Friday, May 7, 2010

And on the fifth day, hope rose again!

Thy wounds are healed!!!

All is well. Step away from the ledge. Head for the mirror and begin singing this! We’re going dancing! Next year and every year thereafter!

Life as a fan of the Flying Dutchmen is a rollercoaster ride, and it’s headed upward again with the news Wednesday that Mo Cassara has completed the wildest ascent to head coach—from being unemployed and staring at the ceiling in a graduate school dorm room to becoming the head honcho, all in less than 24 hours—in the history of sports.

(Note: I interrupt this Dr. Jekyll impersonation with a reminder that it’s Friday morning. The wakeup calls I received the last two Fridays informed me that Halil Kanacevic was officially released from his scholarship and Tim Welsh had been arrested about 10 minutes from my house. So hang tight and hope the worst thing to happen today is the softball team splits a doubleheader with Drexel)

In hiring Cassara, Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes made the best of a trying situation. He didn’t have the benefit of time in this unprecedented coaching search. Whatever he did, he had to do it now and bring some certainty to a program desperate for it, as well as direct the focus of the story away from Welsh.

We won’t know for two or three years if handing the reins to Cassara, a 36-year-old who has been to the NCAA Tournament three times as an assistant but whose only head coaching experience is at the prep school and Division III level, was the best move for the long-term future of the Flying Dutchmen. But it is by far the best solution for next year, and maybe even the year after.

And honestly, this decision should have been made with the upperclassmen—rising seniors Charles Jenkins, Greg Washington, Nathaniel Lester and Brad Kelleher and rising junior Mike Moore—in mind, since they are basically stuck here no matter what. Of the quintet, the only one who can transfer to a Division I school is Lester, and he’d be almost 24 by the end of his lone season at his new place.

These players—particularly Jenkins, for whom a trip to the NCAA Tournament will cement his status as the best player in program history, and Moore, who transferred from Fordham to play for Tom Pecora only to see Pecora go to Fordham—deserve some stability in their waning days at Hofstra and the best possible shot at a memorable 2010-11. If they are comfortable with Cassara and new NEW assistants Steve DeMeo and Allen Griffin, then Hayes did the right thing in giving their consideration a lot of weight.

Don’t get me wrong, the freshmen deserve some stability too, but at least they have the option of going elsewhere. And hiring Cassara certainly gives Hofstra a better shot at retaining the younger players, including Chaz Williams, whose future plans have been the source of much Internet conjecture the last few days.

If the rising sophomores take to Cassara and Co. and nobody else opts to transfer, then the Dutchmen are more interesting next year and have a much better core for 2011-12 than seemed possible when the Welsh debacle threaten to decimate the program. With a deep backcourt and a frontcourt headed by Washington and David Imes—who was quite impressive in limited time during an injury-plagued freshman season—as well as a JUCO transfer who can help absorb the loss of Halil Kanacevic, the Dutchmen should be OK in a wide-open CAA.

It’s not what we envisioned two months ago today, in the aftermath of the loss to Northeastern in the CAA quarterfinals, but it’s a whole lot better than what seemed possible two days ago.

There’s still a lot of work to be done, and there is a growing sense that anyone whom Pecora was recruiting will not end up at Hofstra in the fall. But at least Cassara was able to pick up yesterday where he left off a week ago Thursday. Can you imagine an entirely new staff coming in—whether this week or next week or in June—and trying to establish relationships with current players and recruit for next year and try to make connections with the rising high school juniors who will comprise the Class of 2015?

It could have been disastrous. We don’t know what this will be, but it feels right, for multiple reasons. All is once again well. Until I wake up to the news that Jenkins is going to play professionally in Greenland, anyway.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

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