Zachary Kummer and Shane Gallimore had a closer relationship to basketball coach Steve Pikiell than most Stony Brook students did.
As members of the marching band, the sophomores viewed Pikiell as the man who tried to fuse the spirit squads and basketball players to create the ideal gameday environment. Now Pikiell is expected to be named head coach at Rutgers, sources told Newsday.
“I’m a little upset to see him go because he really did interact with all the different parts like the spirit squad, the dance team, the band,” said Kummer, a clinical laboratory sciences major from Northport. “He helped close a social gap between the basketball team and the spirit squad.”
Pikiell led the Seawolves to their first conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance with an 80-74 come-from-behind victory over Vermont on March 12. Stony Brook’s season ended with an 85-57 loss to Kentucky on March 17 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“He transformed the program,” said Gallimore, a biology student from Connecticut. “He’s left a legacy for people to strive for.”
Skylar Brown, a senior psychology major from Rockland County, was surprised to hear about Pikiell leaving. He hoped this season’s run would lead to something special for Pikiell at Stony Brook.
“I thought we had something to build on,” he said.
As for whoever the new coach is, Kummer thinks Stony Brook has a strong foundation and that finally reaching the NCAA Tournament will relieve pressure from Pikiell’s replacement.
“He’s basically going to be given a clean slate,” Kummer said. “It’s not going to be like, ‘Oh, let’s see if he can get us to The Dance this time. Let’s see if he can actually bring it where coach Pikiell failed.’ ”
But the sophomore marching band duo will remain Pikiell fans. They are thankful to play a role in the basketball team’s success and hope Pikiell can enhance his career.
“He’s given us a decent chunk of his life just coaching this team and transforming the program,” Kummer said, “and now he gets to do that with a completely different school. So yeah, he’s starting over, but we’re starting over, too.”