Your Hoopscribe admits that he has only met Steve Masiello once and that hardly qualifies as getting to know the first-year Manhattan men's coach.
But, a couple of phone conversations had me liking what I heard. He said all the right things about creating a new culture within the basketball program, and speaking about how high he wanted his program to climb.
To some, all the preseason talk might have been just bragging ... unfounded bravado, if you will. But, your scribe took it as coming from a confident coach who had a real idea about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it.
We've heard it before in the MAAC. Both Paul Hewitt and Fran McCaffery, coaches who took over at Siena at times that program was at its depths, both had similar things to say. There might not have been many believers that things would turn around right away when Hewitt and McCaffery took over that program after struggling times, but they did. And the proof, they say, is in the pudding.
And, so it is with Masiello, whose Manhattan team is off to a 7-4 start and already has more wins through 11 games than the program had in all of the 2010-11 season.
There's a reason the Jaspars struggled a year ago under former head coach Barry Rohrssen. Two key players were freshmen,, adjusting to the college level. Two highly touted recruits wound up missing the entire season. Another key player (Demetrius Jemison), a graduate student who played three seasons previously at Alabama, didn't get cleared by the NCAA until the second semester, causing chemistry issues. There was a lot of new faces struggling to get acclimated a year ago, and one could sense that the program would turn around pretty quickly.
And, it has under Masiello as last year's freshmen (Mike Alvarado and Rhamel Brown) have made the expected step forward; and, as one of the injury issues from a year ago (Roberto Colonette) has come back healthy and has become a rebounding force. Masiello's team also has the requisite standout in junior George Beamon, one of the MAAC's top players and another Rohrssen recruit. And, of course, Masiello is living up to his reputation as a strong recruiter with a solid first-year group that includes recent conference Rookie of the Ween Emmy Andujar.
Which leads us to one other reason why we've grown to admire Masiello from afar. There's this particular quote found on the cbssports website, in a short piece about his team's success so far, and about what Rohrssen, one of the nicest individuals ever to grade a MAAC sideline, left behind ...
"(Barry) did a terrific job evaluating talent," Masiello said. "We have some very good pieces. I'm fortunate to step into a situation like this, and that's a credit to Barry."
We could tell that Masiello would be a good coach, and there was considerable evidence about his ability to recruit. But, now we know something else about Manhattan's first-year coach.
His expressed sentiments about his predecessor exude nothing but class.