Steve Masiello takes Manhattan Jaspers from MAAC's doormat to league contender in first year
Jaspers enter Friday's game tied for second in MAAC after finishing last year 6-25Comments
By Sean Brennan / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, January 18 2012, 2:15 AM
Steve Masiello, a former assistant at Louisville, is in his first year at Manhattan, where he has changed the atmophere surrounding the basketball program one game at a time.
Steve Masiello’s whirlwind day begins at 6 a.m. when he arrives at his Draddy Gym office at Manhattan College.
The first-year coach, charged with turning around a once-proud program that has fallen on hard times, has made it his mission to return the Jaspers program to prominence.
And with Manhattan saddled with four losing seasons in its last five, Masiello knew the daunting task he faced.
But just don’t call what he does for a living “a job.” He’s having too much fun to label it with such a mundane description.
“I love it. It’s a dream,” Masiello said in his office, one adorned with framed pictures of the different places and faces from the basketball path that led him back to Riverdale, this time as the head coach of the Jaspers after a six-year assistant stint in Louisville.
“I feel like I don’t work. I’m just lucky to do this. If other people weren’t getting paid for this, neither would I. That’s how much I love this.”
The 6 a.m. staff meetings are a lively start to the day in JasperLand. Far more lively than anything should be at 6 a.m. Individual workouts with players commence around 8 a.m. and continue for the next three hours. Then the team meeting at 2:30, practice from 3-5 p.m., some film study afterwards and then it’s off to study hall for the players.
Next day, same drill. Think Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day.”
“The staff meetings are fun,” said Masiello, a White Plains product who attended Stepinac High School. “Our days are fun. We make them fun. We challenge each other. I challenge the assistants, they challenge me. We always try to keep each other on our toes at all times.”
And Masiello, apparently, is not one to stand on formality. Everyone on his staff has a voice, and that includes assistant coaches Scott Padgett, Matt Grady and Rashon Burno.
“There is no head coach here,” Masiello said. “I’m big on that. I want them to talk to me very openly. I want feedback. That’s something I learned from Coach (Rick) Pitino”
Pitino is, quite simply, Masiello’s godfather, his mentor. And if he doesn’t have some form of contact with the legendary Louisville head coach on a daily basis, it’s a rarity.
“I bounce everything off him,” Masiello said, who served as a Manhattan assistant from 2001 to 2005. “I won’t even have to ask the question before I’m getting an answer from him. We’ll have a great win, say against Iona, and the text message will say, ‘Great win.
Really proud of you. Kids played hard. Don’t have a letdown. If you have a letdown it takes away from this win. Keep them humble.’ He’s coaching me on how to coach them. I got an ace up my sleeve because of him. I would not be where I am today without him. He means the world to me.”
Success seems to be arriving far earlier than scheduled in Riverdale.
Masiello took over a team that was 6-25 last season, including a 3-15 mark in the MAAC, and has already doubled the overall win total while currently boasting a 5-2 conference mark after stunning wins over Fairfield and Iona in back-to-back games last week. It’s the best MAAC start for a Manhattan team since the 2005-06 team started 6-1 season and the 12-7 overall record is the second best start for a first-year Manhattan coach in the post-World War II era, trailing only Fran Fraschilla’s 17-5 start in 1992-93.
But apart from the wins and losses, Masiello said he has experienced something he didn’t expect in his first season as a Division I head coach. Something that means at least as much as wins and losses.
“I knew I would love this job when I got it, but what I didn’t realize was how personal things become,” Masiello said. “I feel like these kids are my sons and I want them to do great in every aspect of life - academics, socially and basketball. I want them to represent us in the right way. I get so happy when they get complimented for the people they are and how they conduct themselves. I didn’t realize how much pride I’d take in it.”
Masiello said he recently received over 20 emails from Iona fans after the Jaspers stunned the Gaels on a last-second three-pointer last week.
“Iona fans saying how impressed they were with how our kids handled themselves,” Masiello said. “That means more to me than anything. When an opposing fan can email you about the character of your kids, that’s when you know your kids are doing the right things.”
The Jaspers enter Friday night’s game at Marist tied with Loyola for second place in the MAAC, a game behind Iona. No longer the league’s doormat, Masiello is bringing fun back to Draddy Gym and respectability back to the Jaspers program.
“I didn’t think we’d be where we are now to be honest,” Masiello said. “I knew we would get Manhattan basketball back and I never doubted that for one minute. I think we’re going in the right direction. Obviously we’re not close to what I envision yet but we’re to the point where the program is one the rise, there’s good buzz about us in the metropolitan area and these kids are no longer pushovers. Now these kids expect to win every night.”
Long days paying off in Riverdale for Masiello. Local kid making good in a big way.