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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Majok Majok a major pickup for Fairfield

Regardless of where Majok Majok landed, Fairfield was going to enter the 2010-11 season as the MAAC team with the biggest upside.

After Majok, a 6-7 power forward from Australia via Northfield Mount Hermon Academy, gave Ed Cooley a verbal commitment Tuesday, the Stags took yet another step forward -- this time one that, as long as Cooley is still the coach, could keep Fairfield atop the MAAC pecking order for several more years.

Majok, whose first cousin Ater will enter his second season at UConn next year, had a long list of suitors that included Georgia Tech, Boston College and Siena.

Tuesday, in a move first reported on Twitter by Scout.com's Evan Daniels, Majok chose the Stags, adding himself to an already impressive recruiting class that includes point guard Jamel Fields and forwards Keith Matthews, Adam Jones and Maurice Barrow.

Derek Needham, a virtual lock as a preseason first-team all-MAAC pick as a sophomore, remains the biggest reason for optimism in Fairfield. The returns of Yorel Hawkins and Warren Edney from injuries and the emergence of Colin Nickerson and Ryan Olander help, too.

But the recruiting class Cooley has reeled in represents another step in a rapid transformation of the program that hasn't been to the NCAA tournament in 13 years.

Each of Cooley's classes has been better than the previous class, and that's saying something given Needham's immediate impact.

The high-rising Majok should have an immediate impact on both ends of the floor, but his physical tools are said to be far ahead of his basketball skills -- a tantalizing prospect for Fairfield fans and a likely cause for concern for other teams in the MAAC.

Rutgers announces David Cox hiring

Rutgers formally announced the hiring of David Cox Tuesday as Mike Rice's top assistant.

Cox, an assistant at Georgetown for the past three seasons, worked with Rice for a year at Pittsburgh, where Rice was an assistant to Jamie Dixon and Cox, a former standout guard at William & Mary, was the director of basketball operations.

The press release from the school is below:

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (May 18, 2010) -
Rutgers University head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice announced today that David Cox has been named to his staff as associate head coach. Cox arrives “On the Banks” after spending the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Georgetown University.

“David brings a great deal of successful experience to our program,” said Rice. “In addition to his coaching talents, he has well-established recruiting ties in the Mid-Atlantic region. David has driven players to achieve throughout his career and we look forward to him mentoring our young men here at Rutgers.”

Cox served under head coach John Thompson III from 2007-08 to 2009-10, helping the Hoyas to a trio of post-season appearances, including NCAA Tournament berths in 2008 and 2010.

Prior to his position in the nation’s capital, Cox was director of Basketball Operations for head coach Jamie Dixon at the University of Pittsburgh in 2006-07. He was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the program, served as a liaison to athletic department officials and coordinated practice, game day and daily schedules. During his season with the Panthers, Cox worked alongside Rice, who was an assistant coach.

Cox spent seven years as an Assistant Principal at his alma mater, St. John's Preparatory High School, in Washington, D.C. His many duties at SJPHS from 1999-2006 included oversight of the school's athletic department, supervision of all extra-curricular activities and serving as school disciplinarian.

Cox first coached at the high school level at Archbishop Carroll in Washington, D.C., where he was an assistant from 1996 to 1999.

Cox began his coaching career as an assistant coach with the Washington D.C. Assault AAU program. He helped guide the team to the under-16 national championship in 2004. In assisting D.C. Assault head coach Curtis Malone, several of his players earned college scholarships, including Tre Kelley (South Carolina), Chris McCray (Maryland), Michael Beasley (Kansas State/Miami Heat), Nolan Smith (Duke), Dante Cunningham (Villanova/Portland Trail Blazers), Arinze Onuaku (Syracuse) and Adrian Bowie (Maryland).

As a collegiate player, Cox lettered four seasons at William & Mary for head coaches Chuck Swenson and Charlie Woollum. A three-year starter at point guard from 1992-95, Cox concluded his career with 670 points, 216 rebounds, 336 assists and a .352 three-point field goal percentage. He remains ranked among school leaders in several statistical categories including career assists (eighth, 336), career assist average (ninth, 3.08 apg.), career three-point field goal percentage (ninth, .352), career three-point field goals made (sixth, 137), season three -point field goals made (sixth, 57) and owns two of the school's top-10 best season assists totals. His career-high 12 assists against George Mason in 1995 still ranks third among all-time game performances in William & Mary basketball history.

Cox graduated from William & Mary in 1995 with a sociology degree and later earned his Master's in Education from the school in 1996. He and wife Tasha have two children.

Friday, May 14, 2010

La Salle adds another signee

La Salle, which hosts Rider next year in Phialdelphia and could be dangerous in the Atlantic 10, signed another highly regarded recruit Friday.

From the AP:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Minnetonka High School star Cole Stefan has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at LaSalle.

The Philadelphia school made the announcement on Friday.

Stefan averaged 19.3 points per game last year for the Skippers and was a finalist for Minnesota's Mr. Basketball award. He was a two-year captain at the school in the Minneapolis suburbs and helped Minnetonka win the big-school state title in 2008.

LaSalle coach Dr. John Giannini says Stefan "is an excellent shooter, a good athlete and a smart, unselfish player."

Stefan is the fourth player to sign a letter of intent to play for LaSalle this year.

MAAC lookalike contest: Ed Cooley and Aaron Neville




The next entry in our MAAC lookalike contest is Fairfield coach Ed Cooley and R&B star Aaron Neville.

Thanks to reader Brian Howell, who submitted the entry via Twitter. It's the fourth entry we've run, joining Tim Cluess and Ferris Bueller's Day Off's Edward R. Rooney, Ryan Rossiter and McLovin and Jimmy Patsos and the Wonder Years' Jack Arnold.

Remember, entries can be submitted via Twitter (@bendoody), in the comments section or via e-mail at bdoody@trentonian.com. The winner will be selected in November, shortly before the start of the regular season.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

News and notes

A few early-evening tidbits to to chime in on before everyone turns their attention to the spectacle about to take place in Boston.

* After being turned down by Arizona's Book Richardson and Pitt's Brandin Knight, Mike Rice found his associate head coach, reportedly hiring Georgetown assistant David Cox. The Knights have filled two of their three full-time assistant's positions with Cox and Jimmy Martelli.

* Kevin Willard tells Adam Zagoria he's expecting big things next year's from Trenton's Jeff Robinson.

* Kentucky AD Mitch Barnhart says he expects John Calipari to be back next year. But how fitting would it be if the coach who's made a living on one-and-dones became a one-and-done himself?

* Luke Winn and Jeff Goodman are among those with preseason rankings out.

In case you missed 'em

A few stories of note involving Jersey teams and/or programs with MAAC ties that I didn't get around to posting Wednesday, when I was either sifting through APR reports or designing high school track & field pages for The Trentonian:

* Kevin Willard's staff at Seton Hall is complete. Willard formally named Shaheen Holloway, the Pirates' career assists leader, his associate head coach. Holloway also worked for Willard at Iona, and the probability of his return to the Hall certainly didn't hurt Willard's chances of getting the job.

