From late March on, the name Steve Masiello was ingrained into the national media landscape in the worst way.
There’s no doubt that Masiello has endured one of the defining stretches of his life. While those moments currently define him, his time to write a new narrative is coming. The last three-plus months have changed Masiello, but come Nov. 15 he’ll be able to focus on one thing: opponents.
“It’s changed me as a coach,” Masiello said. “I’m just appreciative of how great my kids are and the relationship I have with them and how much I love these kids.”
“Picking up the pieces” is a phrase that could describe the Jaspers right now. They must replace MAAC tournament MVP George Beamon, MAAC two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rhamel Brown, and Mike Alvarado, but Masiello’s arc also took a toll on the 2014 team’s accomplishments. It is difficult to remember that this team had fourth-seeded Louisville on the ropes in Orlando just a week prior to this unforeseen drama unfolding. Masiello admits that his situation cast a shadow over the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004.
“The situation, personally with me, overwhelmed or out shined a year of success with these guys,” Masiello said. “That’s unfortunate, so they haven’t got the accolades they deserved. They haven’t been rewarded the way they should, so to them it’s almost like they never did anything.”
The MAAC could be fickle at times, it would be easy to bypass the Jaspers accomplishments and crown Siena as the favorite considering they were the last team to play basketball for the conference at end the 2013-14 season. Still, a new year brings Masiello a chance for redemption. He gets the chance to show that with his first recruiting class he brought in, he could raise the bar even higher than last season’s result.
“I’m kind of the reminder of where this program was three years ago and where it is today,” Masiello said. “RaShawn [Stores] and Emmy [Andujar’s] class is my first class and I’m like, listen I brought you guys in here for a reason and we’ve talked about one thing the whole time and that’s competing on a national level and having great postseason success.”
“Our goals haven’t changed, we don’t care how close we came, we didn’t get what we wanted done. In our mind a lot of people might say say well we had a great year we did we had a good year, but we still didn’t accomplish the things we wanted to accomplish.”
If there is anyone who needed to be motivated more to show that last season wasn’t a fluke, it wasn’t Masiello or his Jaspers. Their approach for next year appears to be more aggressive than ever and when Masiello says that “we’re going to take a negative and make it a positive,” he means they are going to take out their frustrations on the other 10 MAAC teams.
Already defending tournament champions, the chances that the fourth-year head coach of the Jaspers will walk into a friendly opposing arena are below zero. That focus and vitriol will likely be straight on Masiello.
“Even if something didn’t happen, they still weren’t going to like me,” Masiello said. “So I just made the road experience that much better for them.”
Road trips for the Jaspers will be where the fans of the conference will be allowed to show their creativity in the way they taunt the Jaspers. Then again in two of Masiello’s three seasons, Manhattan has won 10 games or more on the road. If Manhattan can replicate last season’s road experience, where they were one of the winningest teams away from Draddy, Masiello will be happy.
Even opposing coaches know that, despite all that has happened over the past few months, all that matters to them is trying to face a team that will contend for the MAAC regular season championship.
“At the end of the day I’m still going to be preparing for at least two games of a team that’s really good,” one coach in the conference said, adding a more colorful adjective to describe how good they are. “I struggle to see the negative impact of what Manhattan’s going through this spring.”
As much as Masiello might be a scorned in the conference, and others might be happy to see his star get knocked down a peg, there’s a great chance that in year four, Manhattan will put together a great team again and have the last laugh in conference play.
Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.