Pikiell Leaves Stony Brook: Was it the right time?
By Brett Malamud
Steve Pikiell agreed to become the ninth head coach in Rutgers University men’s basketball history, and was introduced by the Scarlett Knights at a press conference on Tuesday.
Pikiell comes from the defending America East champions Stony Brook Seawolves, who were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Kentucky last weekend. Led by senior forward Jameel Warney, the Seawolves proved that they were the top team in the America East, after being picked first in the conference’s preseason rankings, and winning the regular season title.
The coach hasn’t always had it easy though. In his first three years at the program, Pikiell compiled a 20-67 record, placing last in the conference each year. That sparked a turnaround in his remaining eight seasons, as the Seawolves never placed lower than fifth in the conference, and finished in the top two in six of those years. In fact, Stony Brook never had lower than 22 wins in six of the last seven seasons. However, until this season, Stony Brook found itself without a conference title, and advanced to the conference title game four times, falling short in each.
Many fans and administrators blamed the coaching for the losses, but failed to realize something important: it was the coaching that got them to the title game again and again. If it were not for Pikiell, the Seawolves would not have seen the road past America East powerhouse Albany, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament for three straight years, before getting knocked off in the America East quarterfinals by Hartford this season. Without Pikiell, we probably would never have seen Warney in a Stony Brook uniform, where he’d go off for 43 points in the America East title game and get doused in confetti in IFCU Arena—his home court—in front of a capacity crowd.
Pikiell received several offers in the past from mid-major schools, but never wanted to leave, always sticking to the fact that he enjoyed coaching the Seawolves, but the case for leaving now is an easy one. Rutgers offered Pikiell an $8 million deal over five years. But with the forthcoming departure of seniors Warney, Carson Puriefoy III and Rayshaun McGrew, Pikiell made the easy decision that, if he was going to begin a rebuild, he would do it at the Big Ten level. While Rutgers is arguably the worst job in the Big Ten, the offer was one that Pikiell couldn’t refuse. It was a no brainer.
So while the fans and administrators will be upset that Pikiell is leaving, they need to stop and thank him for sticking with a team that was built from the ground up, and for bringing the Seawolves to a place where no other Stony Brook coach brought them—to March Madness. Pikiell helped to put Stony Brook on the map, and for that, he deserves to go out on top.
Brett Malamud is an English Rhetoric Major at Binghamton University. He is the co-founder of dabuzzza.com. His favorite athletes are Derek Jeter and Todd Bertuzzi. You can follow him on twitter at @brettnyy