Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Miami 60, Temple 57: Tempo-Free Analysis

In the first of two National Invitation Tournament semifinals, Miami came back from a double-digit deficit for the second straight game to ensure Jim Larranaga's Madison Square Garden head coaching debut would be a winning one, defeating Temple by the final of 60-57. A look at the pace and efficiency numbers:

Possessions: Temple 66, Miami 64
Offensive Efficiency: Miami 94, Temple 86

The Four Factors:
eFG%: Miami 44, Temple 32
FT Rate: Temple 35, Miami 19
OREB%: Temple 32, Miami 24
TO Rate: Miami 17, Temple 9

What Miami did well: Make plays when it mattered, especially down the stretch. A pair of three-pointers by Sheldon McClellan late in the second half were described by Temple coach Fran Dunphy as "backbreakers," and were even more significant given the fact that the Owls missed each of their 15 attempts from beyond the arc after the intermission. The Hurricanes relied on a balanced scoring effort where all but one of their players cracked the scoreboard, overcoming a fundamentally sound Temple squad.

What Temple did well: Take care of the ball. The Owls committed just six turnovers, registering an exceptional 9 percent turnover rate. They also got to the foul line twice as much as Miami, doubling up the Hurricanes in free throw attempts by a final count of 22-11, but all in all, their misfortune from long range was the culprit behind coughing up an 11-point lead.

Leading Scorers and OE:
Miami: Sheldon McClellan, 16 points, 11 rebounds (OE .462)
Temple: Obi Enechionyia, 17 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks (OE .556)

Miami improves to 25-12 as they await either Stanford or Old Dominion for the NIT championship on Thursday, while Temple, the first team left out of the NCAA Tournament, concludes its season at 26-11.

Final Thoughts
"Somehow, some way, these guys found a way to stay together. I thought our perimeter defense was very solid." - Miami head coach Jim Larranaga

"He's been an inspirational leader. He and Sheldon (McClellan) have done a great job taking on bigger roles since Angel (Rodriguez) went out." - Larranaga on sophomore guard Davon Reed

"The shots just didn't go in. That's all there is to it." - Temple senior guard Will Cummings

"I thought we got ourselves to the rim a number of times. We just didn't finish down there. They did a better job than we did, and they deserve the credit." - Temple head coach Fran Dunphy

One-on-one with Jeff Neubauer

Flanked by athletic director David Roach and president Rev. Joseph McShane, Jeff Neubauer is introduced as Fordham's 28th head coach. (Photo courtesy of Jaden Daly)

Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer on the biggest challenge moving into Fordham and the Atlantic 10, and the differences between Fordham and Eastern Kentucky:
"Well, first of all, the biggest challenge is finding the right place to live, alright? So, we're going to figure that out, but what I feel confident in, as far as the basketball, and working with these young men and helping them to improve, we're going to do well. Now as far as the level, there really is not a great difference in level between where I was at Eastern Kentucky and here in the Atlantic 10. There were three programs in the OVC, Belmont, Murray State and Eastern Kentucky, that were competing at an Atlantic 10 level, so I certainly understand the level. I coached at Richmond, including in the Atlantic 10, and I played at La Salle, so I think, level-wise, I'm very comfortable with where we are here at Fordham."

On his time with John Beilein, what he learned from him, and his mentor's knack for player development:
"Yes. I worked for Coach Beilein for eight years, and player development is a huge thing. Like, we did individual workouts with our team last night, and that's directly from John Beilein. When he got the Richmond job, we were on the court that night, and it really sent a message to me as a young coach about what's important. So I think that's the biggest thing, is developing the culture where the guys are gym rats and they're absolutely committed to improvement."

On what he sees in Fordham's current roster:
"Yeah, so, two things: First of all, they are really impressive young men, and so I don't want to say that I was surprised at how impressive they are, but when you're a new coach taking over a new program, you just don't know going in. So these guys really are impressive people, and then secondly, I think they're very hungry. These guys want to be successful, and that's really a good formula for a head coach."

On the youth of the roster laying a foundation for greater things:
"Yeah, I do think there's some things that this group will need to learn, but there are certainly some guys that can be really important to this program for years to come."

On his prospective staff, and what he would look for:
"I don't want to address staffing right now, other than to say I'm really glad that Rodney Crawford is here with me today. He is an absolute superstar as a coach, and he will help our program immediately."

On what he brings specifically that can enhance the Fordham brand:
"I think I can help our team by providing them with answers, and so, let's just talk offense for a second. I think that our teams at Eastern Kentucky have been very successful for a number of reasons, one reason, we have great value for the basketball. Number two, we shoot it really well, and so, we are going to help this group understand how to play maybe a little bit differently than they've played in the past, and I think by coaching them in my style, I think I can help these guys right away."

On exactly what his style implies:
"Our teams, for the last ten years, have been some of the best three-point shooting teams in the country. There were two years at Eastern Kentucky where we were THE best three-point shooting team in the country, where we made ten threes per game, and we shot 40 percent from three. We have great value for the ball, on the defensive end, we play incredibly hard, alright? This year, we were No. 2 in the country in steals, only behind West Virginia, and that's because our guys play incredibly hard at the defensive end."

On recruiting New York:
"Well, I think that's going to be very important to our success. We are going to need to sign very talented young men, and that's especially here in the New York area. Obviously, it's a great resource to have, to be able to be located right here in the city."

