Stony Brook's all-time leading Div. I scorer comes home to serve on Steve Pikiell's coaching staff.
By Thomas Chen - Assistant AD for Communications
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Having wrapped up his ninth season at the helm of the Stony Brook men's basketball program, Steve Pikiell has proven that he is capable of building a successful program from the ground up. Taking over a team with no Division I success, Pikiell has made Stony Brook a force in America East, winning three America East regular season championships and advancing to the America East Championship final three times.
In 2013-14, Pikiell had a young club with just four contributing upperclassmen and guided them back to the America East Championship final after a remarkable 13-3 season in America East play, the fourth time in the last five years that the program has won 13 or more conference games. Overall, Pikiell's group won 23 games, which ranks second only to the 2012-13 team's 25 wins for most in the program's Div. I history. Pikiell had the most All-America East selections of any conference squad (four), including Jameel Warney, who was named the 2014 America East Player of the Year.
In 2012-13, Pikiell didn't rebuild; he reloaded. After losing four talented seniors that all went on to sign professional basketball contracts overseas, Pikiell was unfazed and developed his nine returning letterwinners and four incoming freshmen into the best team Stony Brook has ever had. The Seawolves went 25-8, compiling the program's most wins in its Div. I history, and finished 14-2 in America East for the second consecutive season to secure the program's third regular season championship in the last four years. The team also earned its first-ever national postseason victory when it defeated Massachusetts in the first round of the NIT. After the incredible season, Pikiell was rewarded with a contract extension that keeps him on the Seawolves bench through the 2017-18 season.
Pikiell's Seawolves did everything well, but they did one thing exceptionally well: play defense. The Seawolves had the nation's sixth-best field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot only 37.8 percent, and the nation's 13th best scoring defense at 57.5 points allowed per game. On numerous occasions, the Seawolves held their opponents to season lows in shooting and scoring, no bigger than when Stony Brook held SUNY rival Binghamton to only 37 points and 26.4 percent shooting on Jan. 9, 2013.
The incredible season warranted numerous accolades as Pikiell's Seawolves swept the major America East awards. Pikiell was named America East Coach of the Year for the third time; Tommy Brenton was named America East Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year; and Jameel Warney was named America East Rookie of the Year. Brenton was a first-team All-America East selection, Warney was placed on the second team and Dave Coley was put on the third team. All three represented the Seawolves on the America East All-Defensive team, signaling the respect that Stony Brook received for its historic defensive season.
Brenton himself was honored like no other Seawolves player ever. He was the basketball program's first national player of the year when he was named the recipient of the 2013 Lefty Driesell Award, given to the National Defensive Player of the Year. Brenton was also named All-America honorable mention by the Associated Press.
In 2011-12, Pikiell had the Seawolves firing on all cylinders, leading the team to a 22-win season, the America East regular season championship and the program's second NIT appearance in the last three seasons. At one point, the Seawolves had won 19 of 21 games between the end of December and mid-March.
The backbone of Stony Brook's success was its defense, which ranked 13th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents to only score 59.0 points per game. Pikiell's squad held teams under 50 points seven times during the year, including allowing only 37 points to Hartford.
Stony Brook was also dominant on the glass, ranking fourth in the country in rebounding margin at +8.3. Junior forward Tommy Brenton was at the head of this rebounding front, averaging 8.1 per game on his way to 2012 America East Defensive Player of the Year and All-America East first team honors.
Pikiell and the Seawolves also heavily relied on their talented senior class that produced 75 wins in its four seasons, the most successful class in the program's Div. I history. Bryan Dougher led the team in scoring at 13.2 points per game and was named first-team All-America East. Dallis Joyner led the conference in field goal percentage, shooting at a 61 percent clip en route to third-team All-America East honors. Al Rapier improved all aspects of his game to put together a fine senior year, and Danny Carter played outstanding defense off the bench.
Although Pikiell won 22 games in 2011-12, he perhaps did his best coaching work during the 2010-11 season with a team that had come into the season with high expectations. The team was picked to finish second in America East and had returned four starters. However, injuries seemingly derailed their hopes. All-Conference forward Tommy Brenton was lost for the season with a knee injury, and the Seawolves racked up 55 player games missed throughout the season. However, Pikiell's squad persevered to win at least eight league games for the third consecutive season and powered past Albany and Vermont to reach the finals of the America East Championship for the first time in program history.
