Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 19, 2016
A new chapter in Rutgers basketball is about to begin with reports indicating the school will hire Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, per multiple reports on Saturday.
Pikiell takes over for Eddie Jordan and will look to breathe life into what has been a moribund Scarlet Knights program that hasn?t reached the NCAA tourney since 1991 and hasn?t won an NCAA game since 1983.
The 48-year-old Pikiell has done a masterful job at Stony Brook. He assumed command of a program in 2005-06 that went 4-24 his first season and this past season took it to a 26-6 mark and to the NCAA tourney for the first time, where Stony Brook lost to Kentucky on Thursday.
In 11 years, he went 192-156 overall and 109-71 in league play with four America East regular-season crowns in addition to three NIT, two CBI and a NCAA bid. This past campaign, he led the Seawolves to a 24-6 record, the fifth time in the last six years the school won at least 22 games. Stony Brook notched just one winning season in the previous 12 before Pikiell assumed command.
Pikiell also has coached as an assistant at UConn, Yale, Wesleyan, Central Connecticut and George Washington before landing the gig at Stony Brook in 2005.
Pikiell has roots in the East. A point guard who was a two-year captain for UConn from 1987-91 under Jim Calhoun, Pikiell helped the Huskies win their first Big East championship while also getting to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in the two years that Pikiell was captain. He will need to use his connections in the Eastern Corridor to lure the plethora of talent in the area to Rutgers.
Since being hired in the fall as athletic director Patrick Hobbs has made big waves. First, he tabbed Ohio State assistant Chris Ash to coach the football program. Now, Hobbs is beginning a makeover on the hoops program by tabbing Pikiell. Others that reportedly were in mix included George Washington?s Mike Lonergan and Rhode Island?s Dan Hurley. But each withdrew from consideration in recent days.
Jordan couldn?t get it done despite his NBA pedigree and legendary status as a former RU icon who led the Scarlet Knights to the 1976 Final Four. How bad has it been under Jordan? The school won just seven games last season and has totaled just three Big Ten triumphs since joining the league for the 2014-15 season.
RU ended 2015-16 season with a loss to Nebraska in the Big Ten tourney. That capped a 7-25 overall season that included a 1-17 mark in the Big Ten, marking the program?s lowest winning percentage since 1956. Rutgers endured a school-record 17-game losing streak and suffered 32 consecutive Big Ten defeats dating back to last season before a late-season win against Minnesota. This year?s team was impacted by injuries, which comprised the roster.
There is great potential at Rutgers, with the school sitting in a fertile recruiting area. But Rutgers also needs to invest in facilities. And it's Pikiell's job to bring in top talent.