His description of the team, in one word:

Monday, March 30, 2015

Javion Ogunyemi transferring from Siena

Javion Ogunyemi will transfer from Siena, school announced, leaving Saints after his sophomore season. (Photo courtesy of the Albany Times Union)

Jimmy Patsos will get reinforcements in the frontcourt next season, but as Siena takes two steps forward, the Saints also take one step back.

In somewhat of a surprise announcement, sophomore forward Javion Ogunyemi will be transferring from Loudonville, the school announced this afternoon. The native of Troy, New York will have two seasons of eligibility remaining when he departs upon the conclusion of the spring semester, and will sit out the 2015-16 season as he completes his mandatory year in residence.

"Javion said he wants a change of scenery and a new journey," Patsos said through a release issued by Siena College. "We love him, we want him to be happy. He's a good basketball player and a good person."

Arguably one of the most improved players in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this year, Ogunyemi averaged 9.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for Siena during an 11-20 campaign that was plagued by a lack of depth and injuries to forwards Brett Bisping and Imoh Silas, both of whom are expected to return next season to join Lavon Long up front for the Saints, who also return Marquis Wright and Ryan Oliver in the backcourt, along with burgeoning wing Jimmy Paige, who will enter his sophomore season. Ogunyemi will leave the college in good academic standing.

"I would like to thank Coach Patsos and the Siena family for giving me the opportunity to be part of a great basketball program the last two years," Ogunyemi reflected. "I wish Coach Patsos and the team the best of luck in the upcoming seasons."

An open letter to Chris Mullin as he returns home to coach St. John's

March 30, 2015

Mr. Christopher P. Mullin
Head Men's Basketball Coach, St. John's University


Allow me to be one of the many to extend their congratulations to you upon your acceptance of the head coaching position at St. John's University, the latest chapter in a storied basketball career.

Over the years, I, and everyone else who has been fortunate to observe your career; either up close and personal or from a distance, has seen you go from high school prodigy to all-time leading scorer in college, from first-round NBA draft pick to Olympic gold medalist to perennial All-Star, from a successful player to an equally successful executive, with a stop in the broadcast booth in between your second stint in the front office. Now, the latest evolution in your heroic tale sees you become a college coach, and there is no doubt in my mind that you will do the same thing with this opportunity that you have done to countless others over the course of your journey in this world: Take it by the horns and run with it, maybe even dial it up from what is now long distance like you did the thousands of shots you've taken.

Why am I so confident, you may ask? The answer is simple. Because of who you are, and what you've done, and from where you have come.

Like you, I am also an alumnus of St. John's University. In fact, I also spent time around the basketball program, except my involvement was behind a microphone as the play-by-play voice of WSJU Radio, the on-campus student station, and later as the writer of this very website that reaches out to you on this evening. I figured that since I was too short to actually play sports for a living, I needed to channel my passion some other way. Anyway, I digress.

You see, Chris, if there is one thing St. John's has taught anyone, it is the ability to appreciate values such as a hard work ethic, a commitment to success, and the pride one takes in representing oneself, and one's family. Even though you and I walked across the stage 23 years apart, we are still part of the same family, with the same institution conferring a degree upon each of us. And family, no matter the geographic or emotional gaps that divide, or the rifts that cause silence, always supports one another when push comes to shove. Therefore, it goes without saying that you have the support of not just myself, but every other member of the St. John's community, be it alumni, administration, students, faculty, parents; or most of all, the fans that will pay for the right to be in attendance during the season and bear witness to the latest chapter of your legend.

I am sure you have already heard the doubts, the criticism from all the naysayers, the belief that you may be risking your immortal legacy. I admit I fell victim to that last part in the past, and initially had my druthers here as well. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that you would not fail. Why? Because you simply will not let yourself.

A great deal of the prospective student-athletes you will soon visit in the recruiting process may be too young to remember watching the tail end of your career, but what they lack in memories, you can make up for with your Olympic gold medal from 1992, and your epic tales of life in the NBA. For their parents, especially those hailing from the New York metropolitan area, your mere presence in a living room will give them the same thrill.

For the people who doubt your ability as an in-game strategist because your record as a coach is 0-0, it gives you the chance to pleasantly surprise your skeptics. For the players who will soon count on you to guide them through the formative years of their careers, this is a chance for them to take instructions from one of the best, for you to impart your vast knowledge on the stars of tomorrow.

And as far as the media, well, you already know how to win that crowd over. Even if you were not the first choice of some, almost everyone will soon accept that you are the best choice, and given the relative youth that will make up next year's roster, they will be patient with you in the beginning. They all remember your past exploits, and if you can give them another reason to believe in you; which will happen sooner, rather than later, you have nothing to worry about.

The comparisons have already been bandied about, on both ends of the spectrum. Fred Hoiberg, they reference, and also the name of your former Olympic teammate Clyde Drexler, whose own homecoming did not achieve the fairy tale ending he had hoped for. You don't need me to tell you this, but all you need to do is be yourself. Be the man who turned a local commuter school into a national basketball powerhouse. Be the man who lifted the spirits of a fan base and inspired them to not only dream of success, but also expect it, year in and year out. Do that, and the rest will come just as smooth as that magical left-handed stroke that captivated so many, and enabled them to live vicariously through you.

You already have everything you need firmly in place: The support of an administration eager to add another shimmering facet to its profile. The name cache among those in the inner circle. The eternal adulation of alumni who view you as somewhat of a basketball deity, and never will feel any other way. The desire of a long-starving fan base hungry to once again be a part of something bigger, and finally, the confidence in yourself to take an already rich tapestry and weave unto it a new pattern, one that will resound through the ages.