Don McHale, another member of Willard's Iona staff, will also be on the staff at the Hall, as will Chris Pompey, a former assistant at New Mexico State. Willard hired Stephen Sauers as his director of basketball operations and Grant Billmeier and Casey Stanley as basketball operations coordinators.

* In a piece of very good news for the Hall, Adam Zagoria writes the forward Herb Pope is expected to make a full recovery and could be back with the Pirates next season. That means all three of the players who declared eligible for the NBA Draft -- Pope, Jeremy Hazell and Trenton's Jeff Robinson -- should be back next year, making the Hall a viable contender for an NCAA tournament berth.

* Another former MAAC coach -- Iowa's Fran McCaffery --filled out his staff by adding another former Division I head coach: Former Indiana State and James Madison head man Sherman Dillard. Dillard coached the Sycamores from 1994-97 and the Dukes from 1997-2004.

* McCaffery and Co. will try to improve on the Hawkeyes' 2-7 record in the ACC/Big Ten challenge when they play at Wake Forest on Nov. 30.

* As Pete Iorizzo reports, Siena ranked 66th in the country in attendance with an average of 7,853 per game. I am continuously impressed of the degree to which the fans in Albany support the Saints. I'm even more impressed by the fans at Creighton, which drew a preposterous 14,495 per game -- good for 15th in the country.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rider, Princeton men's hoops teams honored for APR

When it comes to Academic Progress rate, the Rider men's basketball team is in good company -- company, in fact, that includes Princeton.

The Broncs and Tigers both received public recognition awards Wednesday for placing in the top 10 percent in APR.

The full list:

American, Belmont, Boise State, BYU, Brown, Bucknell, Butler, Colgate, Holy Cross, Columbia, Davidson, DePaul, Drexel, Elon, George Mason, Harvard, Lafayette, Lehigh, Loyola-Illiniois, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Northwestern, Penn State, Princeton, Rider, Texas U&M, Navy, Kansas, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Xavier, Yale.

Not surprisingly, the Tigers weren't the only Ivy League team on the list. They were joined by Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Yale. I'll give Cornell the benefit of the doubt that the players were too busy playing in the NCAA tournament to keep up with their school work. I don't know what was going on at Dartmouth or Penn.

... The Broncs were the MAAC's lone representative.

Cluess hires Bryant to fill final assistant spot

Tim Cluess has hired Mount Vernon High assistant Garee Bryant to fill the final spot on his staff.

Below is part of the press release from the Gaels:

NEW ROCHELLE, NY - Iona College men’s basketball head coach Tim Cluess announced the appointment of Garee Bryant as an assistant coach. Bryant joins the staff after spending the last six seasons as a varsity assistant coach at Mount Vernon High School.

“I’ve known Garee from both his playing days and now his coaching days and his ties to the local high school and AAU programs will prove invaluable for our program,” said Cluess. “Garee will bring a tremendous work ethic along with teaching ability. He is highly regarded among his peers in the area and we are very excited to have him on board.”

Under the tutelage of long-time head coach, Bob Cimmino, Bryant helped lead the Knights to three New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships, three New York State Federation of Secondary Schools Athletic Associations championships and six Section I titles. Bryant helped mentor several Division I players during his time at his alma mater including Iona College graduate Dexter Gray. He also helped to develop Rutgers’ Michael Coburn and Jonathan Mitchell, West Virginias’ Kevin Jones, Pittsburgh’s Keith Benjamin, George Mason’s Sharrod Wright and UMass’ Chris Lowe. In addition to his duties along side Cimmino on the varsity bench, Bryant was also the Knights’ junior varsity head coach for five years.

Why Rutgers' APR ranking is exactly what the Big Ten wants to see

There are several reasons Rutgers is squarely in the middle of Big Ten expansion talk, foremost among them the tantalizing idea of spreading the Big Ten network to the New York and Philadelphia markets.

But though TV revenue is the driving force behind expansion and just about everything else in college sports, the Big Ten is an admirably snooty group when it comes to academics. Each of the league's 11 universities is part of the prestigious American Association of Universities, and none are lower than 71st on U.S. News & World Report's rankings of national universities.

That's why beyond TV appeal -- and far beyond its recent success on the field -- Rutgers' academics (an AAU member, Rutgers is tied for 66th in the U.S. News rankings) are a central reason the school will almost certainly be one of those added when the league expands to 14 or 16 schools.

That brings us to the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate report, which came out Wednesday. The Rutgers football team received a public recognition award -- given to schools who place in the top 10 percent -- for the third straight season.

Rutgers is in very good company among Football Bowl Subdivision schools on the public recognition list. The other six are Duke, Northwestern, Rice, Air Force, Notre Dame and Miami.

Of that group, only Rutgers, Duke, Rice and Air Force have appeared on the list in each of the past three years. And in all three years, Rutgers has been the only state university on the list. That's a significant feat because 10 of the Big Ten's 11 schools (Northwestern being the only exception) are public, meaning a state university with top-tier academics -- Michigan is the posterchild -- is exactly the kind of school the conference wants.

Rutgers, of course, was prestigious for its academics before it even had a football program -- and that's saying something given that the school hosted the first game ever played. It's also true that the school's overall academic reputation is far more important than the APR score for the football team -- or that of the cross country, women's tennis and gymnastics teams, which were also recognized Wednesday.

But this is an ultra-competitive era in which conferences and their member schools are constantly jockeying for positioning. Leagues don't only want the most teams playing in bowl games -- they also want the biggest TV deals, the most players taken in the NFL draft, the biggest and best stadiums, and -- especially in the Big 10's case -- the best academics.

Rutgers' spot in the APR rankings, when coupled with the school's recent stadium expansion and relative success on the field -- the Knights have been stagnant for the past three seasons but remain headed in the right direction -- help foster the notion that the school founded before the American Revolution is actually on the rise, only now coming into his prime after more than two centuries of existence.

Not wanting to alienate anyone in the Big East, Rutgers officials have been understandably silent regarding expansion talk. But even when if they're not trying to -- maybe they are trying to, but it's impossible to tell -- Greg Schiano and Co. are sounding the exact message that the Big Ten wants to hear.

On a conference call today discussing the APR report, for instance, Schiano might as well have been recording a Big 10 infomercial about attracting students serious about both school and football.

"I hope we attract guys like that," he said, "because of what we have been able to accomplish not only on the field but in the classroom. One of the things I think that, now, after doing it for a number of years and after consistently going to bowl games and winning bowl games, the kind of young person we are going to attract is serious about both academics and football."

Rider opener Nov. 12 at UMass; USC, Pitt La Salle also on schedule

A year before the MAAC tournament moves to Springfield, Mass., Rider will get plenty of experience playing in the area.

In addition to playing at the MassMutual Center in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic, the Broncs will open the season at UMass Nov 12. As part of the tournament -- which features two games on teams' home courts before the tournament moves to Springfield -- Rider will play at the Minutemen in the opener, followed by a date Nov. 17 at USC.

"We are excited to have an opportunity to play in the Hall of Fame Tip Off Tournament against a great field," coach Tommy Dempsey said. "It gives our players an opportunity to experience the basketball hall of fame and it also gives us a chance to play two games this year in the MassMutual Center which will serve as the home of the MAAC tournament for the following three years."

