Shortly after Steve Pikiell was introduced Tuesday as Rutgers’ new basketball coach, Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron announced he will begin a national search to identify Pikiell’s replacement.
Heilbron confirmed that associate head coach Jay Young, who assisted Pikiell in building the program during his entire 11-season tenure, met with him on Monday and is on the list of candidates. An industry source said Young already has interviewed with Central Connecticut State, where he is a strong candidate, and he would have a place on Pikiell’s staff at Rutgers if neither hiring materializes.
Nearing the end of his second year at Stony Brook, Heilbron will be making his biggest coaching decision and likely will hire a search firm to assist in the process. “I need to go through the process and look nationally and make sure that, when we come out at the end, I am sure with every fiber of my being that we have done our due diligence to hire the best leader for Stony Brook basketball,” Heilbron said.
“Jay is an outstanding person, an outstanding coach and he is definitely a candidate for the head job here . . . Where I’m starting is developing our list of candidates. We have to identify all of the people I think would be a great fit and then sit down with them and find out if there is mutual interest.”
The search criteria Stony Brook president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley and Heilbron developed will emphasize the need to hire someone with experience in a successful program at a top academic institution who can mirror Pikiell’s success recruiting student-athletes. “President Stanley and I were very proud to have all of our players graduate and a 1.000 APR,” Heilbron said. “That was one of the things that made Steve very desirable at Rutgers.
“That’s at the top, someone who has been at and knows how to recruit at a strong academic school. We also want someone who preaches and knows how to teach defense. We don’t want to lose our identity as a defensive-minded team. And it’s someone who cares about these student-athletes as people and wants to develop them as young men and basketball players.”
After his news conference at Rutgers, Pikiell endorsed Young as a qualified candidate for any job, saying, “I love Jay and would recommend him for a job anywhere.”
Heilbron praised Pikiell for his complete transparency throughout the hiring process at Rutgers and said the former Seawolves coach also had other offers before SBU lost its first-round NCAA Tournament game to Kentucky last Thursday. “He always kept me in the loop with every development,” Heilbron said.
Pikiell called Heilbron Saturday morning to inform him he had accepted Rutgers’ offer, and the Stony Brook athletic director moved quickly to meet with members of the basketball team who were on campus that afternoon. He since has spoken with those who were off campus as well as two recruits who have signed national letters of intent, Michael Almonacy of Brentwood and Andrew Garcia of the Masters School in Connecticut. Neither gave any indication of asking to be released from their commitment.
When they first heard the news of Pikiell’s hiring at Rutgers via social media, the players naturally were “shaken,” Heilbron said. Pikiell had no chance to meet with them but called many to reassure them about staying at Stony Brook.
“I asked the players to stick together,” Heilbron said. “They made history together because of how close they were, and we’re going to keep that family atmosphere. They’re all committed to Stony Brook That’s really important. Whoever comes in has a great group of young men and a very talented team . . . I owe them the due diligence in making sure I get the very best coach possible for them.”