The kingdom is yours once again, and if you ask me, I would say that the prevailing opinion is that it is secure in the lap of one of its native sons. I, and everyone else affiliated with St. John's University, look forward to watching you build upon it and make it bigger.

Go get 'em, Coach.


Jaden Daly
Founder/Managing Editor, A Daly Dose Of Hoops
St. John's University, Class Of 2008

Fordham hires Jeff Neubauer as head coach (UPDATED WITH QUOTES)

Jeff Neubauer leaves Eastern Kentucky to replace Tom Pecora at Fordham. (Photo courtesy of the Louisville Courier-Journal)

Rose Hill Gym finally has a new sheriff to patrol its sidelines.

Jeff Neubauer, who spent the last decade at Eastern Kentucky, has been hired as Fordham's new head coach, replacing Tom Pecora, who was relieved of his duties on March 18. A press conference to officially introduce Neubauer will take place Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. on the Fordham campus.

"We are absolutely thrilled that Jeff Neubauer has decided to become the next men's basketball coach at Fordham," athletic director David Roach said in a release issued this afternoon. "He has proven himself as one of the top up-and-coming coaches in the country, and brings a tremendous amount of experience to our program."

Though most of the media in his new locale may not yet know him personally, Neubauer offered an optimistic, and enthusiastic, approach as he embarks on his new endeavor.

"I really love challenges," he said, "and am very aware of how competitive the Atlantic 10 Conference is. I'm looking forward to helping Fordham move forward in the conference."

In ten years at the helm at Eastern Kentucky, Neubauer compiled a 188-134 record with the Colonels, reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2014 out of the Ohio Valley Conference. Prior to becoming a head coach, the 44-year-old spent nine years as an assistant to John Beilein, following him to West Virginia from the University of Richmond.

"Jeff is one of the brightest coaches I have ever been associated with," said Beilein, now the head coach at the University of Michigan, of his disciple. "His knowledge of the game, the players and recruits, along with his versatile coaching style, make him a rising star. He and his staff will have a lasting effect and positive impact on the future of Fordham basketball."

Born in Gainesville, Florida, but a native of Slidell, Louisiana, Neubauer's candidacy for the Fordham vacancy materialized over the weekend, after an apparent deal with Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole fell through. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at The Citadel, where he worked from 1993 to 1996 while earning his Masters in Business Administration. He is also a 1993 graduate of La Salle University, where he played for an Explorer program coached by Speedy Morris, assisted by current Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Chris Mullin expected to accept head coaching position at St. John's

Chris Mullin, St. John's all-time leading scorer, has reportedly been offered vacant head coaching position at his alma mater, and sources say he is expected to accept it. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

If the rumors are true, Thomas Wolfe may be proven wrong.

St. John's University has apparently offered its vacant head coaching position to program legend Chris Mullin, and CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reports the 51-year-old Brooklyn native is expected to accept the offer.

Mullin does not have any head coaching experience, but possesses a resume that is known to everyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of basketball. After a career with the then-Redmen that saw him score 2,440 points, a record that has yet to be broken by any Red Storm player since his graduation in 1985, he then embarked on a 16-year NBA career with the Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers, winning a gold medal on the original "Dream Team" in the 1992 Summer Olympics in between. Presently, Mullin is a consultant for the Sacramento Kings, and has spent time in the front office with the Warriors in the past, as well as a stint as an analyst with ESPN.

Should he indeed accept the offer to return to the place where his career took off, Mullin would replace Steve Lavin, who was not retained after five years with the Red Storm. In addition, St. John's only returns a handful of players for next season after reaching the NCAA Tournament with a senior-laden roster this year, and that does not include the uncertain future of sophomore point guard Rysheed Jordan or junior forward Chris Obekpa.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Dave Leitao to return to DePaul

Dave Leitao, who led DePaul to last NCAA Tournament, is on verge of returning to Blue Demons as successor to Oliver Purnell. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

When Dave Leitao was last at DePaul, he guided the Blue Demons to what has been their most recent taste of success, and their last NCAA Tournament appearance. Now, his former employer is trusting him with the responsibility of doing it again.

In what came as somewhat of a surprise hire, Leitao is expected to return to Chicago for a second stint as DePaul's head coach, according to ESPN's Andy Katz. Barring the unexpected, Katz went on to report that a deal could become official as early as this evening. DePaul had reportedly interviewed both Bryce Drew of Valparaiso and Buffalo's Bobby Hurley before turning to Leitao.

Leitao, 54, succeeds Oliver Purnell; who went 54-105 in five years at DePaul, and spent the past three seasons as an assistant to Frank Haith, first at Missouri before joining him at Tulsa this year. In three years at the helm from 2002-2005, Leitao took DePaul to a 58-34 record, reaching the postseason in each year, with the Blue Demons' 2004 NCAA Tournament berth sandwiching two trips to the National Invitation Tournament. He then parlayed his run into a four-year stint at Virginia, where he was replaced in 2009 by current Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett. He began his head coaching career at Northeastern, where he spent two seasons in charge of the Huskies before returning to the staff of his college coach, Jim Calhoun, under whom he served as an assistant coach as the University of Connecticut won their first of four national championships in 1999.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fordham nearing deal with Andy Toole to fill coaching vacancy (UPDATED)

Fordham is apparently zeroing in on Andy Toole as next head coach, with both sides rumored to be close to an agreement. (Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

As one local college basketball program ponders its future and latest head coaching hire, another seems to have taken a step toward clearing any doubt that remains.

