Sometimes we make too much of schools that hire coaches with no head coaching experience. While it’s true that some situations warrant an experienced hand, in the end the only thing that seems to matter is wins and losses.
Integrity and good behavior off the court are factors, too.
Stony Brook took another dip into the deep end of the pool when it introduced Beth O’Boyle, an assistant at Canisius with no previous Division I head coaching experience, as its new women’s basketball coach on Monday. This certainly isn’t the first time the Seawolves went this route.
Men’s basketball coach Steve Pikiell didn’t have any previous head coaching experience before he got hired and he led the Seawolves to their first post season appearance (NIT) in 2010. Stony Brook’s football coach Chuck Priore didn’t have any head coaching experience on the I-AA level. That decision is paying dividends, too.
So is hiring O’Boyle really a risk? She spent the last four seasons as an assistant at Canisius, including the latter two as associate head coach. O'Boyle helped Canisius to its best season in school history in 2008-09.
The Golden Griffins won 24 games, advanced to the MAAC Championship game and qualified for the WNIT for the first time in program history. Prior to her arrival at Canisius, O’Boyle was an assistant at the University of Rochester and a head coach at Division III Montclair State.
Hofstra took the assistant route on more than one occasion with its men’s basketball program. Jay Wright, Tom Pecora and Mo Cassara were all first-year head coaches when they took over. Wright and Pecora worked out fine. Cassara led the Pride to 21 wins in his first season.
Stony Brook athletic director Jim Fiore didn’t limit his coaching search to coaches with head coaching experience. He said he interviewed head coaches and assistants from all college levels and even made inquiries into the high school ranks.
“We were just looking for the best fit,” Fiore said. “Someone’s who’s going to work and loves Stony Brook.”
O’Boyle gave an enlightening speech and was even better in her one-on-one interviews.
None of this guarantees that this marriage will work. Michele Cherry stepped down at mid season after three-plus unsuccessful seasons at the helm, which proves going the way of the assistant coach doesn’t always work.
Cherry's struggles should in no way discourage schools and athletic directors from rolling the dice on a relatively untested candidate. These things happen.
Truth be told, sometimes the hungry assistant is just what the doctor ordered.
So if the shoe fits…