Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bashir Mason Takes Over At Wagner

Just 28, Bashir Mason is now youngest Division I head coach, replacing Dan Hurley at Wagner. (Photo courtesy of Wagner men's basketball sports information director Kevin Ross)

Sometimes it doesn't matter how old you are.

Wagner College proved that this afternoon when introducing Bashir Mason as its new head coach. One month removed from celebrating his 28th birthday, Mason became the youngest Division I coach in the nation when he was greeted to a standing ovation on Wagner's Staten Island campus, replacing Dan Hurley; for whom Mason played while attending St. Benedict's Prep in New Jersey during the early 2000s, after Hurley left the Seahawks to succeed Jim Baron at Rhode Island.

"We had a person right here who could continue to build our program," said Wagner athletic director Walt Hameline, who also serves as the Seahawks' football coach. "All the feedback I got about him was straight and forward. He's young, he's enthusiastic, he cares, and he's going to be real good." Hameline returned the enthusiasm by giving Mason a bear hug prior to officially christening him as the eighteenth head coach in the history of the Verrazano Warriors' basketball program. "We've started something the past two years," said Mason. "That job is not done yet. Wagner basketball is here, and it's here to stay."

Despite being only two years older than this writer, Mason carries himself with a poise and maturity far belying of his tender age. "Although I haven't coached a game, I kind of feel like what a head coach feels like," Mason stated. "I think it's a huge task to be a head coach at any age. I'm not really looking at my age. I'm just prepared to do the job."

Mason was the second assistant last year for Dan Hurley, with the former coach's older brother Bobby ahead of him in the pecking order. Also considered a candidate, Bobby Hurley instead decided to join Dan at Rhode Island, and Mason impressed both the Wagner administration and players enough for each group to trust he was the best choice for the position.

Mason returns four starters from a Wagner team that won a school record 25 games and finished second in the Northeast Conference, but loses both all-NEC guard Tyler Murray and sixth man Chris Martin to graduation. However, the new coach is expected to retain the stellar recruiting class that Hurley locked up prior to leaving Staten Island, as former Michigan State commit Dwaun Anderson and prep star Eric Fanning appear to have upheld their pledges to attend Wagner.

I got the chance to speak to Mason individually, and was quite impressed with how he conducted himself. When I asked him about the success of fellow young coaches Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens; both of whom have gone to the Final Four, Wagner's newest head man reaffirmed his feeling that 28 is nothing more than a number. "It backs up my belief that age isn't the issue," Mason admitted. "It's (about) your knowledge, your work ethic, your character."

Bashir Mason seems like he has perfected all three of those principles, and if his first impression is any indication, Dan Hurley's brief two-year stint at Wagner is only the beginning for what could be a long period of success for Staten Island's college team.

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