The getting-to-know-you process might take a while for Stony Brook’s basketball team and new coach Jeff Boals, but it was easy to see at his introductory news conference Monday morning at Island FCU Arena how much passion the new man brings to the job.
Twice as he spoke, Boals got choked up about reaching his head-coaching goal after 21 years as an assistant.
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“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry,” Boals said. To his new players in the audience, he added: “I’m tougher than that, guys. But when you’re looking at your wife and your son and daughter in the front row and understand the sacrifices they go through, it’s a special moment for all of us.”
Sophomore Tyrell Sturdivant said the uncertainty of the three-week wait for a new coach after Steve Pikiell left to take the Rutgers job was rough on the players, but he said they trusted athletic director Shawn Heilbron and he expects everyone to remain with the program.
“We’re happy to have Jeff,” Sturdivant said. “He’s a great guy. It really touched me when he got emotional. You can see he real ly wanted the job. So we’re just going to trust in him and get back to the championship.”
The success Stony Brook enjoyed under Pikiell, whose teams won at least 22 games in six of the past seven seasons and earned the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid in March, was a recurring theme.
“Our expectation is that we’re going to compete in championships every year, that we’re going to go to the next level and get back in the tournament, win games in the tournament and position ourselves for the future,” Heilbron said.
Boals spent the past seven seasons at Ohio State under coach Thad Matta. He watched the Seawolves’ America East championship victory over Vermont and the court-storming that followed.
“I knew a little bit about the excitement that was here and the winning that has happened the last four or five years,” Boals said. “So I was excited about it, and when I did my research and learned about the community and the university, I was extremely excited . . . As soon as I got here, I knew this place was a special opportunity.
“It’s exciting to take over a program that has been successful . . . My job is to go far beyond and get this to the next level.”
Boals has spoken with recruit Mike Almonacy of Brentwood and plans to speak with Andrew Garcia of the Master’s School in Simsbury, Connecticut. Both signed letters of intent with SBU. The coach also plans to explore the transfer market for immediate help.
Describing the coaching philosophy he brings to Stony Brook, Boals said: “My DNA has always been at the defensive end. Being head coach of our defense at Ohio State the last few years allowed me to see a lot of different offenses and what works and what doesn’t work. Offensively, spacing and pace is very instrumental. I’m going to give these guys freedom. If they don’t play hard and don’t compete, then that’s when I have a problem.”
In that case, Boals’ toughness might be on view.