All smiles upon being introduced as Bryant's next head coach, Jared Grasso will be providing similar sentiment for Bulldog fans sooner rather than later. (Photo by David Silverman Photography via Miles McQuiggan/Bryant University Athletic Communications)
"He had me sitting on the edge of my seat. He had me pumped up."
Those words -- spoken by Bryant University athletic director Bill Smith Monday morning -- define the ethos of Jared Grasso, the man in whose hands Smith placed his trust and his men's basketball program, concluding a search to replace the retired Tim O'Shea with a basketball lifer who spent eight years waiting for a second chance to lead at the highest level.
The son of the late Fred Grasso -- a coach in his own right -- Jared has always been wired differently, despite the 1-22 record as interim head coach at Fordham in 2009-10 and despite everyone's attempts to discredit him as the mere recruiter for Tim Cluess' Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship teams at Iona. Yes, the younger Grasso is quite adept at attracting incoming transfers, and was able to cast a wide net across the country during his time as a lieutenant in New Rochelle. But it is what goes on behind the scenes, without the fans in the stands and the cameras capturing the ball and the players, that showcases the true makeup of Smithfield, Rhode Island's newest resident, a charismatic 37-year-old leader who pours his heart and soul into every project he undertakes, from cultivating relationships to developing skills and ultimately succeeding in the win column.
Bryant has itself a tireless Energizer bunny to call a head coach, one who will be unafraid to spend 18-hour days in the office and envelope everyone around him into his world. Not a moment went by in all his years at Iona -- be it with players, fans, or media -- that Grasso did not look to include someone else to share in his joy. A naturally extroverted personality with a fervor to compete and win above all else, he brings a brand that the Bulldog program, and the Northeast Conference on a larger scale, needs just as strongly as the bear hug in which he has embraced his new home.
A head coach again for first time since 2010, Jared Grasso brings his track record of recruiting and developing players to Bryant, who hired former Iona assistant to rebuild from 3-28 campaign. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)
"I promise you, I won't let you down," he intoned Monday shortly after his hire was officially consummated, doing so with an expression and body language that conveyed full commitment and sheer determination.
Never has Grasso made a promise he ultimately could not keep, never has his mouth written a check his skill set could not cash. For a program now having just begun its second decade at the Division I level and about to enter its seventh year as a full-fledged member of college athletics' highest stage, such an emboldened leader is exactly what is needed to break through and reach the heights enjoyed by two of Bryant's biggest in-state rivals in Providence and Rhode Island -- both of whom, coincidentally enough -- hired young firebrand coaches in Ed Cooley and Dan Hurley, the latter having since moved on to UConn, that match the big dreams and track record of success Grasso carries with him into his new endeavor.
Still motivated by his past failures, speaking of the NEC championship game in which he competed as a senior at Quinnipiac sixteen years ago, and referencing his winning ways with the piece of Iona's MAAC championship net that he carries with him as a reminder of the rewards that come with success in the sport, Grasso laid the foundation for which it all starts today, and every day thereafter as the Bulldogs look to add their own name to a growing list of conference parity where four different schools have represented the league in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past four seasons.
"We are going to win a NEC championship here," he said, steadfast in his conviction. "We are going to cut down nets here. We are going to put this program on the map here."
Bryant fans need only to get ready and get on board. The bus for the promised land is about to depart, and if Jared Grasso's past and present is any indication, it will arrive in a fruitful future sooner rather than later.