He’s only been on the job for 10 days, but Bashir Mason is already hard at work making sure that he has everything ready to build upon the success that Wagner experienced under Dan Hurley the past two seasons. While busy keeping the Wagner name on the minds of potential recruits thanks to the open contact period that started on Wednesday, he took some time to speak with me over the phone about how things are going thus far.
“The thought process completely changes,” Mason said about moving from assistant to head coach. “It goes from bringing things to the table to now I have to make ideas and be the deciding factors in terms of what we do every day. … It’s a lot on your plate.”
Some things though aren’t going to change. It’s no surprise that Mason, who was a four-time member of the CAA’s All-Defensive Team while playing under Bruiser Flint at Drexel, is going to continue playing the tough, defensive style that Seahawks’ fans have seen recently. A style of play that led to Wagner having the best defense in the Northeast Conference last season.
“I’m going to run a very similar system,” Mason said. “I love a lot of the things we did offensively [last season], but more importantly than that the way we defended was the key.”
That commitment to defense extends throughout the entire staff, which Mason recently finalized. Marquis Webb was named to the 2006 Defensive All-America Team while playing at Rutgers and Mike Babul was named to the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team multiple times during his playing career at UMass.
Also important for Mason when building his staff was the camaraderie amongst the group. It’s not a coincidence that Webb, who Mason has known since seventh grade, and Babul, who played for Flint at UMass, are now working with him. Mason’s third hire, Scott Smith, will help keep the continuity between last season’s staff.
“I’m extremely excited about the group that I put together,” Mason said. “I think one of the reasons why we’ve had success here is because of the coaching staff and the tight knit group that we had here. I tried to mimic that with my staff.”
Of course, that’s not what everyone wants to talk about. Instead, it’s the age. Will a 28-year-old, just five years removed from his playing days at Drexel, be able to run a Division I basketball program? Mason thinks that his experience as point guard will help. He’s also had the opportunity to learn under Flint as a player and Hurley as an assistant the past two seasons.
“It’s sort of a double-edged sword,” Mason said about his age. “If I do well it’s going to be my youth, my energy and that I’m smart for my age. If I don’t do well people will say it’s my inexperience.”
Across the NEC there’s a pretty good example about how youth can be an asset. Robert Morris’ Andy Toole took over the Colonials two years ago after Mike Rice left for Rutgers and has led RMU to back-to-back NEC Championship Games and a 43-24 record overall. All of that happened after taking over the reigns of the program at the young age of 29.
“A guy like Andy Toole, he gives me confidence,” Mason said. “You think about a guy like him, he got the job when he was really young and he’s having a lot of success. That’s an example if you work hard you can do really well.”
Mason’s going to have to use his youth to out-work fellow coaches. He’s learned from some of the best, but the real lessons are just beginning.