The Broncs' non-conference schedule will also include games against Pitt, La Salle and Drexel in addition to the BracketBuster return game against Hofstra, though none of those dates are finalized.

The Tip-Off Classic, hosted by the MAAC, will also feature New Mexico State and Bradley, according to a report in the Springfield Republican. The remaining three teams have yet to be determined.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rice's ties to Martellis run deep; Jimmy hired as assistant

Ever since Mike Rice joined Phil Martelli’s staff at Saint Joseph’s in 2004, Martelli’s family has played a key role in Rice’s career.

Martelli welcomed Rice into his home, providing his new assistant with a place to stay before he could relocate his family.

Rice returned the favor when he hired Jimmy Martelli — Phil’s son — as an assistant three years ago at Robert Morris, offering a room in his house in Pittsburgh.

And after Martelli served on Rice’s staff for three years with the Colonials, Rice formally named the 27-year-old to his staff at Rutgers, the school announced Tuesday.

Martelli is the first hire for Rice, who was introduced last Thursday as the Knights’ head coach.
Meanwhile, Robert Morris began the Post-Rice era by introducing another former Rice assistant — Andrew Toole — as its head coach.

Parrotta signs two-year extension at Canisius

Have to admit, I didn't see this one coming -- not after four seasons and four trips to the MAAC tournament play-in round:

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Canisius College men's basketball coach Tom Parrotta has signed a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2012-13 season.

In four seasons, Parrotta has a 44-81 record at Canisius, and is coming off his best year in which the Golden Griffins went 15-17. It was the team's best finish since going 20-11 in 2000-01, and marked only the 13th time in 50 years that Canisius has won 15 games.

The Golden Griffins have also won at least one Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament game in each of Parrotta's four seasons.

In announcing the extension on Tuesday, athletic director Bill Maher credited Parrotta for making steady progress in rebuilding the program.

Ryan Thompson: Kings workout a good 'icebreaker'

Ryan Thompson is scheduled to work out with 12 teams in advance of next month's NBA draft -- an exciting but potentially nerve-rattling process in which a contract could be at stake.

So when by coincidence the Sacrament Kings set the earliest workout date, the timing put Thompson at ease.

"Nerves-wise, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be," Thompson said. "I thought it was good to come here first because I knew a lot of the coaches and the guys running the workouts. It was a good ice-breaker."

Thompson had been to Sacramento several times to visit his older brother, who the Kings drafted with the 12th overall pick in 2008.

This trip was more than a little different.

"I was in a hotel room instead of his place," Thompson said. "It's business time."

Thompson talked to The Trentonian by phone before boarding a flight for San Antonio, where he'll work out Wednesday for the Spurs. He's also scheduled to work out for the Timberwolves May 23, the Trailblazers June 1 and the Celtics June 19. He'll work out for several other teams next month -- a schedule that likely would have been less busy had it not been for his performance last month at the Portsmouth Invitational.

With his draft stock needing a boost, Thompson opted to play in Portsmouth -- a tournament Jason Thompson bypassed in 2008 because he was a probable first-round pick who didn't have as much work to do to gain scouts' attention.

Thompson scored a game-high 37 points on the first day of the tournament. He finished as his team's leading scorer and was named to the all-tournament team.

"I was talking to (coach Tommy) Dempsey about it," Thompson said, "and all he said was 'be glad you went to Portsmouth."

Bills piling up for UConn

From the AP, which recaps information in this report by the Hartford Courant:

STORRS, Conn. (AP) — The University of Connecticut has spent more than $338,000 in legal fees related to the NCCA's investigation of its basketball program.

The Hartford Courant reported Monday that legal bills were paid to the Kansas City law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King between April 2009 and April 2010. The firm specializes in NCAA compliance issues.

Records show the state also has agreed to spend an additional $375,000 for the firm's services.

The NCAA has spent more than a year investigating the school's recruitment of former player Nate Miles.

UConn athletic department spokesman Mike Enright says the money for the legal bills comes from funds generated by the school's athletic department, and there is no taxpayer or tuition money involved.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Patsos leaving Loyola?

Just when it appeared the coaching carousel had stopped spinning, the MAAC could have its third coaching change of the offseason.

According to a report in the Washington Post, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos is likely going back to Maryland, where he served on Gary Williams' staff from 1991-2004.

Patsos resurrected a once-abysmal program in Baltimore, inheriting a team that had gone 1-27 the previous year and turning the Greyhounds into MAAC contenders. In 2007-08 the Hounds finished only a game behind Siena and Rider in the league standings and had a 17-point second-half lead on the Saints in the tournament semifinals.

That, however, was as close as Loyola has gotten to the NCAA tournament. With a continuous flow of transfers from high-major programs -- and without much success recruiting top-level high school players -- the Hounds have become a bottom-tier MAAC team. This past season they finished eighth in the league and lost to Manhattan in the tournament play-in round.

Patsos has also been in the headlines for unusual reasons throughout his tenure. In addition to his hyperactive sideline behavior, he's also drawn attention for leaving the bench during a game to sit in the stands, and for double-teaming Davidson star Steph Curry for the entirety of a lopsided loss in 2008-09. Following the Davidson shenanigans, he wrote this bizarre letter to PTI's Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.

Loyola hired Jim Paquette as its athletic director in February, replacing the outgoing Joe Boylan, who hired Patsos in 2004.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Rider women's roster set

The Rider women's team finalized its roster Friday by inking two players to national letters of intent.

Alicia Hall, a 5-foot-9 guard from Silver Spring, Md., and Aisha Varnadore, a 5-7 guard from Burlington County Community College, and will join the Broncs in 2010-11.

Hall, rated a top-100 player by hoopgirls.com, was a McDonald's All-American nominee at John F. Kennedy High School, where she averaged 15 points and seven rebounds last year.

"Alicia is a big guard that will be able to play multiple positions," said coach Lynn Milligan. "She can get to the basket as well as shoot the ball. She has a strong work ethic and is determined to be the best. She will add great depth to our corps of guards."

Varnadore, a former Rancocas Valley High standout, led Burlington to the Region XIX championships last year and was a second-team all-conference pick after averaging 15.4 points.

"Aisha is a quick, smooth perimeter player that has the capability to be a one or a two," Milligan said.

Justin Robinson -- and Ben Gordon -- on Great Britain preliminary roster

Justin Robinson and Ben Gordon: Backcourt mates in international basketball?

The Rider point guard and the Detroit Pistons star -- and former UConn standout -- were both on the 21-man preliminary roster released Friday by the British national team.

Robinson, in the running for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team, will first try to make the final cut for international competition this summer. Last year, he made the first cut (down to 16 players) but not the second, from 16 to 12.

Given his role as one of the youngest players in camp, Robinson's stock figures to rise. Whether he makes the final cut this summer or -- more importantly -- the Olympic roster -- remains to be seen. But his place on the preliminary roster means he'll have a chance.

The team figures to get a major lift from Gordon, who was born in London but grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y. before starring at UConn. He joins former Bulls teammate Luol Deng and former NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu on the roster.

Robinson and Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning are the only college players on the roster.

