Sunday, April 3, 2016

Jim Engles returns to Columbia, replaces Kyle Smith as head coach

Jim Engles, who did yeoman's work building NJIT program, moves across Hudson River to take over for Kyle Smith at Columbia. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

Columbia University did not look very far to hire a new head coach, only reaching across the Hudson River to one of their former assistants, who spent the past eight seasons as the coach who may have done the best job in the New York metropolitan area.

Jim Engles, best known for his tenure at NJIT, where he guided the Highlanders from a 51-game losing streak to consecutive 20-win seasons and Tournament semifinal appearances, was announced Sunday evening as the Lions' 23rd all-time head coach. He replaces Kyle Smith, who accepted the vacant head coaching position at the University of San Francisco on Wednesday, just hours after Columbia won the CIT for the program's first-ever postseason championship.

Engles, 47, is no stranger to Morningside Heights, having spent five seasons as an assistant to current Boston University head coach Joe Jones before taking over at NJIT, where he won 100 games over the past six years after arriving in just the school's third campaign at the Division I level.

"I am humbled and beyond excited to become the next head basketball coach at Columbia," he said in a release issued by the university. "My first experience here was tremendous. I look forward to reconnecting with some of my former colleagues that are still here, and I cannot wait to get to work with this special group of student-athletes."

Ironically, Engles has the advantage of having coached against Columbia twice this season, falling to the Lions both in December and in last Sunday's CIT semifinals, both at Levien Gymnasium. He inherits a roster in somewhat of a transition, as both all-Ivy League guard Maodo Lo and forward Alex Rosenberg graduate, with senior guard Grant Mullins expected to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere in the 2016-17 season. A press conference to introduce Engles has not been officially announced, but SNY's Adam Zagoria reports such a ceremony will take place on Thursday.

A Staten Island native, Engles has a wealth of experience around the New York area, having also served as an assistant coach at Wagner and Rider, helping the Seahawks rise to power in the Northeast Conference and was on staff as the Broncs began their tenure in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. At NJIT, his list of accolades grew to include Great West Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2012-13, and Peter A. Carlesimo Co-Coach of the Year; along with St. Francis Brooklyn's Glenn Braica, from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers' Association, in the 2014-15 season.

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