In a development lost in the shuffle after St. John's announced it would part ways with Steve Lavin, Fordham appears to be close to hiring a successor to Tom Pecora, with the likely replacement being Robert Morris coach Andy Toole.

WFUV, the flagship radio station of Fordham University, announced via Twitter earlier today that Toole was "nearing a deal" to become the Rams' new head coach, and toured the facilities on the school's Rose Hill campus yesterday.

Mike Watts, one of the play-by-play voices of Fordham athletics on WFUV, took it a step further, stating that multiple sources told him that a press conference to announce Toole's hire could take place as early as Tuesday.

In five seasons at Robert Morris, the 34-year-old Toole has amassed a record of 110-66, reaching four Northeast Conference championship games, and has made as many postseason appearances in that span. Earlier this month, the Colonials earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in his tenure, defeating St. Francis Brooklyn to capture the Northeast Conference championship for the first time since 2010, when Toole was an assistant under former head coach and Fordham alumnus Mike Rice. His postseason resume also includes victories over Kentucky and St. John's in the National Invitation Tournament, accomplishing those feats in 2013 and 2014.

A finalist for the Siena job that ultimately went to Jimmy Patsos two years ago, Toole is widely praised in most circles, and has been lauded by many as one of the best possible hires Fordham could make.

"If it happens," said Andrew Chiappazzi, a writer for the Beaver County Times in Pennsylvania who has covered Robert Morris in the past for ColonialsCorner.com, "Fordham would get a charismatic, relentless coach who thrives on competition, recruits well, and coaches well."

Several other reports have mentioned Albany head coach Will Brown, Kevin Baggett of Rider and Norfolk State's Robert Jones as prospective candidates, but any activity aside from meeting with the Parker Executive Search firm; which is handling Fordham's coaching search, has not been confirmed.

More information on Fordham's coaching search will be posted as it becomes available.

***UPDATE AS OF 9:12 P.M. - Andy Toole has informed his players that he is NOT leaving Robert Morris for Fordham, according to Chris Cappella, who covers the Colonials for Rivals.com***

"We're thrilled that Andy has decided to remain at RMU," Robert Morris athletic director Dr. Craig Coleman said in a release issued moments ago. "He has accomplished a great deal with our program, and we have full confidence that he can take our program to even greater heights."

Once again, more information will be posted as it becomes available.

St. John's and Steve Lavin part ways after five seasons

Steve Lavin is out after five seasons at St. John's, despite talk of a possible contract extension. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

The Steve Lavin era is over at St. John's.

Lavin, who guided the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament twice during his five-year tenure, mutually agreed with the St. John's administration to part ways, the conclusion to a week of speculation of whether his job was in jeopardy after a loss to San Diego State seven days ago tonight in the Round of 64.

A national search is underway to find a replacement for the 50-year-old Lavin, who restored the winning culture to a once-proud basketball program upon replacing Norm Roberts in 2010, but only won two postseason games at the helm, one of which was the controversy-marred Big East tournament contest against Rutgers with a senior-laden roster comprised almost entirely of Roberts' recruits.

"Coach Lavin returned high expectations to our men's basketball program," athletic director Chris Monasch said in a statement issued by the university this afternoon, "and represented St. John's in a positive way. We appreciate his commitment to the program and to our student-athletes over the past five years."

Shortly after Lavin's departure was announced, some of his now-former players took to social media to voice their sentiments toward their coach. In particular, outgoing senior guard D'Angelo Harrison, last year's MBWA Haggerty Award winner and St. John's third-leading scorer, praised Lavin as being "more than a coach in my life for me and my family." "I owe him for changing my life," Harrison's tweet continued. Phil Greene, his teammate and backcourt partner, called Lavin a "father figure, to me and us all."

St. John's compiled an official record of 81-53 under Lavin, with all but four games from the 2011-12 season attributed to then-assistant coach Mike Dunlap while the head coach underwent successful treatment for prostate cancer.

"In life, change is inevitable," Lavin stated, "so I take the long view. I'm grateful for my time teaching at St. John's University. I will take with me the lasting friendships forged during my tenure as head coach."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tim Cluess receives contract extension through 2019-20 season

Tim Cluess, who led Iona to 26 wins this season, received contract extension today that keeps him in New Rochelle through 2019-20 season. (Photo courtesy of Brian Beyrer via Iona College Athletics)

While the future is in limbo around some college basketball landscapes in the metropolitan area, it is anything but that at Iona.

Tim Cluess, who has won 118 games since arriving in New Rochelle five years ago, was rewarded with a contract extension once again, ensuring that he will be at the helm of the Gaels through, at least, the 2019-20 season.

The 56-year-old coach, who is the fourth-winningest leader in program history, has resurrected the illustrious history at Iona, reaching the postseason in each season on the sidelines at the Hynes Athletics Center since his hire in 2010 after Kevin Willard left for Seton Hall. In Cluess' tenure, the Gaels have developed nine all-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference first team selections, with three conference Player of the Year honorees, as well as a pair of MBWA Haggerty Award winners in Scott Machado and Lamont (Momo) Jones.

"Five straight 20-win seasons and postseason appearances have never happened in the rich history of men's basketball at Iona College," athletic director Rick Cole stated in a release issued this afternoon. "Tim Cluess remains committed to Iona Athletics' mission of building champions, both on and off the court, and we're proud to have him as our head coach."