MAAC YouTube clip of the day: Majok Majok

After a one-day absence, the YouTube clip of the day is back, featuring a guy who, though uncommitted, could end up as the top newcomer in the MAAC next year.

Here's a 2009-10 highlight package featuring Majok Majok, a 6-8 forward from Australia via Northfield Mount Hermon Prep in my native Western Mass. Among the several schools Majok is considering are Siena and Fairfield.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mike Rice will have to build -- not re-build -- the Rutgers program

When you're overseeing a coaching transition, the plan never involves anything remotely akin to what transpired over the last month at Rutgers -- an almost too-weird-to-be-true scenario that began to unfold with a tirade at a baseball game and finally concluded yesterday.

But when practice begins next October -- and especially when the regular season starts in November -- the process will be all but forgotten. All that will matter is that Mike Rice -- not Fred Hill -- is the head coach, and though he'll never take any public digs at Hill, athletic director Tim Pernetti made it clear Thursday how much more pleased he is with the program now than he has been at any other point since taking the AD's job last year.

"We needed to find a head coach with the skills, with the relationships, with the passion, with the excitement about what we have here at Rutgers," Pernetti said. "And quite frankly, with energy that didn’t have a gauge that read empty."

The last month -- probably even the entire season, for that matter -- has been rough on Pernetti, who inherited a grossly irresponsible contract given to Hill by Bob Mulcahy. Pernetti, a former tight end and radio color analyst, has a reputation as a football guy. But helping build the basketball program -- along with potentially joining the Big 10 -- could define his legacy more than anything.

Mulcahy foolishly gave Hill a contract extension prior to the 2008-09 season, based solely upon one good recruiting class -- of which exactly zero of the four signees remain. It wasn't after Hill lost his cool during a Rutgers-Pitt baseball game that Pernetti was able to get out of the contract.

But Thursday -- to the pleasure of Pernetti and everyone else who follows the Knights' program -- that became a thing of the past.

Many will call what the 41-year-old Rice has in front of him a rebuilding job. Really, though, a building job -- akin to the one Greg Schiano performed with the school's football program -- is a more accurate way to describe it.

Rice paid respect to the program's history, reeling off a list of names from the 1976 Final Four team -- along with that of Quincy Douby, who Rice's son has taken to emulating when shooting jumpers. But 1976 was lightyears away in college basketball terms -- three years before the inception of the Big East and nine before the introduction of the shot clock.

Recreating 1976 at Rutgers is an only slightly more realistic concept than restoring the Chicago Cubs to their 1908 prowess, so Rice, especially given the immense depths to which Hill drove the program (his four-year conference record was the worst in Big East history), is building from scratch.

Asked to name his first goal, he set the bar justifiably low.

"Having enough scholarship players to go 5-on-5," he said, "is my first initiative."

Rice, who led Robert Morris to two NCAA tournament berths in three years, needs to build the program in every facet. During Hill's tenure virtually everything went south, from the Knights' record to attendance at the RAC and overall interest in the program.

Rice lit up the room at his press conference, sounding more like Schiano than Hill. He'll have to do that countless more times in front of alumni and fans to build interest before the season begins.

He'll also have to win some games -- and on that front, he set the bar high.

"There are no white flags in my cabinet or in anything I've ever worked in," he said. ".. I would never set a goal of .500. You may realistically think that and some of the prognosticators may think that, but .500 is never good enough."

Mike Rice press conference highlight reel

My best shot at video production from today's presser:

Quotes from Mike Rice press conference

On making Rutgers relevant again:

I know that what will quicken the process is a winning basketball team and a team that fills the RAC. When I was coaching here seven years ago (as a Pitt assistant) they had good teams -- not NCAA-caliber teams but an NIT-winning team -- and you couldn't hear yourself think at the RAC. That should be a part of us making the RAC the RAC again.

On the scale of the rebuilding project:

Having enough scholarship players to go 5-on-5 is my first initiative. It's one of those things that, I've been recruiting and coaching all my life. This is what I was born to do, so it's not a big deal. We're going go out and get some talented players. They may not be the most notable players in the country right now, but they'll be guys with qualities that I want. They'll have a toughness about him. They'll have a quality, a strength, they'll be guys who will be able to help our team next year. It's the funnest team to coach. ... I can't wait to get at it because it's going to be an underdog season. When I was at Robert Morris we were in an underdog role a lot away from our conference and to tell you the truth, I thrive on that.

On his father, Mike Rice Sr., as a role model:

Instead of telling me to go up and do my math homework, he would say c'mon Mike, we're going to go watch film. It was just something I was raised on and something I talked about to my players, about living your dreams. I never had aspirations to dunk a basketball or be a Division I player. My dream wasn't to be an NBA player, it was becoming a high-level basketball coach, so this is incredible for me because this is certainly my dream and I'm excited about going into it with this group and maybe adding a couple more pieces.

On changing the culture:

Fundamentals don't change, they're fudamentals. Recruiting doesn't change, you're still trying to get the best players. .... I'm going to do it the way I know how and I'm pretty confident that we can change that culture and change the mindset of some of the alumni and even the press about Rutgers' mediocrity and all that type of stuff.

McCaffery adds another Iowan

Seems like Fran McCaffery is making a big effort to bring former Hawkeyes -- both natives of the state and U of I players -- back to the Iowa program. His newest addition is former double-double threat Ryan Bowen a video coordinator and administrative assistant.

The AP story is below:

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Former Iowa standout and NBA veteran Ryan Bowen has been added to new coach Fran McCaffery's staff.

McCaffery says Bowen will serve as the Hawkeyes video coordinator and administrative assistant.

Bowen recently retired after an 11-year career in pro basketball that included stops in Denver, Houston, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.

Bowen, a native of Fort Madison, Iowa, scored over 1,000 points and grabbed 804 rebounds for the Hawkeyes from 1994-98.

Bowen played one game for the NBA's Thunder this season before calling it quits in November.

Bowen is the second former Hawkeye hired by McCaffery. Kirk Speraw, who played at Iowa in the late 70s, will serve as an assistant coach.

Two big breaks for Seton Hall

Depending on decisions by two or three key players, Seton Hall could have been anywhere from a team with realistic NCAA tournament hopes to one almost certain to finish near the bottom of the Big East in Kevin Willard's first year.

Judging by the decisions of Jeff Robinson and Jeremy Hazell, the Pirates should be closer to the former.

According to a report by Foxsports.com's Jeff Goodman, Robinson, a 6-foot-6 forward from Trenton, and Hazell, a 6-5 guard, have both withdrawn their names from the NBA draft.

That neither had good hopes of being selected was clear almost from the beginning, but their low draft stock didn't provide a guarantee that they would return.

Both have only a year of eligibility remaining, but that hasn't stopped other players from transferring. For an example, just look at Rider-bound Jeff Jones, who actually played a full season after the coaching change in Charlottesville before making the move. Boston College's Rakim Sanders -- a likely addition to Fairfield's roster -- is another such example.

Robinson has already transferred once -- from Memphis to Seton Hall after his freshman year -- but though he said he hadn't thought much about playing next year in Europe, he didn't rule out the move completely.

