After three seasons and circumstances beyond his control, Mo Cassara is regrettably out at Hofstra despite clearly deserving a shot to turn team around. (Photo courtesy of Newsday)
Another head coaching vacancy now exists, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
Mo Cassara, who spent the last three seasons at Hofstra with teams not picked to go very far, yet turned them into some of the hardest-working and competing groups in New York college basketball, was unceremoniously fired this morning in a decision that comes to those who know him as more than just a surprise.
Assistant coach Patrick Sellers has been named interim head coach, but this is not about that. Rather, this is about someone who was dealt as rough a hand as you can get when four of his players were arrested for theft in November, yet managed to keep a team of seven players in contention for almost every game the rest of the way, getting a raw deal.
Following Hofstra's final home game, a 57-56 loss to Delaware that I attended, all indications were that Cassara would be back next season. With a seven-man recruiting class that would help offset the loss of David Imes and Steve Mejia coming to Hempstead, the future seemed bright on the Turnpike, just as it did when Cassara inherited a team loaded with Tom Pecora's recruits in 2010 and took it to a 20-win season. The latest arrest, this one of UConn transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel for possession of marijuana, may have proved to be the final straw for Hofstra president Stuart Rabinowitz, no fan of negative publicity, even if his decision to pull the plug on Hofstra football provided some more of that.
Cassara will certainly find a job right away, as his youth, (he turns just 38 this year) infectious personality, positive demeanor and social media savvy (that last part helped differentiate him from most other coaches around these parts) will be gold mines for his future employer(s) to tap into. He just shouldn't have gone on the market so soon. The coach deserved better, and deserved the opportunity to lead Hofstra out of the abyss it entered when Tim Welsh, originally tapped to replace Pecora before his drunk driving arrest, sent the program into a tailspin three years ago from which it has yet to recover.
Hofstra had something very good going for them with the charismatic and engaging Cassara. It just seemed fitting that he would get one more chance at redemption with a program hard-starved for it, but it was not to be. The Pride will almost certainly be able to attract a big name to Long Island, as Hofstra is one of the better jobs in the area, but whomever they bring in as Cassara's successor has a tall task ahead of him in terms of matching the enthusiasm and fervor with which his predecessor roamed the sideline for three years. I truly believe that Hofstra will not realize just how good a man they had leading their basketball program until the new season opens in November, regardless of who is introduced in the coming weeks.
However, life is not about how many times you get hit, but rather how well you can sustain each blow and get back up. Mo Cassara will recover soon enough, even though the only recovery he should be making is finally putting a 7-25 season behind him and looking ahead to next year. He can still do that, but unfortunately not at Hofstra.
Another man dismissed for the wrong reasons.