Posted on: February 6, 2012 10:50 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 10:51 am

Iona relishing being the MAAC's hunted

By Jeff Borzello

Momo Jones and Iona are beginning to enjoy getting everyone's best shot in the MAAC. (US Presswire)

BRONX, N.Y. – Manhattan had Saturday night’s Iona game circled on its calendar. It was on ESPN3, the game was sold out, and they were turning people away at the door.

The Jaspers came at Iona with everything they had, but came up short, losing 85-73 in a battle for first-place in the MAAC.

The intensity and pressure was nothing new for the Gaels.

Iona also received Siena’s best shot. And Fairfield’s best shot. And Canisius’ best shot. And – well, you get the point. The Gaels are clearly the hunted in the MAAC this year.

“We love it. That’s the attention we want,” guard Scott Machado said. “We go into every game like we did tonight, we’ll be fine.”

At times this year, Iona hasn’t handled the limelight very well. It lost to Hofstra in late December; blew a 17-point lead in the first meeting against Manhattan; and also lost two weeks ago to Siena after leading by 18 at one point.

The similarity of both Manhattan games wasn’t lost on Iona head coach Tim Cluess, who realized that the Gaels had jumped out to a big second half lead in each meeting. However, Iona is not the same team it was a month ago.

“Same score, same time – did we grow up or didn’t we? And we did,” Cluess said.

Iona has had a bad habit of blowing big leads, and then resting on its laurels and allowing lesser teams to comeback in the second half. It cost them twice this season, but the Gaels are realizing all eyes are on them right now.

“We can’t take a night off,” Cluess said. “Everyone’s shooting at us. There’s a lot of energy, and so teams are going to play well against us.”

Manhattan did play well against Iona for a half, getting 19 points from George Beamon in the first 20 minutes. In the second stanza, though, the Iona defense – a unit that has much-maligned this season – clamped down on Beamon, and the Jaspers’ offense struggled mightily.

There would be no miracle comeback and Emmy Andujar buzzer-beater this time around.

“We finished the last several games off better,” Cluess said. “Teams are good, so teams are going to have runs. Our job is to answer those runs. And play defense if the offense struggles.”

Iona is starting to play the role of villain pretty well. With Momo Jones heating up offensively – he had 43 points in a game last week – and Sean Armand being the team’s X-factor, it’s no longer just the Machado and Mike Glover show. That should help them in the conference tournament, where the Gaels fell short in the conference title game against St. Peter’s.

They’re also ready for whatever opposing teams – and crowds – throw at them. On Saturday night, Draddy Gymnasium was hot, loud and hostile.

And Iona loved it.

“I think it worked to our advantage,” Jones said. “We fed off of their crowd’s energy more than they did.”

A month ago, you couldn’t have said that about the Gaels. But they’re tougher now. They like having a target on their backs.

They’ve grown up. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 13, 2011 10:31 am

Masiello earning keep at first head-coaching job

By Jeff Goodman

Steve Masiello knew what the skeptics were saying.

"Can he coach?"

Masiello was always regarded as a relentless recruiter, the former Rick Pitino walk-on at Kentucky who had a wide array of contacts - especially in his native New York.

"I think people still have questions," The Manhattan first-year coach said. "Rightfully so." But Masiello has the Jaspers -- who haven't been relevant since Bobby Gonzalez departed -- off to a 7-4 start, including a four-game winning streak (the program's longest in nearly five years). Masiello has already exceeded last season's win total and we're not even midway through December.

"We want to build this thing back up," said Masiello, a former assistant under Gonzo when in the early 2000's when Manhattan had it rolling. "I think this can be a great mid-major program -- not only because of the school, but due to the location."

Masiello admitted that he's trying to become a Triple-A version of what his mentor, Pitino, has done at Louisville.

"I don't care if you call us a mid-major or low-major version of Louisville," Masiello said. "That's a compliment as far as I'm concerned."

Masiello said being around Pitino for as long as he has (he spent the past six seasons as an assistant at Louisville), he's picked up some of the same habits.

"I catch myself folding my legs the same way," he said. "I don't even realize how much of an influence he had on me. The main things I learned from him are the unbelievable professionalism and to stay humble."

Manhattan was tabbed to finish eighth in the league in the preseason, but Masiello said that former coach Barry "Slice" Rohrssen hardly left the cupboard empty. Junior guard George Beamon leads the team in scoring at 15.8 points per game, senior Roberto Colonette has been solid up front (7.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Rhamel Brown is averaging 9.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per game in the last four games. Masiello brought in four freshmen -- three that play -- including talented local kid Emmy Andujar.

"He 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 because they set the groundwork."

Photo: AP
Posted on: July 13, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: July 13, 2011 12:44 pm

Masiello comfortable back in NYC

By Gary Parrish

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- It's always nice to see first-year head coaches out during July navigating the summer circuit in a different role. They usually seem a little more focused, a little more energized and a little more anxious to get things moving.

And they look different, too.

Which brings me to Steve Masiello.

I don't think I've ever seen him in a color other than red or black because he spent the past six seasons as an assistant for Rick Pitino at Louisville. But Masiello landed the Manhattan job last April. So there he was in Gym 3 of the Riverview Park Activities Center early Wednesday, decked out in Manhattan's colors of green and white, and watching a team from New York, which just so happens to be the state where Masiello was raised.

"It's great to be home," Masiello said here at the Nike Peach Jam. "It's great to be around people I know."

Including the New York summer coaches who control most of the area's top prospects.

Masiello helped build Louisville into a Big East power by recruiting New York, point being that he's long had relationships in and around the city. Consequently, Masiello didn't have to spend much time introducing himself to the power-brokers in the weeks after he was hired. He already knew them -- all of them. And so now the goal is to use those relationships to get the Jaspers back to respectability.

"The recruiting game has turned into nothing but relationships because of the success of the VCUs and Butlers," Masiello said. "Kids really think they can go anywhere today and get noticed and win. So if you have a relationship with good programs you can now get a kid who might be a definite Big East or Big Ten player to take a look at you. You can probably get involved with those kids now, and I'm definitely going to use those relationships and try do it."

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB
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