Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell has not had to deal with much change while taking a Seawolves program from a four-win first season to three straight regular season titles.
Through nine seasons Pikiell has compiled a 130-132 record and has been extended by the university five times, most recently in June under athletic director Jim Fiore. However, Fiore was terminated in November from the university and Donna Woodruff was named Interim Director of Athletics.
While a change in athletic director might be tenuous for a high profile sport, Pikiell said that the relationship could not be better between his new boss and him.
“She’s very bright and she’s doing a good job,” Pikiell said. “I’ve answered to her for the last couple of years on all basketball related issues.”
The ninth-year head coach said that he has not seen any changes since Woodruff took over as athletic director and for good reason. Woodruff – who was hired in 2004 – was on the original committee to hire Pikiell back at the end of the 2004-05 season. Then an associate head coach under Karl Hobbs at George Washington, Pikiell beat out candidates that included other assistant coaches and a head coach at another program.
“He made you believe in him,” Woodruff said of her impression of Pikiell when he interviewed. “He made you believe in what his vision is and what it would be as he tried to move the program forward. I definitely left there thinking he was a good fit for us.”
Pikiell said that Woodruff was one of the three members of Stony Brook’s administration when he has signed contract extensions with the school, though the decision to extend always lies with the school’s president.
“She’s been in the middle of everything,” Pikiell said. “She’s been here my whole tenure, so I’ve worked with her in a lot of levels.”
Among the business they have worked on together are setting the budget, as well as talking about guarantee games amongst other topics. Stony Brook’s most recent guarantee game was at Virginia Commonwealth on Jan. 3.
“He’s easy to work with because when you’re not watching him you know that he’s passionate, he cares about his student athletes, he wants to do right for the program and he represents himself,” Woodruff said. “His enthusiasm can boil over in terms of what he’d like to do with the program, so another good thing is he challenges me to help him to be as successful as possible.”
Both appear to be on the same page about building a complete program, which is something that Pikiell and his staff have helped transform in nine seasons.
“He’s one of those people that understands and is easy to work with,” Woodruff said. “He gets the idea that it’s important in the classroom, it’s important in recruiting, it’s important X and O’s, it’s important how he builds his staff, etc. He had to grind it out, but it was because he was building an entire program and now you can have the 20-win seasons more regularly because he has a program that can sustain some injuries, some other situations and I think it’s a credit to him.”
Since the 2008-09 season, Pikiell’s program has had one losing record (15-17) and three 20-win seasons. After this season, Stony Brook opens a $21.1 million renovation of their arena.
“I have a great the people here at this university,” Pikiell said, mentioning that the difference in Woodruff’s leadership has been relatively small compared to her predecessor. “We’ve had great people here, our program is in great shape. The new arena is going to help us a great deal, we got a great recruiting class coming, so I really like it here.”
Ryan Restivo covers the America East conference, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.