Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello to Accept Head Coaching Position at South Florida

Howard Goldin

March Madness is in full swing. The Sweet 16 will begin play on Friday. The excitement is high in New York City as the Eastern Regional will be held in Madison Square Garden, the “Mecca of Basketball”. It is the first time since 1961 that the NCAA Tournament will be at MSG.

Less than one week after the final game of the Jaspers for this season, reports were first heard at CBS Sports.com that Steve Masiello, the head coach of the Manhattan Jaspers, had accepted the head coaching position at the USF (University of South Florida). Those stories have since spread to many internet sites, newspapers, radio and television stations.

Masiello is a product of the New York metropolitan area. He was born in White Plains and educated in that area through high school. His relationship with Rick Pitino drew him away from the Northeast on several occasions. He first worked with Pitino in the late 1980’s when Masiello was the ball boy with the Pitino coached New York Knicks.

In 1977, Masiello entered college at the University of Kentucky, where Pitino was the head basketball coach. Masiello, not greatly talented, but very gritty, was a walk-on. With Pitino’s encouragement Masiello began his coaching career after his graduation in 2000.

He stayed in the South for his first post-college year as he served as administrative assistant at the University of Tulane. 

The next year, Masiello began the first of two tours at Manhattan College in the Bronx, where he was an assistant coach from 2001-5. The team improved during those few years and qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and 2004.

Masiello’s mentor, Pitino, again attracted Masiello to the South the following year, when Masiello started a six-year tenure as one of Pitino’s assistant coaches at Louisville.

With Pitino’s blessing, Massiello returned to Manhattan in 2011 to accept the head coaching job. The Japers made the biggest turnaround in college basketball as they finished 21-13 in Masiello’s first season at the helm. In the previous year, they had only been victors in only six games.

The Jaspers this season automatically qualified for the NCAA by winning the MAAC Tournament with a defeat over Iona in the final. To the grave   disappointment of both Masiello and Pitino, the teams of the two coaches met in a first round game in Orlando. The more talented Louisville Cardinals were victorious in a hard fought contest.

Five days after that contest, it appears that Masiello is moving from the Bronx to Florida to coach USF. Stan Heath, the coach of USF for the past seven years, was fired on March 14. A search has been underway to hire a replacement. Heath compiled a very disappointing mark of 37-89 during those tears. A new Athletic Director, Mark Harlan, took office on Monday.

It has been reported that Masiello asked the advice of his mentor who strongly encouraged him to take the USF job. Also, it was said that Chris Sullivan, the co-founder of Outback Steakhouse, and an important individual in Tampa, has been strongly supportive of Masiello’s hiring. Sullivan is a close confident of Pitino.

It has been reported Masiello will earn $1,000,000 per year for a contract lasting five years. There are several candidates that will now be considered for the vacant coaching position at Manhattan.