Pikiell had one of the youngest teams in America East during 2010-11, playing just one senior and giving regular time to four freshmen. His team made great strides as the season went on. Senior Chris Martin was named to the America East Championship All-Tournament team with his inspired play in helping the Seawolves reach the title game. Bryan Dougher became the program's all-time leader in three-pointers made and was named second-team All-America East for the second consecutive season. Leonard Hayes went from no playing time to a starter as he established himself as a three-point threat. Dallis Joyner was a force in the paint, leading America East in offensive rebounding. Freshmen Dave Coley, Anthony Jackson, Anthony Mayo and Eric McAlister all showed flashes of talent that signal the team's bright future ahead of it.
Pikiell has often preached defense, and the 2010-11 Seawolves provided plenty of it. The team ranked in the top 10 in the nation in field goal defense, holding teams to only 39 percent shooting. SBU was also in the top 25 in scoring defense and three-point field goal defense and led America East in all three categories.
Pikiell's team was coming off a glamorous 2009-10 season, in which he guided the Seawolves to their best season in their 11-year Division I history. He led SBU to its first America East regular season title as well as a berth in the National Invitation Tournament, the program's first postseason appearance since moving to Division I.
Stony Brook set Division I program records for overall wins (22) and conference wins (13), and Pikiell became the first coach in school history to be named America East Coach of the Year. Pikiell was also recognized as the All-Met Writers Coach of the Year, the Sporting News America Coach of the Year and the Times Village Herald 2010 Man of the Year.
The Seawolves were dominant in their second season in the newly renovated Pritchard Gymnasium, winning 12 of their 13 home games including all eight conference contests. Stony Brook sold out its final four games at Pritchard, and a standing room only crowd of 4,423 attended the Seawolves' NIT game against Illinois at Stony Brook Arena on March 17.
Pikiell's squad was rewarded for an outstanding season with a slew of postseason awards. Muhammad El-Amin became the first player in program history to be named America East Conference Player of the Year as he scored a Division I school record 517 points.
Named the 2010 America East Player of the Year by Sporting News as well, El-Amin finished his splendid two-year Stony Brook career just 29 points shy of 1,000. The 6-5 guard also earned Associated Press Honorable Mention All-America honors, was named to the NABC District I second team and was selected to the 2010 All-Met first team, all program firsts.
In addition, Bryan Dougher and Tommy Brenton each earned a spot on the All-America East Conference second team. Dougher ranked 10th in the America East in scoring (13.8 points per game) and set a school record with 95 three-pointers. Brenton led the America East in rebounding (9.7) for the second straight year and broke his own Division I program record for rebounds in a season with 311.
Stony Brook also continued to excel off the court under Pikiell as Andrew Goba was selected to 2010 America East All-Academic squad and became the first player in program history to be named the America East Scholar Athlete in men's basketball.
In fact, Pikiell has engineered a complete academic turnaround for Stony Brook men's basketball. In the year prior to his start, 2004-05, the team had a rolling APR (four-year) of 880 and a season APR of 804, one of the lowest in the country. In 2009-10, Stony Brook had a rolling APR of 951 and a perfect 1000 for the season, signaling the quality of student-athletes Pikiell has brought in and mentored.
The Seawolves finished 16-14 overall and 8-8 in the America East Conference in 2008-09, tying for fourth place in the final regular season conference standings. Stony Brook's improvement garnered national attention as Pikiell was named America East Coach of the Year by CollegeInsider.com
Stony Brook also set a program record with four players earning spots on All-America East teams. El-Amin was named to the All-America East second team, the first Seawolves player named as high as the second team in five years. He was also selected as the America East Player of the Week in January, becoming the first SBU player to be honored with the award since 2004.
Brenton and Dougher were both named to the America East All-Rookie team, the first time in program history that two players have been named All-Rookie. Brenton, Dougher and freshman Danny Carter also combined to win the America East Rookie of the Week award seven times, the first time in program history that three different players have won the honor in the same season.