In the end, though, both wisely chose to return to school. Neither player was remotely on the NBA radar screen, but both -- especially Hazell -- could earn earn professional contracts by having good senior years. In the case of Hazell, the Pirates' leading scorer last year, the NBA could come calling if he becomes one of the Big East's premier perimeter players.

The status of the third Hall player who declared for the draft -- forward Herb Pope -- remains unclear. Pope is in the hospital, recovering after he collapsed during a workout, and even if he's healthy enough to play next year, he may not do so at Seton Hall.

But by retaining Hazell and Robinson, Willard ensured that the Pirates will be relevant in Year No. 1 -- something that, barring a Mike-Rice-propduced miracle, won't be true of the Hall's Garden State rivals to the south.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

MAAC YouTube clip of the day: Marist pep band

Since I don't have time to search for an incoming recruit -- and since the pep band figures to continue to be the highlight of the Marist season again next year -- here's the Red Foxes' fight song.

MAAC lookalike contest: Jimmy Patsos and Jack Arnold



In a brilliant move, my colleague Pete Iorizzo of the Albany Times Union submits this entry: Jimmy Patsos and the Wonder Years' Jack Arnold, who was played by Patsos' identical twin, Dan Lauria.

We now have three outstanding nominees: Tim Cluess and Edward R. Rooney, Ryan Rossiter and McLovin, and this one.

Remember, the contest won't end until November (just before the start of the regular season) and any and all nominations are welcome. You can submit them via twitter (@bendoody), leave them in the comments section or e-mail them to bdoody@trentonian.com.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

McCaffery hopes Speraw can help rebuilding effort

Good stuff from AP basketball reporter Luke Meredith, who writes about Frank McCaffery adding former UCF head coach Kirk Speraw to his staff at Iowa:

DES MOINES, Iowa — In a business where change is common, Kirk Speraw stood apart.

Speraw spent 17 seasons as the head coach at Central Florida, racking up a school-record 279 wins and guiding the Knights to four NCAA tournament berths. Speraw's seemingly endless stay in Orlando was cut short in March, when the Knights showed him the door and hired former Marshall coach Donnie Jones.

Instead of simply moving on to another top job, Speraw returned to his alma mater, Iowa, in hopes of rebuilding the Hawkeyes into a Big Ten contender.

Speraw, a native of Sioux City, Iowa, and a two-time letterman for the Hawkeyes under former coach Lute Olson, was hired as an assistant by new coach Fran McCaffery last month.

"It's a great profession and a bad business," said Speraw, who started his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Olson at Iowa in 1979-80. "To be able to come here is the most we could ever hope for."

Though it isn't how he would have drawn up his return to Iowa City, Speraw said Tuesday that he's excited about working with McCaffery in their efforts to turn around the struggling Hawkeyes. Speraw and Andrew Francis, who served under McCaffery at Siena, are the first two members of McCaffery's staff.

"I have tremendous respect for coach McCaffery and what he's done, and it's not going to take us long to get up and running," Speraw said. "I feel very, very comfortable."

Speraw said he isn't concerned about the transition from the big seat to one further down the bench. But he also knows that his homecoming will be a challenging one.

The Hawkeyes have suffered through three straight losing seasons. Iowa bottomed out at 10-22 in 2009-10, costing former coach Todd Lickliter his job after just three years.

"I feel for coach Lickliter. I think that, in a lot of ways, it was kind of like a perfect storm of things that kind of happened against him," Speraw said.

But Lickliter's dismissal didn't stop players from jumping ship.

Recruits Cody Larson and Ben Brust were granted releases after Lickliter's dismissal, and emerging forward Aaron Fuller transferred to Southern California with two seasons of eligibility left.

Speraw said the goal for Iowa's new staff will be to get the most out of the players they have while finding recruits who fit McCaffery's style and can play in the Big Ten.

"We've got to do what we can to make the players in the program reach their potential, individually and collectively. You've got to coach them hard, you've got to teach them hard," Speraw said.

The Hawkeyes' on-court struggles have also contributed to declining attendance numbers over the past few years. Iowa drew just 9,550 fans per home game in 2009-10, and on many nights the crowds seemed a lot smaller than that. Having fans pack Carver-Hawkeye Arena would help Iowa's rebuilding effort, but teams usually have to start winning to get the crowds.

"Our fan base has to be energized to create an atmosphere in Carver-Hawkeye that other recruits want to come and play in that environment," Speraw said.

Speraw said his role won't be clearly defined until McCaffery fills out the rest of his staff, but he's already hard at work.

"We know there's no magic bullet. It's not going to happen overnight," Speraw said. "We've just got to get in there and get the players rejuvenated and excited."

More with Phil Martelli on Mike Rice

Few people on the east coast have more to say about Mike Rice than Phil Martelli, for whom Rice worked as a Saint Joe's assistant from 2004-06.

I caught up with Martelli today to write this story, but initially had to leave out some of Martelli's comments. Here, then, is the full transcript of our chat:

Q: Initial thoughts when you saw Mike was hired?

A: Here's what I always viewed Mike as: I always viewed him as a basketball coach. He's a basketball coach 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. He has a passion for teaching teaching the game. He will not be out-worked in preparation in recruiting, in promoting his program.

Q. Mike was a candidate for the Fordham and Seton Hall jobs at Rutgers. Were you surprised at all with where he eventually landed.

A: If someone told me he would be the coach at FDU, it wouldn't surprise me. If they told me he was going to be the coach at Trenton Catholic, it wouldn't surprise me. It wouldn't surprise me if you had told me he's going to be in the Big East. He won't take a backseat to anyone.

Q: What were you thinking when you watched the Robert Morris-Villanova game in the NCAA tournament?

A: Here's what I said to Mike afterward and I've repeated to him several times: All the credit in the world goes to Mike and his staff because they had a 15 seed believe they were the better team that day, and not just because they were ahead. When that day started, because of Mike's preparation, they knew they could win. When some of those 15 and 16 seeds play, the game is over before the ball goes up, but not them."

Q: How has your relationship with Mike been over the years?

A: Mike is a very, very very loyal guy, so during the season I would speak to him at least once a week and during this offseason, during these searches, I would talk to him almost every other day just as a friend. The story I'll always tell is that when Mike came to work with me, Mike and his family hadn't relocated yet, so Mike lived with me for several months. Then when he hired my son Jimmy to be his assistant, he insisted that Jimmy live with him and Kerry. That's the kind of guy he is.

Q: He's obviously going to have no shortage of setbacks at Rutgers. Do you get the sense that he has the kind of mindset to handle some adversity?

A: There's no doubt in my mind that Mike is going in with his eyes wide open. What he's going to do is energize his team, energize the recruiting base and energize those fans, because they're passionate fans and there's no waiting around. He's not going to jump through a window if things don't go well in the beginning. They have building to do, but they have to do it on the court, in the community, in recruiting circles. Mike's going to give every ounce of his energy. That's the beauty of Mike Rice."

Q: He's played and coached at Fordham and worked on your staff at Saint Joe's. Do you think that gives him enough knowledge of the New York, New Jersey and Philly recruiting bases?

