When Tim Cluess arrived at Iona four years ago after a long run of success at St. Mary's High School and later at C.W. Post, several critics doubted whether his uptempo offense would work at the Division I level. With two NCAA Tournament appearances already under his belt, and having just led the Gaels to a second regular season MAAC championship, it is safe to say it has, but the coach; who turns 55 this Sunday, lacked a testimonial until today.
Cluess was recognized by his peers as the 2013-14 MAAC Coach of the Year, a distinction that may have been the only vacancy on his impressive resume.
"It's a great honor," he said, "but it's all about the players. Without them, we wouldn't be any good. You know that saying, 'it's not about Xs and Os, but Jimmys and Joes?' Well, we've got real good Jimmys and Joes here."
Cluess was not the only Gael to accept an award, as the Iona women were the evening's big winner. Not only did junior guard Damika Martinez repeat as Player of the Year on the women's side, but Aaliyah Robinson was voted Sixth Player of the Year as well, while head coach Billi Godsey was named Coach of the Year in her first season as the successor to longtime leader Tony Bozzella, who has enjoyed a successful campaign in his own right at Seton Hall.
Elsewhere, Manhattan forward Rhamel Brown brought another piece of hardware to the New York metropolitan area, as the Brooklyn native captured his third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year honor, compensating for a snub from the conference's first team.
Other victors included Fairfield swingman Maurice Barrow, who claimed his second straight Sixth Man of the Year crown, as well as Marist point guard Khallid Hart, who became just the second Red Fox to win MAAC Rookie of the Year honors, and the first to do so outright.
Canisius' Billy Baron was named Player of the Year as expected, the first Golden Griffin to win the award since Darrell Barley in 1996, when John Beilein coached at the Buffalo school.