Senior walk-on Marques Cox also earned a spot on the America East All-Defensive team as he finished the season sixth in the America East in steals per game.
A believer in preparing his teams for conference play, Pikiell has annually challenged his players with competitive games against teams from BCS level conferences. His signature victory came on Nov. 17, 2006 when he Seawolves went into State College, Pa., and knocked off the Big Ten's Penn State 59-51.
Pikiell was named the 10th head coach in Stony Brook men's basketball history on April 13, 2005, coming to the Seawolves with the reputation of being one of the rising stars in the collegiate coaching profession. Known as one of the top assistants for his understanding and ability to teach the game, Pikiell clearly demonstrated that he knew how to build a winner. In his two previous stops, Pikiell has been instrumental in seeing programs win conference championships.
Before arriving at Stony Brook, Pikiell helped orchestrate the rebirth of the George Washington basketball program under head coach Karl Hobbs. In 2004-05, the Colonials recorded 22 wins, the most since the 1997-98 season and the second most in 50 years, en route to their first-ever Atlantic-10 title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The 14 conference victories were the most in GW's Atlantic-10 Conference history, signaling a complete turnaround for a team that finished last in the Atlantic-10 in 2001.
The remarkable resurgence was punctuated with the Colonials appearance in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Top 25 national polls in 2004-05. At GW, Pikiell landed two Top 25 national recruiting classes and brought four Top 100 players to the program. Two of Pikiell's recruits, Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, declared for the NBA Draft in June 2005.
Pikiell joined the GW staff in 2001 and in his third season under Karl Hobbs, the Colonials posted an 18-12 mark, a second-place finish in the Atlantic-10 West Division and earned a bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The second-place finish marked the best showing for the program in the previous five years.
Pikiell's responsibilities at GW included recruiting, game and practice preparation, scheduling of games, and assisting Hobbs with day-to-day operations.
Prior to GW, he served as an assistant coach at Central Connecticut State University (1997-01) which, prior to his arrival, had never posted a winning season at the Division I level. During his tenure at CCSU, the Blue Devils notched an 81-63 (.563) record, including a 25-6 mark in 1999-2000 and a bid to the 2000 NCAA tournament.
It marked the school's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. He was part of a staff at CCSU that recorded three straight winning seasons including the 25-6 campaign which set a new Northeast Conference record for victories in a single season.
He was also instrumental in recruiting three players who won Northeast Conference Player of the Year awards in 2000, 2001 and 2004 including CCSU's first-ever NBA draft pick, Corsley Edwards. Seven of his recruits went on to earn all-conference recognition and he helped the 1999-00 team earn the highest G.P.A. in the school's Division I history.
A 1990 graduate of the University of Connecticut, Pikiell was a point guard, two-year captain and four-year letterwinner for the Huskies from 1987-91. UConn won its first Big East title and advanced to the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 during the two years that Pikiell captained the Huskies. He played in 106 career games and averaged 8.2 points a game as a freshman. In 1991, Pikiell was given the UConn Club Senior Athlete Award for outstanding contributions to UConn athletics. He graduated from Connecticut with a bachelor's degree in finance.
After graduation, he stayed on as an assistant coach at Connecticut under head coach Jim Calhoun in 1991-92. After one season with the New Haven Skyhawks of the USBL (1992) Pikiell spent three years as an assistant at Yale (1992-95). He then moved on to take over as interim head coach at Wesleyan, a Division III school in Middletown, Conn. for one year. Then, his former coach and colleague Howie Dickerman became the head coach at Central Connecticut State University and hired Pikiell as an assistant coach.
Pikiell enjoyed a storied career at St. Paul's High School in Bristol, Conn. The three-time all-state selection had his former No. 21 jersey retired after a career in which he ranks among the all-time leaders in points scored, assists and steals. He was inducted into Bristol's Hall of Fame in 2006.
Pikiell is one of nine children and has been an instructor at several summer basketball camps, including his own camp from 1991-99 in Cheshire, Conn. Pikiell and his wife, Kate, have four children: Brooke, 13, John Patrick, 11, Olivia, 9, and Kevin, 6.
Pikiell Turns it Around