The Berkeley College Department of Athletics announced on Wednesday afternoon that former men’s basketball student-athlete and current Associate Head Coach Jonathan Pena will be promoted to the position of Head Coach for the 2017-2018 season.
“First and foremost, I would like to thank the Berkeley College Department of Athletics for this opportunity,” Pena said. “I have also taken a tremendous amount of pride in working diligently both as a former student-athlete and as a member of the coaching staff to put our program in the best position to be successful. Now as Head Coach, I will look to continue to carry on the winning tradition that Chris Christiansen established while he held this position. I have learned so much from Chris, as he has served as a coach, mentor, and friend to me for over 10 years. The things I have learned from him about basketball and about life are invaluable. I’m excited about this opportunity, and I can’t wait to get started.”
With that, after an incredible 22 years as the lead man of the Berkeley College (NY) men’s basketball program, 2016-2017 USCAA Division II Coach of the Year and three-time National champion Chris Christiansen will step away from his position as Head Coach of the program – and moving forward will take on a key role as Head Coach Emeritus. He will still be heavily involved with the student-athletes both academically and athletically. He will play a prime role with the team on and off the court, and he intends on assisting Pena in eventually moving towards a higher plateau in the USCAA and beyond.
“Many people look and see 22 years and see it as an eternity, but time moves so quickly,” Christiansen said. “During my tenure as the Head Coach, this program has enjoyed success on the court, winning regional and National titles, but more than anything else, I have taken a lot of pride in helping countless student-athletes become successful individuals off the court. Now having the opportunity to see a very deserving person in Jonathan take over this program is very gratifying to me, because I know the program is in good hands moving forward. Success is not just about your own achievements, but it is how you empower and inspire others to achieve their greatness. I am very proud of what I have built here, and I’m excited to see Jonathan have the opportunity to continue the tradition of this program.”
Christiansen could not have went out better as Head Coach than he did, as back in March, the Knights capped their 2016-2017 season by defeating Penn State York in the USCAA Division II National Championship game by a score of 80-76 in overtime. The victory was the 53rd straight for Berkeley (the team finished 29-0 this past season), and clinched the Knights’ third consecutive National crown. He steps away from the position of Head Coach with a record of 203-74 (.732) since 2005-2006, a span that featured nine Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships in addition to the three USCAA titles.
As for Pena, he played three seasons for the Knights from 2006 through 2009, helping Berkeley College win three Hudson Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles during that time. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament during his senior season of 2008-2009.
Following his playing career, Pena immediately transitioned to the coaching ranks, serving as an assistant coach for Chris Christiansen for seven years before being promoted to Associate Head Coach following the 2015-2016 campaign. Now – two years later – he receives the promotion of all promotions – as he will have his opportunity to serve as the Head Coach.
Pena has been an integral piece of the program’s history. After playing a pivotal role leading the team to three regional crowns as a player, he became even more of a staple of the program as an assistant coach, as his versatility saw him recruit countless student-athletes to the program while also maximizing their potential by putting them in the best position to succeed strategically on the court. His upside is glaring, and should make the 2017-2018 season especially intriguing as the Knights transition into the newest era of their history.