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Monday / December 18.
  • After Manhattan’s Comeback Win, Masiello Gets Hug From Gonzo

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    By JOSH NEWMAN

    Special to ZAGSBLOG

    NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – The scene wasn’t quite out of the Twilight Zone, but it was odd enough to anyone who knows the history and was paying attention.

    Here was first-year Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello still in stunned disbelief after the Jaspers, once down as many as 18, claimed a 75-72 win at MAAC-leading Iona on Thursday night thanks to freshman forward Emmy Andujar banking in a 3-pointer from about 25 feet out at the regulation buzzer.

    The officials reviewed it, Andujar’s shot was indeed good and Masiello and his players understandably went nuts.

    Masiello turned, and who was at midcourt near the scorer’s table to greet him? Yes, his former employer and ex-Jaspers head coach Bobby Gonzalez to give him a huge hug and say a few kind words.

    “We just spoke a bit. He told me it was a great win and he told he was really proud of me,” Masiello said. “I thanked him for everything he has done for me and for where he got this program. We had a great exchange and I’d still like him to come out for a practice.”

    Between 2001-05, Masiello was an assistant under Gonzalez, who was at the Hynes Athletics Center to see one-time Seton Hall recruit and current Iona senior Michael Glover.

    Masiello’s tenure in the Riverdale section of the Bronx included trips to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2004. He eventually left Riverdale to coach under Rick Pitino at Louisville, while Gonzalez moved up to Seton Hall, a time in Pirates lore that many in the fan base would rather forget.

    With Thursday being arguably Masiello’s first major win as the head coach at Manhattan, it seemed almost fitting that he and Gonzalez embraced. Gonzalez, who’s now looking for work as an NBA scout or college coach, was the last coach to lead Manhattan to the NCAAs, while his old assistant has been charged with bringing it back there.

    There are high expectations and an even higher standard to uphold at Manhattan and Masiello can thank his predecessors for the immediate pressure.

    Barry Rohrssen’s time spent in Riverdale notwithstanding, the Jaspers have enjoyed considerable success beginning with Steve Lappas’ 1992 NIT squad, followed by multiple NCAA Tournament berths thanks to both Gonzalez and future-St. John’s head coach Fran Fraschilla.

    No one is soon forgetting what Lappas, Fraschilla and Gonzalez were able to accomplish in the Bronx, but none of that really matters now as the heyday of the 1990s and much of the 2000s is long out of view after a 58-95 record and just one 10-win MAAC season from Rohrssen over five years.

    What Masiello is being asked to do is help the Jaspers reemerge as a contender in the MAAC. By the looks of things, especially Thursday’s win over the preseason MAAC favorite, things are headed in the right direction.

    Expectations were actually low coming into 2011-12 after the Jaspers went just 6-24 overall and 3-15 in the MAAC in Rohrssen’s final season.

    Instead of the Jaspers finding their way under Masiello, they surprisingly have 11 wins in their first 18 games and currently sit in the upper half of the MAAC standings.

    Junior swingman George Beamon, who scored a game-high 21 points on Thursday, has turned into a star, while sophomore guard Michael Alvarado, sophomore forward Rahmel Brown and senior guard Kidani Brutus have all become dependable pieces of the rotation.

    “We want to get it back to where it was when I was an assistant where we’re competing every year to go to the tournament and if we get to the tournament, we won’t be surprised if we win a game,” Masiello said. “We have a long way to go, we’re not anywhere near where we wanna be.”

    Those aforementioned players are not part of what really helped Masiello to make his name as a top assistant coach under Pitino, which is recruiting.

    The White Plains native accepted the Manhattan job on April 10, 2011. Less than a month later, he had a pledge from 6-foot-5 Christian County (Ky.) off-guard Donovan Kates. Less than a month after Kates came aboard, Andujar, out of Harlem’s Rice High School, committed.

    In less than two months on the job, Masiello had two kids who have played and contributed right away.

    Ever the recruiter, Masiello is not done yet. He has National Letters of Intent from Chicago point guard C.J. Jones, New York small forward Shane Richards and Indianapolis small forward Paul Bayt for the class of 2012.

    Manhattan is also on the short list for St. Anthony senior power forward Jerome Frink, along with FIU, Hofstra, St. Peter’s and FDU.

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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.