Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes took a few minutes tonight to discuss the hiring of Mo Cassara and one of the wildest and most unpredictable five-day spans in school history. Thanks to Jack for taking time out of a busy schedule to speak with us.
How did you decide Mo was the right candidate for the job?
Certainly the last five weeks weren’t meant to be an interview process. We never thought we’d be in this situation. But over the last five weeks, we worked closely with Mo Cassara. We both know a lot of the same people in the business, people that over the last two days turned out to be references as we started going in this direction. And we felt very comfortable with it—felt very comfortable with Mo Cassara and his relationship with the members of the team, with the coaching staff that we currently have, how he interacted with a number of people on campus, and felt that he was ready to take on this challenge. Certainly, five weeks ago, we said we were looking for a head coach. Well, the circumstances changed. So while we didn’t eliminate head coaches, the circumstances going about it were certainly much different than the circumstances five weeks ago.
When did you begin to think an internal option was the way to go?
I think that it was always something we wanted to consider. I was concerned that we might be in a position where our basketball team would have been on its third coaching staff in six weeks. That being said, I still wrestled with that versus what ultimately was in the best interests long-term of the basketball program. And in going back and weighing both of those situations, I still felt that Mo Cassara’s background and his coaching experience at a variety of levels was going to be best for us.
Were you surprised you were able to keep the entire staff together?
I think that they worked closely together for four or five weeks and certainly have come together during what’s been a challenging few days. I think that, being the case, we’ve communicated regularly throughout the last few days, talked about different options and I think they’re all excited to be here and to be part of this program moving forward.
I think they were all committed to the same thing, committed to being successful. They’re committed to the fact that they came to a program that has won a lot of games in recent years and they want to be part of it moving forward and continuing what has been over the years. I think they’re really excited.
When did your search zero in on Mo?
In the last couple days. Certainly, conversations that Mo and the president and I have had, those conversations were about what we do going forward in the event that he was the coach, how would we handle those things. The whole coaching staff had an opportunity to meet a lot of people at an event last night and I know our team, I know people in our department and people across campus felt very comfortable with the entire staff.
You mentioned the players. How important was it to give them some stability after a whirlwind few weeks?
It was very important. Like I said, you wrestle with the decision of what’s in the best long-term interests—how do you handle the current team and the feelings of all those individuals? Those things were important. And making the announcement late in the afternoon today, they were thrilled.
Were you ever worried that you would not be able to consider someone from the current staff because the University would want to completely cut ties with those connected to Tim?
Not really. We did not think that. I shouldn’t even say not really—the answer is no. We had, certainly, an unfortunate and a disappointing situation take place. It did not impact looking at any of the individuals on our staff.
There have obviously been rumors of other players departing Hofstra. Do you think this move will keep them in the fold?
Nobody has asked [for a release] of yet. These things are always challenging for student athletes, because it happens in all sports. When those things take place, you try to help them through it. You try to get a coaching staff in place as soon as you can. And this was one of those situations where you just never thought five weeks ago, obviously, that we would be going through it again. But we had the best candidate right here on our staff.
How important was it to hire someone from Welsh’s staff in order to maintain continuity during the recruiting season?
Very important. Very important. Because once the situation arose on Friday, a lot of those things came to a halt. So it is critical that we get right back to the good work that was being done throughout the month of April.
Going back to the start of this process—what did the weekend entail for you?
I did see a couple things that came out in various places [about how] no comment had been made at all. That ‘no comment’ wasn’t a sign of support or lack of support for the coach. ‘No comment’ was we didn’t have a lot of the facts. So as we tried to get the facts not just Friday but over the weekend, I certainly knew that there was a chance that we may not have a coach on Monday. So when Tim Welsh resigned on Monday, I wasn’t surprised. We were ready to move forward at the time.
The truth is we didn’t have all the information. So we tried to gather as much as we could over the weekend. But I knew right from the beginning we had a serious situation and a very disappointing one. ‘No comment’ wasn’t a sign of support for the coach. We weren’t in position at the time to do anything. That’s really want the situation was.
Did this change at all the process by which you conduct background checks for coaching candidates?
We did everything that you would expect to do [with Welsh], from the process of doing the background check. The references were very credible [from] people in the field. And in terms of moving forward, we would have done the same thing, we would have gone through the same process with an external candidate. And with Mo Cassara, he had gone through the whole process as an assistant. Unfortunately, things happen that are not within your control, and it certainly wasn’t the result of not—it wasn’t a result of a lack of taking those proper steps. Nothing ever came up.
These were fairly unchartered waters you were entering. Did you consult with athletic directors who had gone through a coaching change in late spring, such as FDU last year or New Hampshire in 2005?
I did not talk to ADs who had done that. I certainly talked to ADs about the situation that we were in—not necessarily ones that had gone through it, but ones that I knew very well.
At the end of the day, you want to do what’s right. I want to do what’s right for the student-athletes. I want to do what’s right for Hofstra. And we were in a situation that we certainly did not anticipate, a situation that was disappointing. And that’s the cards that we were dealt. And I felt like my responsibility was to try to get us through that and move forward. And that’s what the five days—that’s what has taken place from 9:30 Friday morning until about 4 o’clock this afternoon.
What’s your mindset now, after a whirlwind five days? Are you exhausted? Still running on adrenaline?
A search process is exhausting because it’s extensive, it’s a lot of conversations, it’s a lot of following up. You’ve got to look at every situation you could be in. I think you need to look at every situation from a variety of points of view. And you do that the whole time hoping that what you’re doing is making the right decision and making the right decision that impacts a large number of people. So it’s one of those things that is very concerning. But I understand that’s the responsibility, and while I never anticipated that following the April 1 announcement that we would be doing this again, that was the case, it was where we’ve been over the last five days. And the only option, again, is to go at it in a way that you think is in the best interests of Hofstra and of our team members.