Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
**Click the Video Player at right for Parts 2 and 1 of my interview with Fordham interim coach Jared Grasso, who, at 29, is the youngest Division 1 coach in America***
NEW YORK — Back in September, Villanova coach Jay Wright sent Jared Grasso a text message offering his support.
“Keep doing a great job at Fordham. Make Fordham your dream job and the rest will take care of itself,” the text read.
Grasso and Wright share a deep history.
Grasso is a Long Island native who was recruited by Wright when Wright was the Hofstra coach. Current Hofstra coach Tom Pecora got his first job working under Fred Grasso, Jared’s dad, at Jericho High School. Grasso’s first job, in turn, was as a GA under Pecora at Hofstra.
Now Grasso and Wright will square off as head coaches when Fordham (2-6) meets No. 8 Villanova (9-1) Saturday afternoon at the Izod Center.
Grasso was elevated to interim head coach Dec. 3 when Derrick Whittenburg was fired.
“Here I am three months later and it is my dream job and now I’m coaching against Jay at the Izod center,” Grasso said. “It’s funny how things work out and it’s pretty exciting for me.”
Wright, who took his team to the Final Four a year ago and now coaches the preseason Big East favorite, serves as a role model for the younger Grasso.
“Absolutely,” Grasso said. “He’s one of those guys you emulate. Jay’s great in every aspect. He can coach. He recruits. He’s good with people. HE has the whole package and for myself that’s the kind of guy I look up to and I want to emulate because some day I want to be in his shoes coaching in the Final Four.”
Fordham is coming off a 73-56 loss to another Big East program, St. John’s, in which freshman forward Chris Gaston dropped 32 points and 15 rebounds. Now the Rams get the Wildcats, who won’t be in a good mood coming off last weekend’s Big Five loss to Temple. Temple, in turn, meets Bobby Gonzalez and Seton Hall Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark.
“It’s not going to be easy [playing Villanova],” Grasso said. “Obviously, they’re very talented. They have a bunch of McDonald’s All-Americans. For our guys, in their minds they probably think, ‘I should’ve been recruited in the Big East. This is where I should be playing.’ So our guys need to go out there with there with a chip on their shoulder and just play hard and compete for 40 minutes and we’ll see what happens from there.”
One more thing. How much more does Grasso have to spend on his wardrobe to compete with the fabulous Jay Wright?
“I don’t know if I have enough money in my bank account right now to compete with Jay,” he said.
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.