Steve Masiello, shown here celebrating MAAC championship win, can now celebrate a well-deserved step up after leaving Jaspers for South Florida. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)
When Steve Masiello orchestrated a 15-win improvement in his first season as head coach at Manhattan, taking a Jasper team that went 6-25 the year before under Barry Rohrssen and finishing 21-13 with a CollegeInsider.com Tournament appearance, it no longer became a question of when or if he would depart for a bigger and better opportunity, but rather, one of how soon it would be for one of the fastest rising stars in the industry.
The answer to that question appeared to have come today, bringing with it more twists and turns than an episode of "Lost" before ultimately resting on a cliffhanger of sorts just 24 hours after the college basketball world was similarly rattled with a false report of Shaka Smart leaving VCU to fill the vacancy at Marquette, which was created on Friday when Buzz Williams departed for a seven-year contract at Virginia Tech.
Masiello's next challenge, should he choose to accept it, would be as the next coach at South Florida, who parted ways with Stan Heath after a 12-20 campaign that wrapped up Heath's seventh season at the helm of the Bulls. USF has reportedly offered the 36-year-old coach a five-year contract with a significantly higher financial compensation than what he received at Manhattan, according to CBS' Gary Parrish, the first to break the news of Masiello's candidacy when word came out over the weekend that USF booster Chris Sullivan had pushed for Masiello to take the job.
The whirlwind courtship comes just five days after Masiello and Manhattan took reigning national champion Louisville to the limit in the Jaspers' first NCAA Tournament game since 2004. The coach reportedly interviewed yesterday with incoming athletic director Mark Harlan, who; if able to lure Masiello to Tampa, would instantly be getting a man that would waste little time rebuilding a program that is only two years removed from a Round of 32 appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Should the offer be accepted, a formal announcement will likely be made later in the week according to sources close to the situation.
In three years with the Jaspers, Masiello has compiled a 60-39 record, culminating with a 25-8 season that brought the Riverdale school its first MAAC championship and NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004. Once in the field of 68, Manhattan did more than hold their own against Louisville, taking a two-point lead into the final two minutes of regulation before the Cardinals closed the game on a 13-4 run to narrowly escape Orlando with a 71-64 victory in a matchup that saw Masiello arguably outcoach Rick Pitino, for whom he served six years as an assistant at Louisville, the latest chapter in a relationship that dates back to Masiello being a ball boy while Pitino coached the New York Knicks in the late 1980s.
Manhattan's student newspaper, the Quadrangle, reported this morning that Masiello met with his team; which loses its three-pronged senior class of George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Michael Alvarado next season, and informed them of his decision to accept the offer at USF. Manhattan College officials have yet to issue a release indicative of Masiello's departure, but multiple credible sources, including college basketball insider Jon Rothstein, have picked up on Parrish's report. However, Howie Kussoy, who covers the Jaspers for the New York Post, tweeted this afternoon that reports of Masiello meeting with the team were premature, but that he would eventually address the matter soon. The latest update in the ongoing saga, tweeted approximately two hours ago by Joey Knight, who covers USF for the Tampa Bay Times, says that although a breakthrough may be imminent, nothing is official at the moment:
Still nothing from #USF regarding Masiello. May very well be a done deal soon, but I've been told it's not a done deal yet. Nothing signed.
— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) March 25, 2014
Click here for Joey Knight's coverage of the Masiello situation from the USF perspective: