Friday, June 7, 2013

Former Gael Dagostino Set To Be Ave Maria Coach

Our first viewing of Kenny Dagostino was as a standout high school player at Guilderland (N.Y.) H.S., a 6-foot-1 guard who was a little too small and a little too slow afoot to be a factor at the Division I level. Still, he had enough ability to have been a good player at the Division II level, and had several scholarship offers to play D-II.

Instead, Dagostino wanted a Division I experience, wanted to be mentored by coaches at the highest level and soak in as much of their expertise as he could. Dagostino knew, even as a high school player, his basketball future would be as a teacher/coach and not as a player.

So, he walked on at Iona where he played for Jeff Ruland and graduated in 2006. Because of his on-court smarts, his all-out hustle and enthusiasm, Ruland regularly claimed that Dagostino was one of his all-time favorite players.

Mostly, Dagostino was a practice player, but a very good one who most-definitely challenged starting teammates every day in practice. Over his four years at Iona he saw action in just 29 games and scored nine total points, but those statistics belied his contributions in practices and as a team leader.

He got the full Division I college experience, even getting to the NCAA tournament with the Gaels in the 2005-06 season. Ruland gave Dagostino a scholarship when "Dags" was a junior and a senior. And, Dagostino was a team captain as a senior. And, how many college walk-ons are respected enough leaders to eventually earn captain's designation?

Your hoopscribe remembers connecting with Dagostino, via phone, when the Gaels were in transit to the the NCAA's in 2006. There probably wasn't an individual anywhere enjoying the experience any more than he was, even though he knew he wouldn't get on the court.

"This is what I came here for," said Dagostino. "This is what I wanted to experience, the thrill of being involved in an NCAA tournament. This is what I dreamed about."

It was all part of the experience that Dagostino hoped would lead to something in the sport in future years.

And, now, it has. Now, another dream is being realized.

Dagostino, according to a variety of sources, will be named the had coach at Ave Maria University, a four-year NAIA program near the Gulf Coast in southern Florida. It's a nice move for a young coach who doesn't turn 30 until September.

Dagostino certainly paid his proverbial dues to advance. He began his coaching progression at UAlbany, first as a grad assistant/video coordinator and, then, as the program's director of basketball operations.

In 2009 he got his first chance to direct a program when he was named head coach at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. In four seasons there he had a 74-44 record.

Ave Maria's job opened up in May when its previous coach, Jamon Copeland, moved on to become the head coach at the University of Texas at Tyler.

Ave Maria won 23 games this past season and has a good nucleus returning. It's another nice move forward for a good guy and a young coach on the rise.

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