Has Manhattan’s Basketball Coach Fouled Out?

Today’s guest post is by WALEKPeppercommer Chris Gillick

dusssnceFor those who might not have seen it, yesterday, Manhattan College men’s basketball coach Steve Masiello had a multi-million dollar job offer rescinded by the University of South Florida. The reason?

Allegedly lying on his resume.

Masiello attended the University of Kentucky from 1996-2000, and was a member of the basketball team for all four years. But a Kentucky spokesman has stated to the media that Masiello did not earn a degree.

From a crisis PR standpoint, these incidents have few, if any, winners. But these instances get a PR professional’s blood flowing fast. If I were the crisis PR manager for any of the parties involved, here would be my advice for each.

University of South Florida: BE THANKFUL AND CONTINUE YOUR COACHING SEARCH. South Florida probably comes out looking the best.  It cut its losses and potential further embarrassment quickly, and should be thankful that no introductory press conference was ever held. The school can now continue its search for a new coach in relative peace. The search firm definitely earned its fee here.

Manhattan College: DISMISS MASIELLO. On Wednesday afternoon, the school put out the following statement:

[Steve] Masiello is currently in the process of reviewing his degree status with the University of Kentucky. Manhattan College has placed Masiello on leave while he completes this process with the University.

The school is in a tough spot whether it ultimately keeps him or not. Keep him, and the school risks being perceived as emphasizing winning games over academic integrity, a major deal for a small, Catholic school. Dismiss him, and the school all but admits that it made a mistake. After all, nothing was said about this when Masiello was hired in 2011. The school did follow some emergency protocol on Wednesday, removing reference to the credential on Masiello’s official bio. But in the name of integrity, the school should part ways with its coach.

Rick Pitino: CLAIM IGNORANCE AND FOCUS ON YOUR UPCOMING NCAA TOURNAMENT GAME. Hall of Fame coach Pitino is Masiello’s lifelong mentor and biggest advocate. The two faced off against each other in an NCAA tournament game last week, with the teacher barely beating his pupil. Pitino later endorsed Masiello for the USF job. When reached by ESPN, Pitino said, “If it’s accurate, I’m shocked by it. I had no idea… He was on track to graduate.” However, Pitino is senior enough in the coaching ranks that this is just a short term crisis for him.

Steve Masiello:  PLEAD FOR YOUR JOB BACK, AND COMPLETE YOUR DEGREE THIS SUMMER. Once Masiello’s degree status is ultimately determined by Kentucky, Masiello should make a heartfelt public apology one way or the other. That apology should include the specific reason why this came up and why the credential has remained on his resume all these years. If he indeed did not earn his degree, he should pledge to complete it as soon as practically possible.

9 thoughts on “Has Manhattan’s Basketball Coach Fouled Out?

  1. This looks like a tangled mess, but would Manhattan College really be doing the right thing by dismissing him so unceremoniously? This is probably not all black and white – Masiello may be just a credit or two shy of a degree, and the fact remains that he has been an excellent coach, as well as a mentor for young people to help them get their degrees – even despite the fact he doesn’t have one. I agree with you on the action items for all the parties except Manhattan. For them, I would say: Sit down with Masiello, tell him you feel hurt he bolted on you so quickly, make him plead for forgiveness, then give him his job back with the stipulation that he transfer as many credits as possible to Manhattan and finish his degree there. You keep a talented coach, you help him in his academic pursuits, and you stick it to Kentucky by poaching an alum.

  2. It is Karma for stealing Iona’s trip to the Dance. Iona had the better team…If Manhattan would have lost like they were supposed to…it would have been a few more years before this came out.