It was speculated that Cluess, the 2014 Coach of the Year in the MAAC, would perhaps be a candidate at St. John's University; where he played for Lou Carnesecca before finishing his career at Hofstra, if the Red Storm were to part ways with Steve Lavin. However, a 26-win campaign this year, highlighted by the Gaels' second consecutive regular season MAAC championship and subsequent berth in the National Invitation Tournament, made the decision for Iona to secure their long-term future even more of a no-brainer.

"Coach Cluess continues to lead our men to tremendous success," college president Dr. Joseph Nyre said. "We have always believed he is the right man for Iona basketball."

Monday, March 23, 2015

St. John's 77, Fordham 63: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

Queens, NY ­- In tournament play, it is not uncommon to get a scenario as this. Two schools about 10 miles, and a toll, apart. From different conferences. With styles contrasting almost as much. In the second round of the WNIT, that was the case.

Fordham of the Atlantic 10, visiting Utopia Parkway to face St. John’s, representing the Big East. Both New York schools with long histories and traditions, residing in different leagues. On this afternoon, we would also see something frequently rising in tournament play, the aforementioned difference in style.

Fordham, with outside shooting and an inside game facing a St. John’s with size of their own, as well as a take-you-off-the-dribble game focused on penetrating the defense. What we saw was a veritable coaching ‘chess match’ featuring the game plans of Fordham’s Stephanie Gaitley and Joe Tartamella of St. John’s.

Fordham guarded against penetration allowing the 15-footer. St. John’s hit consistently from mid-range. At the half, it was a two-possession game with the homestanding Red Storm in the lead. It remained close for much of the final half.

In the latter part of the last stanza we were reminded, regardless of schemes and diagrams on the grease board, it comes down to players making plays. Two close-to-the-basket Fordham misses were transformed into St. John’s runouts. Then a turnover saw another St. John’s transition conversion. The lead was double digits. St. John’s went on to win, 77-63, (a somewhat deceptive final margin) and punch their ticket to the third round.

For St. John’s, they heeded Tartamella’s advice of taking advantage of the WNIT experience, a national tournament staged when many teams already called it a season. Fordham, disappointed in losing, remained proud of the effort. Equal pride expressed in the four years since Gaitley took over, this senior class saw the Rams through an Atlantic 10 title and three postseason trips.

Very proud accomplishments, easing the sting of a season drawing to a close.

Just before the opening tip, probably the last time all day we would see Aliyyah Handford of St. John's motionless:
St. John's coach Joe Tartamella, and assistants Veronica Mullen and Priscilla Edwards, are focusing on the same situation on the other end:
Emily Tapio and Hannah Missry of Fordham waiting to check in, and already have their game expressions firmly intact:
Aliyyah Handford defending Tiffany Ruffin of Fordham:
The intensity of the game was even expressed by the Fordham cheerleaders:
Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley ponders her next move:
The traditional postgame handshake line, as St. John's advances while Fordham ends an outstanding season:

St. John's 77, Fordham 63: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

The St. John's cheerleaders perform during Red Storm's WNIT contest against Fordham. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

Queens, NY ­- St. John’s broke a close game open in the final ten minutes. The Red Storm defeated Fordham 77-63 in a second round WNIT contest at Carnesecca Arena. Fordham finishes at 21-12, while 23-10 St. John’s is slated to travel to Villanova on Thursday. The pace and possessions:

Pace: 72 possessions
Offensive Efficiency: St. John's 107, Fordham 88

Four Factors:
eFG%: St. John's 51, Fordham 44
FT Rate: St. John's 27, Fordham 22
OREB%: St. John's 28, Fordham 26
TO Rate: St. John's 14, Fordham 22

What Fordham did well: Compete well into the second half. A two-possession game at the break, Fordham trailed by six and on the defensive end, they allowed St. John’s to have just a two point (12-10) advantage on points in the paint. The Rams maintained striking distance right up until the final stretch of the contest.

What St. John's did well: Shoot the mid range jumper. Fordham was concerned about St. John’s ability to beat them off the bounce. The Rams changed defenses and conceded the 12-15 footer. St. John’s hit it. Only taking two threes (both misfired) the Rdd Storm shot 32 of 63 for a 51% showing from the floor.

Leading Scorers and OE:
St. John's: Aliyyah Handford, 23 points (OE .519)
“We renamed Handford, handful.” – Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley
Fordham: Emily Tapio, 19 points (OE .600)
Tapio, a senior winding up an excellent career, shot 8-of-10 from the floor, turning in a very good OE, which would have been better except for four turnovers.

St. John’s outstanding defensive efficiency, courtesy of limiting Fordham in the eFg (44%) department while forcing them into a 22% TO rate. For the game, the Red Storm showed a 38-22 edge on points in the paint. That was largely aided by a 14-2 advantage in fast break points.

St. John’s, short on depth, put four players in double figures. Impressive in relief, Kyra Dunn of St. John’s gave a nice 2-point, 5-rebound, 2-block showing in 18 minutes.

It is how big you play. The guards were the leaders in rebounding. Fordham’s 5-7 Tiffany Ruffin led the Rams with seven boards. Aliyyah Handford (5-9) of St. John’s paced all rebounders with 10.

Amber Thompson had a versatile game for St. John’s. The 6-2 senior scored 12 points, hauling down eight boards, blocking two shots and getting four steals, decidedly a quiet but effective defensive force in this victory.

