Steve Pikiell, the 2016 America East Conference Coach of the Year who led Stony Brook to six post-season appearances over the past seven years, has been named the 19th head coach in the history of the Rutgers men’s basketball program. A two-time team captain at point guard under Naismith Hall of Fame Head Coach Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, he arrives “On the Banks” with 25 years of coaching experience, including the past 11 seasons as head coach of the Seawolves.
“Everywhere Steve Pikiell has been, he’s won,” said Rutgers Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Patrick Hobbs. “But most impressive, is that everywhere he’s been, they started at the bottom and rose to the top. He will bring that same dedication and energy to build a successful program at Rutgers. That work has already begun.”
The 48-year old Pikiell orchestrated an impressive turnaround at Stony Brook. Prior to his arrival, the Seawolves had limited success after completing their transition from the Division III to Division I level in 1999. Following a 4-24 record in his initial season, Stony Brook showed marked improvement in each successive campaign, culminating in the school’s first NCAA Tournament berth this past season. During his tenure, the Seawolves won four America East regular season championships, achieved 22 or more victories on six occasions and captured five conference player of the year awards. A four time America East Coach of the Year, Pikiell compiled a 119-48 (.713) record over the past five seasons.
“This is a dream job for me,” said Pikiell. “I am so excited about the vision that Pat (Hobbs) has for Rutgers Athletics and I’m very fortunate to be a part of it. There is so much potential here. Rutgers has all the ingredients – great location, great University, great people and a great conference. When evaluating the position, it checked all the boxes for me. I look forward to building a program that the Rutgers community will be proud of.”
In addition to success on the court, Pikiell’s program also achieved success in the classroom. The team’s multi-year Academic Progress Rate score was 995 in the two most recent NCAA reports, placing it among the top 10 percent of all Division I men’s basketball programs. The Seawolves also boasted multiple selections to the America East All-Academic team during his tenure.
“Pat Hobbs has found a tremendous leader, teacher and coach, who I know will help build a basketball program successful on the court and in the classroom. Steve Pikiell is an outstanding choice and I am confident that he and Pat will work together to create a strong Scarlet Knights’ basketball program,” said Rutgers President Robert Barchi.
Pikiell was instrumental in the upgrading of basketball facilities at Stony Brook. He was at the helm during a successful campaign to revitalize the former Stony Brook Arena. The facility underwent a $21.1 million renovation and was unveiled as the new Island Federal Credit Union Arena in October, 2014. The arena now features modern video technology, luxury suites, VIP lounge, an expanded concourse with new concession and restroom areas and an enhanced competition court with improved practice courts.
Pikiell’s hard work on the North Shore of Long Island culminated this past season, when the Seawolves posted a 26-7 (14-2) record, won the America East regular and post-season titles, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament to meet Kentucky. Led by New Jersey natives Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy, the Seawolves out-scored opponents by an average of 12.1 points and ranked among the top 30 nationally in personal fouls (12th, 15.8), rebound margin (17th, 7.7), scoring defense (20th, 64.1), assists (26th, 16.4), assist-to-turnover ratio (26th, 1.43) and rebounds (30th, 39.76).
Warney and Puriefoy were both named First Team All-America East for the second consecutive year. Warney was recognized as the league’s Player of the Year on three occasions, while being cited as Defensive Player of the Year twice, after beginning his career as the America East Rookie of the Year. An All-American and one of five finalists for the Karl Malone Award as the nation’s top power forward, Warney concluded his career as Stony Brook’s all-time leader in points (2,123), rebounds (1,275) and blocks (276).
A top tactician with a strong reputation for player development, Pikiell has mentored the America East Player of the Year (Warney, 2013-16; Tommy Brenton, 2012-13; Muhammed El-Amin, 2009-10) in five of the conference’s last seven seasons.
Much of Stony Brook’s success under Pikiell can be attributed to defense. The Seawolves have ranked among the top 20 nationally in rebounding margin in four of the past five seasons, while limiting opponents to 41 percent shooting or worse four times during that same stretch.
Discipline and defensive tenacity resulted in tangible success and National Invitation Tournament (NIT) berths for Stony Brook in 2009-10 (22-10, 13-3), 2011-12 (22-10, 14-2), 2012-13 (25-8, 14-2), as well College Basketball Invitational (CBI) entries in 2013-14 (23-11, 13-3) and 2014-15 (23-12, 12-4). Among the many notable victories under Pikiell was a 62-57 win over undefeated and No. 13-ranked Washington in Seattle on Dec. 28, 2014, and a 59-51 win at Penn State on Nov. 17, 2006.
Before arriving at Stony Brook, Pikiell served as an assistant at George Washington under Karl Hobbs from 2001-05. In 2004-05, the Colonials earned 22 wins, their most since 1997-98 and the second most in 50 years, en route to a top 20 ranking. The team won its first Atlantic 10 title, earning an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. The 14 conference victories were the most in GW’s A-10 history, signaling a complete turnaround for a team that finished last in the conference standings in 2000-01.
At GW, Pikiell landed two top 25 recruiting classes and brought four top 100 players into the program. Two of Pikiell’s recruits, Mike Hall and Pops Mensah-Bonsu, declared for the NBA Draft in June 2005. His responsibilities at GW included recruiting, game and practice preparation, scheduling of games and assisting with operations.
Prior to GW, Pikiell served as an assistant at Central Connecticut State (1997-01) which, prior to his arrival, had never posted a winning season at the Division I level. During his tenure at CCSU under Howie Dickenman, 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 NCAA berth. He was part of a CCSU staff that recorded three straight winning seasons, including the 25-6 campaign which set a new Northeast Conference record for victories in a single season.
Pikiell was instrumental in recruiting three players who won NEC Player of the Year awards, 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 GPA in the school’s Division I history.
A 1990 graduate of the Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in finance, Pikiell was a four-year letterwinner from 1987-91. After placing 9th in the Big East with a 4-12 record his freshman season, 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. As a senior, he helped No. 11 seeded UConn to a 79-62 win over Shaquille O’Neal and No. 6 seed LSU in the round of 64. He played in 106 career games and averaged 8.2 points a game. Pikiell was the recipient of the UConn Club Senior Athlete Award for outstanding contributions to UConn Athletics.
Pikiell stayed on under Calhoun at UConn in 1991-92 to begin his coaching career. His first roster as an assistant featured future NBA players Donyell Marshall, Chris Smith, Scott Burrell, Donny Marshall and Kevin Ollie.
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.
One of nine children, Pikiell grew up with three brothers and five sisters and enjoyed a storied career at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol, Conn. A three-time all-state selection, he had his No. 21 jersey retired by the school and ranks among its all-time leaders in points, assists and steals. He was inducted into Bristol’s Hall of Fame in 2006.
Pikiell and his wife Kate are the proud parents of four children: Brooke (16), John Patrick (14), Olivia (12) and Kevin (9).
Photo Courtesy Rutgers Athletics