjoy Honors: In September, Mount St. Mary’s coach Robert Burke coached in the Congressional County All-Star Classic. Burke coached a team of members of Congress while George Washington mentor Mike Lonergan guided a team of lobbyists. The game was at GW’s Smith Center. Hopefully Burke did not allow his ‘club’ a lengthy recess. In other news, Wagner assistant Bobby Hurley was inducted into the Duke University Hall of Fame in September. Hurley scored over 1,700 points, handed out an NCAA record 1,076 assists and led Duke to two national titles during his playing days (19989-93).
A Long-Awaited Repeat In The NEC? Long Island is attempting to become the first NEC school in nearly two decades to successfully defend its conference title. The last? Current MAAC member Rider, which captured the NEC crown in 1993 and 1994.
Can LIU Capture the Blackbird Magic Again? (credit: NY Post)
The Numbers Game: Among starters lost, FDU and Quinnipiac lead the way with three each. It’s a matter of perception. FDU, coming off a five-win season, can look at this as a fresh start. Quinnipiac, a 22-win team from a season ago, has spots to replace. Tom Moore has options as he has the Bobcats primed for another run. The program with the least amount of starters lost? Wagner. The Seahawks, coming off an encouraging 9-9 conference slate good for a sixth-place tie, have every starter back on board.
Sacred Heart Mourns Loss Of Former Star: On a sad note, Sacred Heart is mourning the passing of Chauncey Hardy, a prolific player for the Pioneers from 2006-10. Hardy scored over 1,200 points during his Sacred Heart career and was playing professionally overseas in Romania at the time of his tragic death, which came after Hardy was assaulted in a pub.