Final Thoughts
“We tried to mix things up defensively, but in the end, we struggled with the offense especially turnovers....looking back, as far as this program goes, the bar is raised.” – Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley

“Another opportunity in postseason, and I think we might have played our most complete game to date. We did a great job on both ends of the floor today.” – St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella

Eric Paschall granted permission to contact other schools

Eric Paschall, newly minted Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, has been granted permission to speak to other schools, potentially leading to transfer from Fordham. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

The exodus has not yet started at Fordham, but the Rams' leading scorer is testing the waters.

Eric Paschall, who was recently recognized as the Atlantic 10's Rookie of the Year, has been given permission to contact other schools in regard to a possible transfer from Rose Hill. The freshman sensation tweeted this revelation earlier this afternoon, and Fordham sports information director Joe DiBari soon confirmed that Paschall was indeed cleared to reach out to a list of schools. The schools on this list have not been released to the media or public at this time.

While the initial reaction to this news would be that Paschall was granted a release to transfer, that is presently not the case. Josh Thomson of The Journal News, a Westchester-based newspaper which covered Paschall when he attended Dobbs Ferry High School, confirmed with Paschall's father that a full release was not requested.

In addition, neither Paschall nor his father would not rule out a return to Fordham, where the 6-6 wing averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.

"There's nothing saying we're going to leave Fordham," Paschall's father, Juan, told The Journal News. "I think I would be doing him a disservice if I didn't at least give him an opportunity to look at some other schools and see what other options were out there."

Should Paschall transfer, he would have to complete a mandatory year in residence that would preclude him from playing next season, but he would still retain three years of eligibility, resuming with the 2016-17 campaign. Regardless, the Paschall camp maintained that Eric's current home might still be his permanent one.

"It's about trust," Juan Paschall reiterated, "and that's why Fordham has the upper hand. I know that Fordham is going to take care of my son. I don't know that about those other schools."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Potential candidates to replace Tom Pecora at Fordham

Two years at Buffalo and NCAA Tournament appearance make Bobby Hurley one of hottest names on short list to fill head coaching vacancy at Fordham. (Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun)

Fordham is looking for a head coach again, following its decision to part ways with Tom Pecora after five years at the helm, and predictably, a handful of names have already been linked to the vacancy at Rose Hill.

Some of these names may surprise you, some others may be expected, but who is the right fit for the job? Here, we break down some of the men expected to receive consideration, with some reasons as to why each would or would not be a good choice to guide the Rams into the future:

Bobby Hurley (pictured above)
Age: 43
Experience: Head coach, Buffalo (2013-present, 42-20)
Pros: The popular choice of most Fordham fans, even before Pecora was officially relieved of his duties. Possesses rich basketball lineage, both of his own and his family's making, and remains one of greatest point guards in college basketball history, still to this day the NCAA's all-time assist leader during a stellar career at Duke in which he won two national championships alongside Grant Hill and Christian Laettner. A tireless worker who will no doubt instill invaluable wisdom in Fordham's backcourt if he were to get the job, Hurley would also be close to his home base of New Jersey, and his presence in the metropolitan area would be enough to make inroads toward improving the Rams' recent uptick of successfully recruiting local talent capable of playing in the Atlantic 10.
Cons: Only two years of head coaching experience might scare him away from those in the Fordham administration that may prefer someone more seasoned. Also, his brother, Dan, is currently a member of the Atlantic 10 coaching ranks, and has a potential conference championship contender at Rhode Island next season. Are the brothers ready for a Hurley vs. Hurley battle every year, possibly twice in some seasons?

Will Brown (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
Age: 43
Experience: Head coach, Albany; (2001-present, 215-215) head coach, Sullivan County Community College (1998-2001, 90-10)
Pros: Has turned an Albany program once perennially dormant into a consistent power in the America East, winning five conference championships, which ties him with Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun. A proponent of an aggressive, defensive-minded look, which would fit well against the likes of VCU, Dayton, George Washington and Rhode Island. Long Island native who would not only maintain Fordham's local profile, but also among the most social media-savvy coaches in the nation, (Brown tweets frequently under the handle @UAHOOPSWB, and unlike many coaches on Twitter, is not above engaging both fans and media alike in conversation) something that could accelerate the exposure of the Fordham brand, as would his international pipeline that has been established through Australian stars Peter Hooley and Sam Rowley. His down-to-earth nature and quotability would be a seamless transition from Pecora, and would make him an instant hit with local media.
Cons: Has yet to prove he can work the same magic in a stronger league with more than one NCAA Tournament bid, and still largely unknown in the New York area even with his success in the capital region. Career record is also a handicap of sorts, but has guided Albany to an 86-49 record over the last four seasons, with three consecutive America East championships in that span.

Andy Toole (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Age: 34
Experience: Head coach, Robert Morris (2010-present, 110-66)
Pros: Has won at least 18 games in each of his five seasons at the helm in Moon Township, finally reaching NCAA Tournament this season by winning his first Northeast Conference championship after three losses in the title game. Staten Island-born, New Jersey-bred rising star who has attracted area talent such as Lucky Jones, who played for Bob Hurley at St. Anthony's. A Penn alum and former assistant to Fran O'Hanlon at Lafayette, he is well aware of what it takes to win at a supposed "academic school," and has guided Robert Morris to postseason wins against bigger programs the likes of Kentucky and St. John's. Also not his first dance with a step up in conferences, as he was a finalist two years ago for the vacancy at Siena that was ultimately filled by Jimmy Patsos.
Cons: Not all that many, unless you want to nitpick his four postseason appearances by saying only one of them is an NCAA Tournament. Toole's name has also been linked to the coaching vacancy at George Mason, so Fordham could find themselves in a potential bidding war if the Patriots show serious interest in him as a replacement to Paul Hewitt. The biggest question here would be what other offers he gets coming off his first trip to the field of 68, and that will likely determine where he ends up.

