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PISCATAWAY, NJ—The search for the next head coach of Rutgers’ men’s basketball team may be nearing its end, with multiple outlets reporting that Stony Brook University coach Steve Pikiell will be heading to the Scarlet Knights.
Pikiell, age 48, has spent the last 11 seasons leading the Seawolves, compiling a 192-156 record overall.
The deal still needs approval from Rutgers’ Board of Governors, but the Asbury Park Press is reporting that it “is expected to be five years at an average of $1.6 million per year,” according to “a source with knowledge of Pikiell’s situation.”
Pikiell would replace Eddie Jordan, who was fired on March 10 after three disappointing seasons as Rutgers’ head coach.
Rutgers is reportedly hiring Pikiell after being linked to several other coaching candidates since Jordan’s firing.
The Scarlet Knights had reportedly been interested in Rhode Island’s Dan Hurley, George Washington’s Mike Lonergan, ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Williams, and others.
Stony Brook had been a bottom feeder in the American East conference for years prior to Pikiell’s arrival, and his teams struggled in his first three seasons, going just 20-67.
But the tide began to turn for the Stony Brook Seawolves in the 2008-09 season, when they finished 16-14 overall, finishing over .500 for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
The following season, Pikiell led Stony Brook to its first 20-win season since 1990-91 when they finished 22-10 and 13-3 in conference play.
They finished first in the American East that season, and were rewarded with a bid to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), the Seawolves’ first postseason appearance in program history.
Stony Brook stumbled and missed the postseason in 2010-11, but returned to the NIT in 2012 and 2013, and in the latter season reached the second round of the tournament.
In both seasons, Stony Brook was the American East regular season champion.
Postseason play continued for Pikiell’s teams in 2013-14 and 2014-15, as second-place finishes in the conference yielded bids to the College Basketball Invitational in both seasons.
However, it was the success of this most recent season that put Pikiell among the most desirable coaching candidates.
In the 2015-16 season, Stony Brook reached its highest win total in nearly 40 years, finishing 26-6 overall.
The Seawolves won both the American East regular season championship and the conference tournament, earning the program’s first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Stony Brook was a #13 seed in the tournament, and was pitted against perennial powerhouse Kentucky, a #4 seed, in the first round.
Despite a strong season, the heavy underdog Seawolves were unable to pull off the upset, and Kentucky prevailed 85-57 on March 17.
Prior to taking over as the head coach of Stony Brook, Pikiell was an assistant coach at George Washington, Central Connecticut, Yale, the United States Basketball League’s New Haven Skyhawks, and his alma mater UConn. Pikiell played point guard for UConn from 1987-1991.
He also spent one season as the head coach at Wesleyan, finishing 5-18 in 1995-96.
At Stony Brook, Pikiell took a team that with little historical success that had struggled for years and turned it into a perennial postseason contender.
He would hope to be doing the same with the Scarlet Knights, who have not made an NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991, and their most recent postseason appearance came a decade ago in the 2006 NIT.
The Scarlet Knights are coming off one of the least successful seasons in program history, finishing 7-25 overall and just 1-17 in Big Ten play. Before beating Minnesota on March 5, Rutgers had lost 32 straight Big Ten contests.
While Pikiell has his work cut out for him to turn around a reeling Rutgers program, there is some hope.
He joins the program with a potential star player already in the fold, as freshman guard Corey Sanders still has three years of eligibility.
Along with Sanders, Rutgers also has guard Mike Williams, forwards Jonathan Laurent and DeShawn Freeman, and centers Shaquille Doorson and Ibrahima Diallo set to return for the 2016-17 season.
Pikiell is the second head coaching hire made by athletic director Pat Hobbs in less than four months on the job, as Hobbs also hired new football head coach Chris Ash in December.