  3. Paul, I’m starting to soften up a bit here on this for the very reasons you mentioned. However there remains a technical issue that I didn’t mention in the post: the Manhattan job actually requires a college degree. A similar case came up with Rutgers basketball last year when the school hired Eddie Jordan, who had attended Rutgers years ago but never got a degree. However the Rutgers job technically did not require a college degree, and given that the school had been through such turmoil with their outgoing coach, they chose to remain consistent and keep him. The South Florida job does require a degree, and that was the technical, justifiable reason for the school rescinding its offer. If a deal can be worked out where he finishes his degree and is able to stay, along with a contract extension, I think that solution would be amenable to those with a vested interest in the program like myself.

    Tommy, the final against Iona was a great game. Iona probably had more talent but they didn’t bring as much heart that night. Manhattan also did a great job defending the perimeter against Iona’s shooters and creating matchup problems with Andujar playing the “point forward” spot and drawing Lawrie out of the paint on defense. To those who follow the program closely like myself, we figured there would be a day Masiello would leave for greener pastures once he won a MAAC title or two. I just didn’t think it would be this quick. Now he has his tail between his legs and if Manhattan takes him back, he’ll likely think twice about bolting so quickly again.

  4. I’m too hurt to comment publicly. Almost.

    As soon as the Louisville game ended I knew he’d be recruited. I was hoping that as he is a Westchester boy, he may stay to make Manhattan the “Gonzaga of the East”. I didn’t think USF was a plum job (even though they’re starting to throw $$ around). Take away UF and the state isn’t a hotbed of basketball…. and they’re in a make-believe conference.

    Anyway, this could be a blessing for the Jaspers. I don’t think anyone else will touch him for awhile (even George O’Leary had to do penance for awhile and look at him now) so as Chris pointed out (hi Chris) they have some options.

    First, I would give him the benefit of the doubt. It is plausible that he thought he graduated and it’s an honest mistake. I can see a scenario where he thought he had enough credits and just bailed on the ceremony. It has happened with collegiate athletes in the past.

    Secondly, if Manhattan wants to remain a contender for even the MAAC title, they have to keep him…..shit, they kept Bobby Gonzalez even when they knew he was bat-shit crazy (later proved at Seton Hall) and not a very nice man.

    If I were running Manhattan, I would offer him the option to stay provided he complete his bachelor’s degree within a specific time frame (I have to assume he’s not far off…..if that’s not the case, then you have to cut ties) and suspend him without pay for, let’s say, 6 months (the assistant’s can do the recruiting).

    As a Catholic institution, do we not forgive???? Especially when it helps the cause?

    If Manhattan cuts him free now, everybody loses and Manhattan will become just another Northeastern (sorry Steve, it’s the pain talking).

  5. Chris, I agree with your thoughts on the MAAC Final…Iona didn’t bring it …as Washington Height’s and Fordham’s Vin Scully often says…”the saddest words known to man…Should have…Could have…Would have been”. They are appropriate for Iona AND Masiello.

  6. Greg, great points all around! As a fan I hope he stays. As for the student-athletes, they have been through a lot these last few weeks so keeping him around would probably provide more continuity for them. However, he would need to regain some trust with his players and administration, and that process will take several months.

    Tommy, Iona is in a better position regarding the staying power of their head coach. Cluess is older and settled with a family. He has emphasized publicly that family takes priority over more dollars elsewhere. As long as he keeps cranking out 20+ win seasons at Iona, I don’t see his position at risk.

    • Interesting. When the US entered World War II, my father joined the Merchant Marines. He was about 12 credits shy of graduating City College of NY. Since Merchant veterans weren’t on the GI Bill and he wanted to get work right away, the Old Man simply lied about his BA for years. Sometimes he got caught, sometimes he didn’t,

      It was always something he carried around and felt bad about. Why he never went back in later years, if only for the stimulation, is something I’ll never understand.

      I agree with all the points, and that Manhattan should give Masiello one more chance to make things right.

  7. Manhattan College should give Masiello the boot.. His faith is not in coaching the Jaspers. He is just a greedy individual looking for the big time bucks.
    Since he clearly did not have his degree he had years to complete the requirements for his degree when he was an assistant under Petino