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Glenn Braica, Ron Ganulin try to end St. Francis' NCAA Tournament drought

The head coach and his former mentor have a connection that goes back more than a quarter of a century.

Ron Ganulin, left, men's assistant coach, and Glenn

Ron Ganulin, left, men's assistant coach, and Glenn Braica, men's head coach of St. Francis,  during a g ame against Central Connecticut on Sat. Feb. 16, 2019. Photo Credit: Errol Anderson

Glenn Braica, the head coach at St. Francis of Brooklyn, remains grateful for the opportunity and basketball education he once received as an assistant to the school’s former head coach Ron Ganulin. Braica gets to express that every day because Ganulin now is his assistant.

The former mentor had been coaching in a local high school league, just for something to do, in 2013 but always kept in touch with his old team and his one-time protégé. “He was coming to practice every day anyway,” Braica said. “When one of my assistants left, I asked him if he’d be interested and he said he wanted to do it.”

Braica, 54, had been on staff at St. Francis before Ganulin took over in 1991 and, through a recommendation from a mutual friend, was asked to stay by the man who treats him like a son. “I didn’t have much experience and he taught me a lot. Not only about the game, but how to coach, what to demand, stuff like that. It was really formative,” the current coach said. “It has all kind of fallen into place. It’s a great story.”

What the two of them want more than anything is for their team, the one to which they have devoted a combined 44 years, to finally reach the NCAA Tournament. St. Francis is one of only four schools never to have made it to the Big Dance (along with Army, The Citadel and William & Mary).

Maybe this is the year. The college near Borough Hall is tied for second (8-6) in the Northeast Conference — having last week beaten Brooklyn rival and defending conference champion LIU — and has the league’s best overall record (16-11).

“A couple of times, I was close. Once, we blew a big lead to Monmouth,” said Ganulin, 73, a two-time Northeast Conference coach of the year. “When Glenn asked me to come back, I said to myself I’m going to try to help Glenn get there. That was really my motivation.”

That, and the fact that he began coaching at Brooklyn Tech while he was still a student at LIU and never has stopped. He was an assistant at Post in 1976 and got his first head coaching job at New York Tech in 1980. “I have never felt like I have worked a day in my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I get older,” he said. “Glenn has really been tremendous. I owe him a lot because I don’t play golf, I don’t have hobbies. This is what I love to do.”

Both men are New York basketball lifers. Braica played for Queens College alongside Norm Roberts. When the latter became coach at St. John’s in 2004, Braica was his first hire. After six seasons, he took the top job at St. Francis, mindful of the March Madness drought.

“You can’t get caught up in that, you just can’t. We’re probably one of a bunch of teams in the league that have a chance. But it’s only a chance,” he said. “You can’t get ahead of yourself. I think you’ve got to worry about the process, not the results. The results will take care of themselves.”

Ganulin’s big break occurred when he was hired, through myriad connections, as Jerry Tarkanian’s full-time assistant at UNLV. He helped the team win the 1990 NCAA title, which in turn helped him get the St. Francis job. Now, he commutes by subway from the Bronx (where he has lived since 2006, when he was assistant to yet another former assistant, Barry Rohrssen, at Manhattan).

“This is much less stressful than being a head coach, believe me,” Ganulin said. “It’s great because I yell at the refs and they go over to Glenn and say, `You’ve got to keep him under control.’ He goes, ‘Come on, he’s 100 years old, he’s been around forever, leave him alone.’ And they laugh.”

Wright-Foreman on honor roll

Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman has been collecting awards at the same prolific rate he has been scoring points this season. Four times, he has been named the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Player of the Week, bringing his two-season total to eight, a record. He has been chosen as the CAA Player of the Week seven times, also believed to be a record (although official statistics on that never have been kept).

Twice he has been named Lou Henson National Player of the Week. And earlier this month he was notified that he is a finalist for the Jerry West Award, for the top shooting guard in the country.

None of those honors, though, was anything like the one he will receive Saturday. Wright-Foreman will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking to midcourt with his family on Senior Day. He and his fellow seniors will be given a send-off at the 4 p.m. game against James Madison — their final appearance on the court that has witnessed rare success this season. The Pride enters its Thursday night game against Towson with a 17-game home winning streak.

Garcia keeps Stony Brook afloat

Andrew Garcia of Stony Brook continued his noteworthy comeback season, following 2 ½ years of rehab on an injured knee, by securing his third double-double of the season Saturday. The Seawolves needed every bit of his 15 points and 10 rebounds to prevent a big upset by New Hampshire, hanging on for a 66-64 win.

Stony Brook shot only 4-for-20 from three-point range, which contributed to the score being so close. In their only two league losses this year, the Seawolves made only 9 of 51 three-pointers.

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