Jeff Capel (Photo courtesy of ESPN)
Age: 40
Experience: Associate head coach, Duke; (2011-present) head coach, Oklahoma; (2006-11, 96-69) head coach, VCU (2002-06, 79-41)
Pros: Like Bobby Hurley, a product of Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and now a member of Coach K's coaching tree, which has branched off successful names like Mike Brey and Johnny Dawkins, with two more up-and-comers in Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski at Northwestern and Marquette, respectively. Capel has another bargaining chip in his favor from his time at Oklahoma, having recruited, coached and developed Blake Griffin into a National Player of the Year and No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick while leading the Sooners to an Elite Eight appearance.
Cons: Has not held a head coaching job in four years, so his name, although still largely relevant in many circles, may not be among the first to come to mind. Demise at Oklahoma was brought on by an NCAA investigation involving one of his assistant coaches and a recruit, as well as two losing seasons amid high expectations. Also, he is viewed as somewhat of a coach-in-waiting in Durham whenever Krzyzewski decides to retire, so he may opt to wait for the opportunity of a lifetime to open up as opposed to resurrecting Fordham.

Jim Engles (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)
Age: 46
Experience: Head coach, NJIT (2008-present, 89-123)
Pros: A metropolitan area college basketball lifer, a Staten Island native who got his start at his hometown program, Wagner, as an assistant for six years, then spending six more at Rider and five at Columbia before being tabbed to shepherd the Highlanders into Division I, beginning with a 1-30 season in 2008. Facing the most adversity and largest challenges of his coaching counterparts at the helm of the nation's sole independent Division I program, Engles made his boldest statement on December 6, when NJIT went into Ann Arbor and left Crisler Arena with a 72-70 victory over 17th-ranked Michigan, sending the Wolverines into a tailspin that concluded with a 16-16 record. The Highlanders reached their first postseason at the Division I level this season, defeating New Hampshire on Monday in the opening round of the CIT, and will host Cleveland State this Monday in the Round of 16.
Cons: Still largely untested, no disrespect to NJIT and the obstacles the school has had to endure both in the Great West Conference and as an independent. Might generate some buzz from the win over Michigan, but not enough to really move the needle among major boosters and the local media.

Jean Prioleau (Photo courtesy of Colorado University Athletics)
Age: 44
Experience: Assistant coach, Colorado; (2010-present) assistant coach, TCU; (2008-10) assistant coach, Iowa State; (2006-08) assistant coach, Marquette; (2005-06) assistant coach, Wichita State; (2000-05) assistant coach, Fordham (1999-2000)
Pros: An alumnus from the Class of 1992, Prioleau brings name cache among the old-school Ram faithful, who undoubtedly remember him from his exploits as a player, where he still ranks among Fordham's best players of the last two decades. Has become the epitome of well-traveled since then, playing overseas before serving on the staffs of six programs over the last 16 years, beginning with his alma mater. Should he be hired, it gives him an opportunity to bring his career full circle, not to mention rekindle the relationship between distanced alumni whose support of the program has waned.
Cons: Lack of head coaching experience might scare some people away, but that can be mitigated by his diverse resume as an assistant, serving under the likes of Mark Turgeon, Tom Crean and Tad Boyle among others. Moreover, the issue of potentially damaging his legacy should he fail as head coach could come into play. For every Gary Williams, there is also a Matt Doherty.

Dave Paulsen (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)
Age: 50
Experience: Head coach, Bucknell; (2008-present, 124-92) head coach, Williams College; (2000-08, 170-53) head coach, Le Moyne; (1997-2000, 42-39) head coach, St. Lawrence (1994-97, 50-28)
Pros: Has won everywhere he has been, most recently with four postseason appearances (two NCAA Tournament, two NIT) in the last five years at perennial Patriot League power Bucknell, where he coached a first-round NBA Draft pick in Mike Muscala, now of the Atlanta Hawks. Won a Division III national championship at Williams in 2003, and nearly repeated the following year, losing in the championship game to complete a two-year record of 61-3. Coming from a Patriot League school, something Fordham still is with regard to its football program, would understand academic standards when it comes to recruits, and would develop an appropriate strategy.
Cons: Again, another coach whose success has come in one-bid leagues, and one whose best players historically have not been on Atlantic 10 radar. No major local connections to speak of, so he might be a hard sell on the New York market initially.

Kyle Smith (Photo courtesy of the New York Times)
Age: 45
Experience: Head coach, Columbia (2010-present, 76-72)
Pros: Guided a long-dormant Columbia program to a postseason appearance for the first time since the Johnson administration when Lions reached CIT quarterfinals last season. Despite 13-15 record this year, he gained national attention for playing Kentucky to just a 10-point loss, leading Wildcats at halftime and defending them better than nearly any of their opponents during what remains an undefeated campaign at the present moment. Credited with helping develop NBA players in Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova as an assistant at Saint Mary's, where he also worked with players such as Omar Samhan and Mickey McConnell over nine years as Randy Bennett's right-hand man in Moraga. Praised by current Richmond head coach Chris Mooney as the smartest man in college basketball, and the last time Fordham hired a coach out of Columbia, Tom Penders proved to be quite successful at Rose Hill.
Cons: Untested when it comes to recruiting with scholarships at his fingertips, so he would essentially be starting from the ground floor when it comes to evaluating prospects. In five seasons at Columbia, has only managed a winning conference record just once, accomplishing that last year. Also, this year's sub-.500 result, even though it can be attributed to losing Alex Rosenberg to injury in the offseason, knocked some of the luster off his candidacy, a stock that reached its high point during CIT run and uncertainty as to whether or not Tom Pecora would return.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fordham 70, CCSU 67: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

Bronx, NY ­- Sometimes the task is a lot more difficult than it appears to be. The first impression does not always tell the complete story. That certainly applies to tournament play, especially when you learn who your first opponent is.

