Officials at Manhattan College have decided to retain Steve Masiello as their head basketball coach after it was discovered that he misled the University of South Florida when he was hired to coach the Bulls basketball team. Mansiello was subsequently fired when a background check revealed that he had never completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, as he stated on his resume. Manhattan has agreed to continue its relationship with the coach on the grounds that 36-year-old finish his degree before returning to coach the team next season.
Masiello’s past several weeks have been eventful, to say the least. After leading the Jaspers to their first NCAA tournament appearance in ten years, the team suffered a 71-64 loss to Louisville in its opening game. Soon after, Masiello was offered and accepted the job at South Florida—a five year deal reportedly worth over $1 million annually—but the agreement was later rescinded when the discrepancy was discovered. For the next two weeks, his future remained uncertain
Manhattan College officials said in a statement that after careful examination of the situation and all of its circumstances, it was concluded that while Masiello exercised poor judgement, he did not purposefully mislead anyone in the application process. Policy always required, officials added, that a head coach have at least a four-year undergraduate degree and he will be allowed to keep his job on the condition he complete his degree over the summer.
Masiello told the media that he was extremely grateful for the opportunity to remain at Manhattan College and that the school has shown a great deal of understanding and compassion in dealing with the situation. The third-year coach will be on unpaid leave while finishing his degree. Assistant coach Matt Grady will act as interim coach until his return.
A native of White Plains, N.Y., Masiello walked on at Kentucky, playing for coaches Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith from 1996 to 2000 and saw little playing time, but reached the Final Four twice and won the National Championship during the 1997-98 season. Masiello got his first coaching job as an assistant at Tulane in the 2000-01 season then worked as an assistant at Manhattan from 2001-05. He later hooked up with Pitino at Louisville, assisting his former coach from 2005-2011 before finally becoming the head coach at Manhattan in 2011.
Masiello’s first season at Manhattan met with some success, as the Jaspers finished 21-13 overall and 12-6 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play, but their postseason was marred by a first round loss to Albany in the CIT Tournament. Masiello’s second season at the helm was far less fruitful. Manhattan would finish 14-18 overall and 9-9 in the MAAC, and miss the postseason altogether. This season was by far his best. The Jaspers finished the regular season 25-7 overall and 15-5 in conference play en route to the MAAC tournament championship, defeating regular season champion Iona 71-68. Manhattan was rewarded with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and a no. 13 seed, but Masiello and the Jaspers would run into defending champion no. 4 seed Louisville in the opening round and suffer an early exit.
Commentary by Rick Sarlat