One week after their first America East championship victory, the Steve Pikiell era came to an end.
Earlier Saturday, reports confirmed that the 48 year-old had agreed to become the next head coach at Big Ten program Rutgers and Stony Brook all but confirmed it with a statement wishing their coach well.
This was a finale that was long in the cards for the coach of 11 years. As soon as Pikiell completed his turnaround with a tournament championship, it has been understood that the pastures for him would be greener elsewhere, which came to be as Rutgers reportedly offered a five-year $1.6 million per year contract to Pikiell.
Now comes the task for Pikiell to build a program from the ground up, again, but in Big Ten play. However ,for Stony Brook the answer should be clear on who Pikiell’s successor should be, he’s been seated next to him the whole time.
Associate head coach Jay Young has spent every season beside Pikiell at Stony Brook as an assistant, and spent the last seven of those seasons as the Seawolves’ top assistant. Three years ago, Young interviewed at Marist as part of their search after Chuck Martin was fired, but did not make the final group of candidates. Jeff Bower was ultimately hired over then Davidson assistant Jim Fox and then Norfolk State head coach Anthony Evans. After Bower resigned in June 2014, Marist closed in on Mike Maker quickly over Pat Beilein, with Young away from that search. However in the 2014 coaching cycle, Young interviewed with Maine over a video chat, but they closed in on Bob Walsh from Division III Rhode Island College.
The point being, if Stony Brook passes on Young this time, he will either possibly join Pikiell in Piscataway or find his way into the mix for one of the open jobs out there, such as Central Connecticut State. How the staff falls apart or sticks together will likely be revealed in the next week, as Pikiell will have his pick of who to bring with him as he assembles a staff. But this staff has been out looking for jobs, not only Young, but as recently as two years ago assistant Dan Rickard was in the running at Division II Adelphi before they hired David Duke.
Over the course of practices, it is easy to see that the former head coach at Division II New Haven has controlled how the Seawolves defend throughout Pikiell’s tenure. It was thanks to that defense, which allowed 63.4 points per game this season to lead the America East, that has helped the Stony Brook program produce six winning seasons in conference play during Pikiell’s 11 seasons.
The key question now remains how will second year athletic director Shawn Heilbron handle his most important hire of his tenure. Heilbron, formerly in Oregon State’s athletic department, was found via the Parker Executive Search firm, so it remains to be seen whether or not a large national search would produce a local result. However, many in the industry believe that Stony Brook will turn to Young as their hire.
Pikiell is always willing to acknowledge the fact that he has hardly built the Stony Brook program by himself and he has taken it to new heights by taking them to the NCAA tournament. But for their success to continue in the way that the Bristol, Conn. native has made it, the best choice Stony Brook could make is to hire Jay Young.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.