Hofstra names Mo Cassara its basketball coach
He may be unknown to the larger segment of the basketball community, but new Hofstra basketball coach Mo Cassara already has a ringing endorsement from team captain Charles Jenkins.
"I liked him from the first time he got here," Jenkins said. Hofstra's administration felt the same way, so it looked no further than the assistant coaching staff of Tim Welsh to find a calming influence for its program.
"I think it will take a little bit of time for people to know me and who I am," Cassara said last night. "This is certainly an unexpected but great opportunity for me.''
The 36-year-old Cassara was an assistant to Al Skinner at Boston College for the last four years but eagerly joined Welsh, a friend from childhood, when Skinner's tenure ended at BC.
"With an unfortunate circumstance in a short amount of time, here I am,'' Cassara said. He was referring to the barely 30-day tenure of Welsh, who resigned on Monday after being charged with drunken driving last Friday.
"I think things are going to calm down now,'' Jenkins said. "I don't think anything else is going to happen. I'm glad they hired him.''
Cassara became popular with the players almost immediately.
"We've been living in the graduate dorm,'' he said. "We've been here all hours of the morning and night. We've built relationships with the players.''
Jenkins added, "We had been going though a lot, now we're comfortable.''
Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes said Cassara quickly emerged as the best candidate - inside the program or out - despite the lack of a big-time head coaching resume.
"You can find a lot of people with experience to take the job,'' Hayes said. "In the last five weeks, his perspective, his relationship with the team, I felt very comfortable that this is the direction we should go. Obviously the circumstances changed so dramatically, so much . Mo had been a head coach on two different levels and he was an assistant at Dayton and Boston College and went to the NCAAs on two staffs.''
Hofstra was intent on keeping Cassara in the fold. "It would be very difficult to give somebody the opportunity to become a head coach and then place limitations on their staff,'' Hayes said of hiring an outsider. "We were thrilled with the people [Welsh] brought here.''
Welsh's experience entitled him to a $600,000 salary for each of five years. Hofstra would not reveal Cassara's salary, but a person close to the situation said the new coach will earn about half of what Welsh's yearly salary was. No details on the length of Cassara's contract were available.
Hayes stressed that Cassara's hiring should not signal any different goal for the program than if a higher-profile coach had been hired. "Winning 20 games a year, being competitive in our conference, getting into the postseason, getting into the NCAAs,'' Hayes said. "If we weren't thinking that way I don't know if he'd want the job.''
Cassara agreed. "As this community gets to know me a little bit better, know that I'm certainly up for that challenge and hope to continue what has been a terrific basketball program under Tom Pecora and Jay Wright. They did an incredible job. I will try to continue that for Hofstra University.'' Pecora declined to comment yesterday.
Jenkins, a senior who wants to make the NCAA Tournament in his final season, said he would make sure everyone will know the Pride's new coach. "I've got one year to help him get a name around here.''
Mo Cassara File
Hometown: Canton, N.Y.
Playing career: St. Lawrence University
Washington & Lee (1997-98)
The Citadel (1998-99)
Boston College (2006-2010)
College head coach: Clark University (Division III) 2004-2006
High school head coach: Worchester Academy (Mass) 1993-2003