A. He's fully entrenched. I could never give him the title of Philly guy because he's a big Steelers fan and he never really got into the Phillies. But if you want to know where the bodies are buried in New York, New Jersey, Philly and Baltimore, Mike knows all the bodies and he's got the right touch.

Q: Anything people should know about him that they might not?

A: He's just really good people. I'll give you an example: People talk about being a basketball coach. Mike, in the offseason the last three years, has coached his son's 10-and-under and 12-and-under AAU teams. For a lot of us, we're exhausted at the end of the year. Not Mike. He's just a basketball coach. He's going into the gym with 9- and 10-year-olds."

Phil Martelli: Mike Rice 'won't take a backseat to anyone' in the Big East



As Robert Morris pounded away at Villanova in the NCAA tournament, building a double-digit second-half lead before eventually falling in overtime, Phil Martelli sat in the stands, impressed but not at all surprised.

Surely Martelli, whose Saint Joseph's team had an uncharacteristically poor year and missed the postseason, wouldn't have minded seeing Big Five rival Villanova -- the Hawks' clear superior for the past several years -- tumble to a first-round upset.

But Martelli's real interest was on the opposite sideline. His son, Jimmy, was a Robert Morris assistant, and his former protege, Mike Rice, was then the Colonials' head coach. What was transpiring stunned the thousands watching nationally on TV and nearly ruined untold numbers of brackets. Martelli, though, wasn't stunned, and neither were Robert Morris' players.

"Here's what I said to Mike afterward and that I've repeated to him several times since that game," Martelli told The Trentonian: "All the credit in the world goes to Mike and his staff because they had a 15 seed believe they were the better team that day, and not just because they were ahead. When that day started, because of Mike's preparation, they knew they could win. With some of those 15 or 16 seeds the game's over is soon as the ball is thrown in the air, but not them."

Rice, who has led Robert Morris to back-to-back NCAA tournaments and taken the Colonials to the postseason in each of his three years at the Pittsburgh school, will be introduced Thursday as the new coach at Rutgers.

The rebuilding job in Piscataway will be unlike almost any in the country. The Scarlet Knights, who fired Fred Hill last month after an outburst at a Rutgers-Pitt baseball game, never finished higher than 14th in the Big East under Hill, whose 13-57 conference record was the worst in conference history.

If the circumstances weren't dire enough, leading scorer Mike Rosario -- who's mere presence on the roster helped earn Hill a contract extension before the 2008-09 season -- is transferring to Florida, continuing a wave of departures over the past year that has further depleted the Knights' roster.

Rice, therefore, will endure countless setbacks. Even a modest turnaround is unlikely to make headlines or propel the Knights into the middle of the pack in the Big East, but any immediate progress at all will be hard to come by.

But Martelli, who mentored Rice when the latter was a Saint Joe's assistant from 2004-06, was effusive in his praise of Rice -- and in his confidence that Rice can energize the Knights' fan base and turn the program in the right direction.

"He's a basketball coach 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," Martelli said. "He has a passion for teaching the game and a work ethic second to none. He won't get out-worked in preparation, in recruiting, or in promoting the program. .... He won't take a backseat to anyone."

A tale of two coaches: Fred Hill vs. Mike Rice




Mike Rice hasn't won a single game in a conference other than the NEC, but I'm still guessing if you were to poll the Rutgers fan base today, his approval rating would top 90 percent. And if you were to hold an election between Rice and Fred Hill, Rice would win in a landslide of Reagan-Mondale proportions.

And though Rice's resume is thin, the disparity -- at least in terms of quantifiable accomplishments -- is large to say the least:

Here's a rundown:

FRED HILL
Age: 51
Alma matter: Montclair State
First coaching gig: Assistant at Montclair State in 1981-82
Career highlights: Recruiting Mike Rosario, beating Georgetown last year at the RAC
Career record: 47-77 (13-57 in the Big East)
Recent claim to fame: Went bonkers at a Rutgers-Pitt baseball game, then ignored AD Tim Pernatti's orders to stay home for the remainder of the series.

MIKE RICE
Age: 41
Alma matter: Fordham
First coaching gig: Assistant at Forham in 1991-92
Career highlights: Ended 17-year NCAA tournament drought at Robert Morris; went to postseason all three years at RMU
Career record: 50-18 (31-5 in the NEC)
Recent claim to fame: Took second-seeded Villanova to overtime in first round of the NCAA tournament, nearly pulling off one of biggest upsets in NCAA history

MAAC YouTube clip of the day: Let's be Frank

Good morning from Manhattan, where I've awoken and realized the Bruins, Celtics and (most shockingly) Red Sox really did win last night.

We're going to go in a slightly different direction with today's featured YouTube clip. In honor of Ed Cooley's recently signed contract extension, we're showing one of my favorite bits of reality TV: An episode of Fairfield U's "Let's be Frank" in which former Fairfield Mirror sportswriter Frank Romano serves as a manger for the Stags during a 2008-09 game against Sacred Heart.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ed Cooley's deal biggest in school history



The details won't all come out until Tuesday, but I've confirmed Ed Cooley's six-year deal at Fairfield is done.

According to a source close to the program, the two sides had agreed in principal to a deal a little more than a month ago, just after Cooley interviewed for positions at Seton Hall and Boston College. He was a finalist for the Boston College job, along with Steve Donahue (who eventually got the job) and Northeastern coach Bill Coen.

The finalization of the deal was first reported by Chris Elsberry of the Connecticut Post.

The exact financial outlay isn't clear, but the deal is the richest a Fairfield coach has signed. A second source with knowledge of the deal said it's easily big enough to prevent Cooley from ever considering leaving for another mid-major program, and that it may be rich enough to prevent the coach from leaving for anything other than a bix-six conference job.

Recapping a wacky day

In case you missed it ...

Tim Welsh is out at Hofstra. Really should have just shelled out 20 bucks for a cab, especially given that $600,000 salary.

Bill Coen signed his extension and Chris Elsberry reports that Ed Cooley has gotten around to finalizing his, which should be announced Tuesday.

For you football fans out there, Rutgers' George Johnson signed with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

And last chronologically but first in terms of overall importance, Rutgers hired Mike Rice to replace the fired Fred Hill. That means the Robert Morris job (in addition to the Hofstra job for the second time) will be among the next dominoes to fall.

More to come tomorrow, including a few more MAAC-related YouTube clips. Also, a reminder to send nominations for the MAAC lookalike contests, either through the comments section, via e-mail to bdoody@trentonian.com or on Twitter @bendoody. We've published two nominations already -- Tim Cluess/Edward R. Rooney and Ryan Rossiter/McLovin -- and have a few more stored away.

Robert Morris video montage

This is kind of strangely edited and it includes the women's team, which has nothing to do with Mike Rice. But as tribute to the new Rutgers coach, here's a video montage of Robert Morris hoops from the 2009-10 season.

Source: Mike Rice to Rutgers


At long last, Rutgers has a men's basketball coach.

Two weeks after the school reached a financial settlement with Fred Hill, the school reached a deal Monday night with Robert Morris coach Mike Rice, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The Trentonian.

The news was first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The Trentonian's source said Rutgers will make an announcement later this week. Terms of the deal weren't immediately clear, but the source said it's a long-term deal in the six-year range.