That all came to mind with the Fordham women. Earning their WNIT bid (a third post season in as many years) the Rams were matched against Central Connecticut State. The game was at home in the cozy confines of Rose Hill Gymnasium (critics say antiquated, yours truly prefers historical and quaint).

The problem with this matchup is Fordham defeated the Blue Devils 72-36 on their home floor in December. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley had to diffuse any complacency, reminding her club this is a team that wasn’t at full strength when they played in December. A team improving as the campaign wore on. And with everyone back.

CCSU mentor Beryl Piper was playing with ‘house money’. A Northeast Conference team on the road against an Atlantic Ten opponent. Everything to gain, nothing to lose.

From the outset the visitors played loose, hitting an assortment of shots, building a double-digit lead. Fordham responded in a manner teams, with tournament experience and worthy of advancing, must do. Rather than panic, they realized there was ample time. They gradually chipped away, played their game and were positioned to close the deal as the proverbial crunch time arrived. In the clutch, Tiffany Ruffin, an 18-point scorer on the night, came up with several huge baskets. It went to the final possession, and Fordham emerged a 70-67 victor.

Next up for the Rams, a second round date at St. John’s. On this night, they could enjoy the hard fought win. The epitome of ‘survive and advance’.

CCSU coach Beryl Piper studies the action:
On the far right, CCSU assistant coach Jason Marshall offers encouragement from the bench:
Amanda Harrington of CCSU, who tied Tiffany Ruffin for game-high scoring honors with 18 points, defending Fordham's Samantha Clark:
Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley in deep thought:
The T-shirt toss. Yours truly came up empty, again:
The intensity of tournament action, as shown by Fordham's Emily Tapio:
Fordham huddles after the game, as the victory is theirs:

Friday, March 20, 2015

Fordham 70, CCSU 67: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

A Fordham cheerleader mid-routine as Rams entertained Central Connecticut State in WNIT. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

Bronx, NY -­ First round WNIT action saw Fordham post a 70-­67 come-from-behind victory over Central Connecticut at Rose Hill. The Rams will travel to St. John’s on Sunday to face the Red Storm, a winner over Army. The pace and possessions:

Pace: Fordham 70 possessions, CCSU 68
Offensive Efficiency: Fordham 100, CCSU 99

Four Factors:
EFG: CCSU 53, Fordham 44
FT rate: Fordham 24, CCSU 21
OREB pct.: Fordham 33, CCSU 24

TO rate: Fordham 14, CCSU 18

What Central Connecticut did well: Shoot the ball. They came out on fire, shooting 57% the first half. The Blue Devils cooled down a bit in the second half, but turned in impressive numbers from the field for the night.

What Fordham did well: Maintain resiliency. The Rams trailed by double digits early as CCSU was firing on all cylinders. Fordham maintained poise, and possession by possession, gradually chipped away. They gained the lead late in the second half and eventually closed out the victory.

Scoring Leaders and OE:
CCSU: Amanda Harrington 18 points, OE .846.

Fordham: Tiffany Ruffin 18 points, OE .714.

Harrington was a handful in the low post. She shot 8-of-11 from the floor, while hauling in six rebounds. Ruffin made a few key plays the final four minutes. The Fordham guard was a veritable ‘stat stuffer’. Ruffin shot 7-of-13. The epitome of versatility, she grabbed nine rebounds, (4 offensive) adding three assists and five steals.

CCSU shot better from three than the line. The Blue Devils were 5-of-9(56%) from beyond the arc, and 6-of-12 (50%) from the charity stripe. Samantha Clark of Fordham led the rebounding category with 10. Clark also contributed 10 points in a solid effort.

The turnovers were damaging. CCSU’s rate was only 18%, under the cutoff of 20%. It was, however, the significance of those errors that proved costly in this one-possession affair. To illustrate, CCSU had 68 possessions. Subtract their 12 turnovers and you get 56 possessions winding up in a field goal attempt and/or free throw. Fordham had 70 possessions. Minus their 10 turnovers, you get 60 ’completed’ possessions. Now, look at the efficiencies, taking points divided by completed (turnover­less) possessions:

CCSU 120, Fordham 117

A graphic, or metric, evidence of how damaging those turnovers were to the Northeast Conference representatives.

A misleading number in the first meeting of the teams: On December 9, Fordham romped 72-­36. Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley pointed out CCSU was missing a few key players and improved substantially as the campaign progressed.

CCSU finished the season 19-13, while Fordham improved to 21-11.

Final Thoughts
“It was a hard fought game and we had a great start. We gave up 70 points and that makes it hard to win. It’s disappointing because we pride ourselves on defense.” – CCSU coach Beryl Piper

“They (CCSU) shot the lights out early but we stayed resilient, did not panic. We knew we would get shots and there were a lot of possessions left.” –Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley