Hofstra men's basketball coach Mo Cassara is optimistic about returning next season after a tumultuous year of player suspensions and injuries.
"Everything has been positive," Cassara said Tuesday as he prepared the Pride (7-24) for Saturday's first-round game against Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at Richmond Coliseum.
A source indicated no coaching change is planned for next season.
"We're in a challenging time," Cassara said, "but I think we've got to stay the course and I think my staff and I have shown with the right tools and the right situation we can win a lot of games in this league and we're going to get back there very soon."
Cassara, who is 38-58 in three seasons, is signed through the 2015-16 season. He expects to announce seven new recruits for the 2013-14 season in the coming weeks.
"Two years ago at this time I was in contention for coach of the year in the league," said Cassara, whose team went 21-12 in the 2010-11 season. "We didn't have a great team, we had a great player and a bunch of role guys and we pieced it together."
Seven games into this season, starters Jimmy Hall and Shaquille Stokes and key reserves Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin were arrested and charged with burglary after police said they admitted to stealing more than $10,000 worth of laptop computers, iPads and other items from fellow students. They remain suspended from all university-related activities, including the basketball team, and are awaiting trial in Nassau County.
A season-ending knee injury to Connecticut transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, potentially the team's best offensive player, was followed by season-ending surgery to leading rebounder Stephen Nwaukoni. Coombs-McDaniel never played a game for Hofstra and is not expected to return, Cassara said.
The injuries reduced the roster to seven scholarship players and four walk-ons. Hofstra lost seven CAA games by seven points or fewer, including a 57-56 loss to Delaware Feb. 27.
"At times it was like, 'How did we lose that game' or 'We had that one,' " point guard Stevie Mejia said. "But you can't dwell on the ifs. Just stay positive and confident and anything can happen."
Cassara is not expecting Hofstra to go down easily in the tournament. "I told our guys we have to take all those close losses and all the tough things that we did, put it in our back pocket and use it to fuel our fire this week," he said. "If you win that first game, all that stuff goes out the window. We're 0-0, the great feeling we'll have after a win will cover up all the heartaches and tough loses we had this year. We learned we have a resilient group of kids that have battled, fought, hung together."