Nearly 51 days after Fairleigh Dickinson (FDU) failed to renew the contract of embattled head coach Greg Vetrone, the Knights have inked his replacement. Greg Herenda, the five-year coach of the Division II program UMass-Lowell will inherit the program as the sixth head coach in the FDU’s history.
A long time assistant, Herenda has slowly worked his way up the coaching ladder. After playing Division III basketball at Merrimack, the New Jersey native was an assistant at several Division I programs, including Holy Cross, Yale, Seton Hall, and East Carolina. From there he eventually landed at UMass-Lowell, where in his five seasons compiled an impressive 95-54 record. His River Hawk teams made an appearance in the NCAA Division II basketball tournament four of those five years.
UMass-Lowell recently announced the university will upgrade its athletic program to the Division I ranks, joining the American East conference. Though the move is effective immediately, the River Hawks must undergo an arduous transition process to fully integrate into the Division I game. The transition – similar to what Bryant had to recently endure with the NEC – includes a four-year postseason ban before UMass-Lowell is considered a full-time member of the America East conference. Given the difficult transition, it makes sense why Herenda would make the parellel leap to another program in a low mid-major conference.
Becoming the head coach at FDU certainly has its challenges, however. The three leading scorers from last year’s roster, Melquan Bolding, Kinu Rochford, and Lonnie Robinson, will all graduate leaving the roster devoid of talent and experience. There are some intriguing pieces Vetrone has left behind in soon-to-be sophomores Sekou Harris and Xavier Harris (not related) and red-shirt freshman Myles Mann, but rebuilding the program will be a significant challenge. The current starting lineup projects out to be:
PG: Sidney Sanders, Jr./Sekou Harris
SG: Mostafaa Jones
SF: Yves Jules
PF: Mathias Seilund/Myles Mann
C: Xavier Harris
Of those seven players mentioned above, only Sanders Jr. and Jones played more than half of the team’s available minutes last season (but barely). Moreover, only Seilund possessed a KenPom offensive rating above 92. This will undoubtedly be a team that struggles to score points. It should also be noted that the Knights were the eighth worst team nationally in KenPom’s defensive effeciency rating last season.
Tom Green was the last coach to get FDU to the NCAA tournament, and that was a long time ago. Since those “glory” days under Green, the Knights have amassed an unsatisfactory record of 41-158 in the past six seasons. To say Herenda has a monumental task ahead of him is an understatement. At the very least, the Knights have nowhere to go but up.
Ryan Peters covers Northeast Conference men’s basketball for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @pioneer_pride