Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York on April 15, 1994 · 93
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Newsday (Suffolk Edition) from Melville, New York · 93

Melville, New York
Issue Date:
Friday, April 15, 1994
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1 c I I' ! i 1 i t I I i New coach introduced at Hofstra By JJ Pelzman STAFF WHITES Jay Wright surveyed the approximately 100 people — staff alumni and media — gathered at Hofstra’s University Club yesterday and said “This is a wonderful turnout” Wright hopes the turnout is even better next winter when the venue is Hof-stra’s Physical Fitness Center and the event is a men’s basketball game Wright a former assistant to Rollie Massimino at both Villanova and UNLV yesterday was introduced as Hofstra’s coach replacing Butch van Breda Kolff He becomes the 10th coach in the 56-year history of the program Wright’s hiring ended a three-month national search full of twists and turns Wright takes over a team that was a combined 18-38 over the past two seasons but won 20 games three seasons ago The task of building the program should be made easier by the other announcement made yesterday: Hofstra has been accepted as a full member of the North Atlantic Conference effective next year Hofstra will be the ninth member of the conference joining Boston University Hartford Maine New Hampshire Northeastern Vermont and former East Coast Conference colleagues Delaware and DrexeL Another former ECC member TowBon State also has been accepted but it won’t join the league until the 1995-96 season after fulfilling its commitment to the Big South Conference Hofstra’s acceptance into the NAC means the school will be in a conference with an automatic bid to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for the first time since the 1990-91 sea- Nrww1y Jtm Pippter Hofstra president Dr James M Shuart presents Jay Wright to the media son “That is key” Wright said of Hofstra’s membership in the NAC “High school players know who’s in what conference and whether that conference has an automatic bid” " Wright was not among Hofstra’s original list of leading candidates After Davidson coach Bob McKillop spurned Hofstra in mid-March Hofstra athletic director Jim Garvey went to the Final attorney They have a 1-year-old son Taylor Education! Bachelor's degree Buckned University 1983 Majored in economics and sociology Professional Assistant at Rochester 1984-86 assistant at Drexei 1988-87 assistant at Villanova 1987-92 assistant at University of Nevada-Las Vegas 1992-94 Four in Charlotte NC to continue the search Garvey met and interviewed Wright who had been recommended to him by Massimino “He’s an outstanding recruiter” said Garvey adding that Hofstra needs to recruit bigger faster players Hofstra didn't have a starter taller than 6-7 last year Wright was considered to be largely responsible for a UNLV recruiting class last year thought to be one of the nation’s best “That’s my top priority right now” Wright said “to get out and recruit” Hofstra has two scholarships currently available and could possibly have a third Although the recruiting season is almost over Wright isn’t worried noting that many other schools are in the same position of having recently hired head coaches Although he has national contacts he wants to recruit “the best players from New York City and Long Island We have to take care of our home base first” The Wright way is an up-tempo Btyle on offense and man-to-man on defense However he said he will adapt that approach particularly on offense depending upon his evaluation of his personnel “We’ll do what we need to do to win” he said He made no predictions for next season saying rather “The most important thing is to build a foundation so this can be a good basketball program” Wright will meet with the returning members of the squad today The players haven’t been able to form an opinion of Wright yet but they are glad both situations the coach and the conference have finally been resolved “Thank God it’s over with' guard Jim Shaffer said “It’s a burden off our shoulders Now we can get started” Guard Darius Burton said “When we won the ECC Tournament and cut down the nets there was nothing left Now if we cut down the nets we’re going to the Big Dance” Haven’t We Heard This Here Before? A new era in Hofstra basketball be gan yesterday another new era It was only six years ago that athletic director Jim Garvey trumpeted the dawn of another era while patting himself on the back for enticing Butch van Breda Kolff to leave Lafayette and re turn to Hofstra as its basketball coach But that’s old news VBK is out and Jay Wright is in The East Coast Conference is out and the North At- lan tic Conference is in It has the potential to be a good marriage perhaps a great one Wright is a first-time head coach with a hunger to prove himself Hofstra needs that And joining the NAC puts the Dutchmen squarely in the hunt for an automatic NCAA bid which ought can’t fool them” said Wright “They want to play in a conference and go to the NCAA Tournament It’s a big factor in recriiiting” The journey to this new new era has been replete with delays untruths and half-truths Hofstra’s first dunce for conference to jump-start its recruiting “Kids today are smart you affiliation was the Patriot League in which it could’ve rubbed shoulders with a group of Ivy-type schools Despite Hofstra’s strong academic reputation the Patriot partners said no thanks Then there was a botched attempt to join the MAAC First Garvey announced Hofstra had applied to the MAAC which was nice except no one in the MAAC knew about it Later Garvey said the MAAC “was sending a committee to evaluate Hofstra” Untrue again “That’s the first I’ve heard about it” MAAC commissioner Rich Enaor said at the time No invitation came from the MAAC Eventually Hofstra set its sights on the NAC Even as a third choice it seems to be an excellent fit The eight-team conference which will swell to 10 with the addition of Hofstra and Tow-son State pfoys solid Division I basketball and consists of schools with quality academic credentials Yet while introducing NAC commissioner Stu Haskell yesterday Garvey read a fetter he wrote to Haskell three years ago trying to leave the impression that the NAC was Hofstra' top priority all along None of this mattered though when the deal finally was done “It's a fine boost for Hofstra” Haskell said “and it’s just as important for the conference” One of Hofstra’s strengths is the overall quality of its athletic program both on the men’s and women’s side This is not a one- or two-sport school “We think we bring a lot to the table” said Hofstra president Dr James Shuart Don’t be surprised if the Flying Dutchmen become a NAC power in several sprats Then there was the matter of replacing van Breda Kolff whom Bobby Knight once called “the greatest college coach I ever saw” The process began mare than a year ago after VBK was forced out but allowed to coach for one last season Wright was not Hofstra’s first choice Although he applied early Wright did not receive an interview Garvey tried to interest Charleston’s John Kiesse in the job No dice He offered it to Davidson’s Bob McKillop No go Bernard Tomlin Tom Galeazxi Tom Abatemarco Brad McAfester and even Lou Campanelli were mentioned as the process dragged on Finally at the urging of UNLV coach Rollie Massimino Garvey interviewed i i Wright at the NCAA Final Four in Charlotte NC two weeks ago “I exported to spend 20 minutes with him and I spent three hours” Garvey said “I felt he was our man” Once again Garvey had been less than forthright He told many people Hofstra only would hire someone with Division I head coaching experience then hired Wright who has not one day as a Division I head coach among his credentials Still with 10 years as an assistant coach at Villanova and UNLV Wright could turn out to be a gem “I’ve always felt Hofstra was a sleeping giant” said Wright who played at Bucknell when Hofstra and Budcnell were ECC opponents “I think the timing is perfect for both of us for me as a head coach and for Hofstra going into a new conference” So two long searches came to an end yesterday Hofstra found both a home in the NAC and its Mr Wright on the basketball court The feet that neither was its top choice no longer matters “It doesn’t matter if you’re the first choice or the ninth choice” Hofstra football coach Joe Gardi said “All that matters is if you’re the final choice” m w f 4 r i4 i i r

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