Rice, 41, nearly led the Colonials to a stunning upset of Villanova in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Robert Morris, coming off back-to-back Northeast Conference titles and NCAA tournament berths, signed Rice to an extension through the 2017-18 season after he interviewed for the vacancy at Seton Hall.

That, however, was when it appeared Hill would be back for his fifth season at Rutgers. Athletic director Tim Pernetti announced on March 17 that Hill would return despite having gone 13-57 in the Big East -- the worst record in conference history over a four-year period.

But an outburst at a Rutgers-Pitt baseball game during which Hill reportedly went into a tirade directed at the Pitt coaching staff, Pernetti announced on April 8 that Hill had resigned.

That opened the door for Rice, who, along with ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla and former Boston College coach Al Skinner, interviewed for the Scarlet Knights' job last week.

The jump from the NEC to the Big East is one infrequently made, but Rice, a former Pitt assistant, has ties to the league and to the New York and Philadelphia areas. He played at Fordham from 1987-91 and served as an assistant coach at his alma matter from 1991-94. His resume also includes a stint as a Saint Joseph's assistant from 2004-06.

Rice will inherit a depleted roster that won't include leading scorer Mike Rosario, who announced last month he was transferring to Florida.

Bill Coen signs extension at Northeastern



One day, two vastly different moves in the CAA.

While Hofstra was firing Tim Welsh following Friday's DWI arrest, Northeastern was rewarding coach Bill Coen with a multiyear contract extension.

Jeff Goodman of Foxsports.com is reporting that the deal is for six seasons. Here's guessing that Coen, previously a candidate for the openings at Boston College and Siena, will get a major-conference job long before the deal expires.

Few mid-major coaches in the northeast have fared better over the past several years than Coen, who, way back in 2006, interviewed for the Fairfield job that ended up going to fellow BC assistant Ed Cooley.

Interestingly, while Al Skinner was recently fired at BC, both Coen and Cooley have fared exceptionally well over the past four seasons. Both won 20 or more games last year -- Cooley went 23-11 at Fairfield and Coen 20-13 at Northeastern -- and both have now received multiyear extensions.

Coen, who athletic director Peter Roby praised as "a terrific coach and educator", has taken the Huskies to the postseason in back-to-back years -- to the CBI quarterfinals in 2008-09 and to the NIT, where they nearly upset UConn, this past season.

The strange story of Tim Welsh's downfall



In an offseason that has included some of the strangest coaching dismissals on record -- Fred Hill for cussing out the Pitt baseball staff, Bobby Gonzalez after multiple player arrests and outbursts -- this one might be the most astonishing of all.

Less than a month after signing a five-year deal worth $600,000 per year -- and before he held so much as an official practice -- Tim Welsh has been forced out at Hofstra.

Welsh, a former Iona and Providence coach who was somewhat of a rising star in broadcasting during the past two seasons, left ESPN to take over at Hofstra, which lost coach Tom Pecora to Fordham.

The Pride wanted to make a statement to the New York sports community that it remained serious about high-profile athletics after dropping its football program. Hiring Welsh -- and giving him the most lucrative deal they'd ever given a coach -- was a widely praised move.

Then came last Friday, when Welsh was arrested by Levvitown, N.Y. police when they found him asleep at the wheel at a green light. Welsh's blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit -- an offense that, even on its own, may have warranted dismissal.

Welsh, though, did nothing to help his situation. Rather than inform Hofstra officials that he had been arrested and preemptively explain himself, Welsh didn't discuss the situation with his bosses until they had read about it on newspaper websites.

After the school's president and athletic director met with Welsh over the weekend, the school released the following statement Monday:

"Tim Welsh today tendered his resignation as the Hofstra University men's basketball coach. The University accepted the resignation in the best interests of the University and of the men's basketball program."

Under some other circumstances, painting the dismissal as a resignation could have helped Welsh's hopes of getting another job. This time, though that's going to be a lot more difficult than if he had simply failed on the sidelines.

Welsh -- Hill -- is now damaged goods. In a profession with thousands of ambitious coaches and only 345 Division I openings, there's simply no reason for a school to take a risk on someone who would bring such obvious baggage.

As for Hofstra, the school is in the unenviable position of having to launch its second coaching search in less than two months. With a talented roster that includes reigning Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Charles Jenkins, a program willing to spend money and perhaps the east coast's best mid-major conference, the school should still be able to land a quality replacement.

One option could be former Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico coach Fran Fraschilla -- if Rutgers chooses Robert Morris' Mike Rice over Fraschilla. But Fraschilla, an ESPN analyst, draws interest from programs virtually every offseason, and it isn't clear if he'd be interested in settling for less than a major-conference job. (For instance, he pulled out of the search at Iona before the school eventually hired Tim Cluess)

One thing, though, is sure: In an offseason like no other in recent memory, there are more storylines yet to unfold.

MAAC YouTube clip of the day: Sean Armand

Today's clip features Iona-bound Sean Armand, a sharpshooter who initially committed to Fordham before joining the Gaels. As is the case with a lot of these clips, the video isn't exactly fit for Sportscenter, but in this case, the shooting display is impressive.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

MAAC lookalike contest: Ryan Rossiter and McLovin




I'm pleased to say that, thanks to several participants on Twitter, the MAAC lookalike contest is off to a flying start.

We already have a few other nominations stored away, so I figured I'd post the second nomination -- sent in by diehard Iona fan GuyFal -- tonight.

Guy's nomination -- probable preseason MAAC Player of the Year Ryan Rossiter and Superbad superstar McLovin -- has been talked about by fans and media types for years, but was actually the fifth nomination I received.

Anyway, something tells me this one is going to be a finalist. Two very likeable guys, though one spends his time blocking shots, grabbing rebounds and dunking and the other has been known to dance with redheads (as seen above) at parties.

Dempsey: Roster changes should improve chemistry

Some of Rider's shortcomings last year were physical. Others, though, had to do with chemistry problems that spiraled out of control toward the end of the season.

Coach Tommy Dempsey has said several players weren't "pulling in the same direction" as the rest of the team -- a factor that led to three players -- freshman point guard Carl Johnson, sophomore forward Jermaine Jackson and UNLV transfer DeShawn Mitchell -- leaving the program.

"We just couldn't get them all pulling together in the right direction, and that's how it looked when we played," Dempsey said. "I take responsibility for it, but as we go forward it was a learning experience. I felt it was important to clean things up a little bit this spring and make sure the guys we had left were all pulling in the same direction."

The departures left Rider with more scholarships than were previously anticipated. One scholarship will go to Jeff Jones, a 6-4 guard who will transfer in from Virginia. One will go to guard Tommy Pereira, who should sign a letter of intent at some point this summer. That leaves one remaining scholarship, which Rider hopes to fill by the end of the spring signing period May 20.

MAAC YouTube clip of the day: Skylar Jones

Admittedly, it's not exactly the most riveting highlight reel I've ever seen, but Day 3 of the MAAC recruit Youtube series features Niagara-bound Skylar Jones of Mt. Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va.

