Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sharp, Pheonix Keep Kean Going Strong

Good coaches from the MAAC usually don't struggle to find employment, even after being dismissed by a conference program.

Longtime fans of Manhattan will remember women's coach Michelle Sharp, who coached the Jaspers for six seasons including one in which the program won a conference title (one of four won by the Manhattan women) and advanced to the NCAA tournament.

But after that 1996-97 season's 19-11 record and NCAA berth, Sparp's next two teams were 8-19 and 13-18 and she was dismissed with a six-year record of 66-104.

Manhattan hasn't exactly been a dominant women's team since, with an overall 163-189 record since Sharp's departure.

But, Sharp is doing pretty well not far from her former school. She is entering her 12th season at Kean University, a Division III-level program in Union, N.J., that plays in the competitive New Jersey Athletic Conference.

Sharp has done a nice rebuilding job there for a program that struggled before her arrival. She has a 212-121 record with Kean, taking that program to four Division III NCAA tournaments. Last year's team finished with a school-record 29 victories, getting all 29 in a row after a season-opening loss. Its only other loss was at the Elite Eight level of the NCAA tournament.

Sharp has twice been the NJAC's Coach of the Year.

Sharp isn't the only Manhattan connection at Kean.

Former Jaspers' men's standout Justin Phoenix is one of Sharp's assistant coaches. Phoenix is entering his fourth year in the program.

Phoenix played at Manhattan from 1992-93 through 1995-96. His teams went to two NCAA tournaments (1993, 1995) and one NIT (1994).

After finishing his collegiate career, Phoenix spent several seasons abroad playing in several club teams in Europe from 1996 to 2006. More recently he switched from playing to coaching at several camps and clinics with a stint at Burlington County College as a men's assistant coach for a season before joining the women's staff at Kean.

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