Cornell Basketball Staff Update

Jon Jaques ’10, the Robert E. Gallagher ’44 Head Coach of Cornell Men’s Basketball, has announced the addition of two new coaches and one staff promotion ahead of the 2024-25 season. Mike Brennan, Mark McGonigal, and Jalen Hayes will make up Jaques’ first coaching staff.

“I am thrilled to announce the assistant coaching staff,” Jaques said. “The experience, talent, winning pedigrees, and character we have been able to attract in these three leaders speaks to the excitement felt throughout the program right now. I have no doubt they will be incredible mentors for our players as we continue to elevate Cornell Men’s Basketball.”

Brennan brings loads of Ivy and Patriot League coaching experience, including a 10-year stint as head coach at American University (2013-23). He brought the Eagles to a pair of conference championship games and a title in his first season (2013-14), earning Patriot League Coach of the Year honors while being a finalist for both the national Joe B. Hall (first-year head coach) and Hugh Durham (mid-major head coach) Awards. He finished his time at American with a 125-166 mark, with his 125 overall wins ranking third in school history and his 75 Patriot League victories standing second.

Brennan, who spent the past year serving as an assistant coach at Loyola (Md.), moved back across town to American following four seasons as assistant coach under John Thompson III (2009-13). The Hoyas won 93 games in his four seasons with NCAA bids each year, twice earning top three seeds and sharing the Big East regular season title in 2013. He had been an assistant at American (2007-09) following seven years at his alma mater, Princeton (2000-07). Those American teams won back-to-back regular season and tournament titles in the Patriot League and advanced to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament in 2008. The Princeton squads claimed three Ivy titles (2001, 2002, 2004), making a pair of NCAA Tournament (2001, 2004) appearances and an NIT bid (2002). He began his career as a volunteer assistant coach at Ivy rival Columbia before embarking on a professional basketball career in Germany, Belgium and Portugal.

A four-year starter under Pete Carril at Princeton, he led the Tigers to a pair of NCAA Tournaments (1991, 1992) and was an All-Ivy League second team pick as a senior. He graduated in 1994 with a degree in English.

“I’m very excited for Mike to be joining us here at Cornell,” Jaques said. “He is an incredibly accomplished teacher of the game, thinker, and developer of student-athletes, both on and off the court. As a former player and assistant in the Ivy League, and a successful head coach at a similarly minded school, Mike will be an amazing asset to our staff and tremendous mentor for our student-athletes.”

McGonigal spent the past seven seasons on the staff at his alma mater, Richmond, including the past four as Director of Basketball Operations. He was elevated to an on-court assistant position in 2023. In addition to operations and recruiting, he has also played pivotal roles in player development.

In his first season as an assistant coach, Richmond won its first regular season Atlantic 10 title since joining the conference in 2001 and posted its longest win streak (11 games) since 1935. The Spiders ended the year 23-10 overall and 15-3 in A-10 play, a school record for most conference wins in a season. The previous record of 14 was set in 2020, McGonigal’s first season as Director of Operations when the program’s 24-7 campaign was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2022 Spiders’ team won a first-round game with an upset of fifth-seeded Iowa. Richmond went 147-110 with three NIT appearances (two to the quarterfinals) with McGonigal on the sidelines under his former head coach and Princeton star, Chris Mooney.

Prior to his time at Richmond, McGonigal coached for the National Collegiate Scouting Association (2012-16). While there, he worked with student-athletes to evaluate their skill level on the court and their academic profile to guide them to college opportunities that would be the right fit. He began his career as an assistant coach at Holy Spirit HS in New Jersey (2011-12) while serving as a special education assistant where he did research on special education students and worked one-on-one with students with autism in classroom settings.

A four-year member of the basketball team at Richmond after joining the team as a walk-on, McGonigal played in 27 career games before graduating in 2009 with a degree in Political Science.

“Mark has cut his teeth, both as a player and versatile staff-member, at Richmond University, where he played a huge part in that program’s recent success,” Jaques said. “He is a driven and enthusiastic coach who has excelled in nearly every role possible in a Division I program. I’m looking forward to Mark developing relationships with our guys and positively impacting their time here at Cornell.”

In addition to the two new hires, Jaques announced the promotion of Hayes into a full-time assistant coaching position after splitting duties as Director of Basketball Operations during the 2023-24 season, his first on East Hill.

In his first season on the sidelines, the Big Red went 22-8 (the second-most wins in a season in school history) in 2023-24, finishing second in the final Ivy League standings and earning the program’s first-ever bid to the NIT. Cornell posted a school record for assists in a season (544) and highest assist:turnover ratio (1.486) and ranked in the top three in school history in 3-pointers made (second, 310), steals (second, 250) and scoring average (third, 82.1). The Big Red was road tough, as its 10 true road victories ranked fourth nationally in large part due to its balance – six players averaged at least 8.8 points with nine playing 15.0 minutes per contest or more.

Hayes joined the Big Red after one season as the director of basketball operations at Lafayette and another as an assistant at Widener. He began his career as an undergraduate at Drexel, serving as the assistant coordinator of men’s basketball operations under former Big Red assistant coach Zach Spiker. His time with the Dragons included a Colonial Athletic Association title in 2020-21 and the program’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 25 years.

“This is a well-deserved promotion to assistant coach for Jalen,” Jaques said. “He is a talented and passionate young coach with a natural poise that garners great respect from our student-athletes. Jalen’s ability to quickly earn the trust of the players and adapt to Cornell and our style of play was a huge part of our success last season, so I am grateful he is continuing here with us in this expanded role.”

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