AP: Kyle Smith to Columbia official

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK -- Columbia says it has hired Saint Mary's assistant Kyle Smith as its men's basketball coach. He replaces Joe Jones, who left to become a Boston College assistant.

Columbia's sports information department says an announcement on Smith will be made Sunday afternoon.

Smith as an associate head coach on a St. Mary's team that reached the regional semifinals of this season's NCAA tournament. The 10th-seeded Gaels of California upset Richmond and second-seeded Villanova before losing to Baylor.

Jones was 86-108 overall and 39-59 in the Ivy League in seven years at Columbia. This season, the Lions went 11-17, including 5-9 in the Ivy League. Columbia's only Ivy League basketball title was in 1967-68.

MAAC lookalike contest: Tim Cluess and Edward R. Rooney


In the blog's continued effort to provide offseason entertainment, I hereby present the 2010 Full-Court Press MAAC lookalike contest, as suggested via Twitter by SienaSoup.

Soup has kicked off the contest by submitting Iona coach Tim Cluess and Dean of Students Edward R. Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

The groundrules for the contest are pretty simple: Between now and the beginning of the season, I'll be accepting nominations. As long as the nomination is in good taste and features people who bear at least some kind of resemblance, it will be published and nominated for the Lookalike of the Year award, which will be presented in early November, just before the beginning of the season.

Nominations can be submitted via Twitter (@bendoody), the comments section or via e-mail at bdoody@trentonian.com.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Report: Kyle Smith to Columbia; Tim O'Toole out of the running

The list of former Fairfield coaches being hired this spring won't add a third name.

Foxsports.com's Jeff Goodman posted on his Twitter page Saturday night that Columbia is expected to fill its vacancy with Saint Mary's associate coach Kyle Smith -- and not former Stags coach Tim O'Toole, who interviewed for the position last week.

A source close to O'Toole told The Trentonian he was notified by the school that the Lions were "going in a different direction," meaning Smith's hire is likely imminent.

O'Toole, who coached the Stags from 1998-2006, has ties to the Ivy League, having worked with Harvard coach Tommy Amaker at Duke and Seton Hall and having served as a color analyst on ESPNU's Ivy broadcasts for the past two seasons. He's also spent the past four years teaching graduate-level business classes at Fordham.

Other reported candidates included NJIT coach Jim Engles, New Orleans coach Joe Pasternack and former Saint John's assistant Fred Quartlebaum.

The drought for former Stags coaches ended when Siena promoted Mitch Buonaguro to replace Fran McCaffery, and last week former Fairfield and Dartmouth coach Paul Cormier -- O'Toole's predecessor -- was hired again by the Big Green.

Youtube Clip of the Day: Danny Stewart

To keep busy in May, I'm hereby launching the YouTube Clip of the Day feature, which began last night with Siena-bound Rakeem Brookins. Every day will feature a different MAAC-bound recruit.

This clip features an emphatic dunk by Rider-bound Danny Stewart:

Dempsey confident Myles, Stewart will have immediate impact

Faced with the prospect of its first season since 2003-04 without one of the Thompson brothers on the roster, the Rider coaching staff had its work cut it for it when assembling the 2010-11 team.

A Thompson -- Jason from 2005-08 and Ryan for the last two seasons -- has led the Broncs in scoring and been the face of the program. It's unlikely, coach Tommy Dempsey acknowledges, that any one player will fill the role of Ryan Thompson, a two-time first-team all-MAAC selection who finished fourth on the school's career scoring list.

But with playing time available and weaknesses to address, Rider finished with perhaps the most highly regarded recruiting class of Dempsey's five-year tenure.

Anthony Myles, a 6-foot-4 combo guard from Camden, Del who signed a national letter of intent last month, is rated the No. 171 high school senior in the country by Hoop Scoop -- the highest rating for any player headed to a MAAC school and by far the highest for any player to sign with Rider.

Danny Stewart, a 6-7 power forward from Neumann-Goretti High School in Philadelphia rated the No. 371 player by HoopScoop, was highly regarded even before a senior season in which he played a key role on a team that won Philadelphia Catholic League and Pennsylvania state titles.

The Broncs feel theyve also addressed a weakness in outside shooting by bringing in Tommy Pereira, a 6-2 guard from Nottingham, England who verbally committed late last month to Dempsey and will sign a letter of intent as he's approved by the NCAA clearninghouse.

"You can get on the side of the fence to say 'what are they going to do without Ryan Thompson?'" Dempsey said, "Or you can get on the other side of the fence and say 'you know, we have some fresh faces, some talented guys coming in, we still have some talent here and hopefully we can mix the group together better than we did last year."

Even with Thompson, Rider's 2009-10 season was one of the most disappointing in recent memory. The Broncs have had high expectations in recent years -- a concept epitomized by last year's team, which was picked third in the MAAC and expected to contend for a third straight postseason berth.

Rider upset Mississippi State in its season opener but finished just 17-16 overall and 9-9 in the MAAC before losing to Siena in the conference tournament semifinals.

The outlook for the 2010-11 Broncs is unclear. Last year's team could have finished far worse than it did had Thompson not carried it from February on. Yet Thompson is the team's only departed starter. Justin Robinson, Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold -- the veteran core moving forward -- have all shown all-league potential but been inconsistent, especially when deferring to Thompson.

Dempsey has shown a willingness to give freshmen extensive playing time, and that figures to be the case next year with Myles and Stewart, both of whom will contend for starting spots.

The impact of freshmen is hard to foresee. Some -- the Thompson brothers included -- have entered with relatively little fanfare and exited as all-time greats. Others have entered with loads of hype, only to fall short of expectations.

Dempsey isn't counting on Myles to replicate Ryan Thompson's production from Day One or for Stewart to average a double-double next season. But last year's team had glaring weaknesses that, with Thompson's departure, could have grown far more troubling.

Rider, with Ringgold as its only true post player in the starting lineup, got beat up on the glass and struggled with interior defense.

The Broncs' hope is that Stewart's presence -- coupled with the development of rising sophomore Dera Nd-Ezuma -- will make them tougher in the low post and more formidable on the glass.

"We feel that those guys really can give us a presence in there that we didn't always have, which made us have to play some of the smaller groups we had to play," Dempsey said.

Then there's attempting to replace Thompson, who recovered from a disappointing start and averaged nearly 17 points per game last year.

Stewart, the No. 1 rated high school player in Delaware, may never replicate Thompson's production. But Dempsey views the Polytech High product as a player with physical traits comparable to Thompson's.

"I think it was the right time to get a kid like Anthony because he was able to come watch Ryan play in our style -- same size, lot of the same skill-set, " Dempsey said. "So sometimes when a young guy comes on his visit, part of it is to watch your team play but part of it is to try to envision himself where he would fit in. Anthony had a lot of respect for Ryan and his game and the way he played -- that he was so versatile -- I think Anthony looked at Ryan and said 'that's the type of player I want to be.'"

Rakeem Brookins hihglight reel

Technically, this is simply a highlight reel from Roman Catholic's 56-52 win over St. Joe's Prep in a Philadelphia Catholic League game in February. But Siena-bound point guard Rakeem Brookins is the most prominently featured player during the last two minutes or so of the clip.