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, including their first ever NCAA Tournament this past season, has been named the 19th head coach in the history of the Rutgers men's basketball program, receiving a five-year contract starting at $1.4 million, increasing by $100,000 every season. Pikiell arrives in Piscataway 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."
Pikiell's history supports Hobbs' words. Prior to arriving at Stony Brook in 2005-2006, the Seawolves were 22-37 overall in the previous two seasons combined, including an 11-25 mark in America East Conference play, numbers the Rutgers' community are somewhat familiar with, having gone 17-47 since joining the Big Ten before the 2014-15 season, including a 3-33 mark in conference play.
"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. I look forward to building a program that the Rutgers community will be proud of."
During Pikiell's tenure on Long Island, the Seawolves won four America East regular season championships and won 22 games or more on six occasions. A four-time America East Coach of the Year, Pikiell compiled an 119-48 (.713) record over the past five years. Pikiell's hard work culminated this past season, when the Seawolves posted a 26-7 (14-2) record, won Pikiell's 4th America East regular season title, then followed that up with their first conference tournament title. They advanced to the NCAA Tournament, where they met Kentucky.
Led by Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy, both New Jersey natives, the Seawolves outscored opponents by an average of 12.1 points this season and ranked among the top 30 nationally in 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).
Before arriving at Stony Brook, Pikiell served as an assistant at George Washington under fellow former UCONN player 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.
Before GW, Pikiell served as an assistant at Central Connecticut State (1997-01). 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, marking 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.
A 1990 graduate of Connecticut, Pikiell was a four-year letter winner 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. 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 NCAA Round of 64. He played in 106 career games and averaged 8.2 points a game.
Pikiell stayed on under Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun at UConn in 1991-92 to begin his coaching career, then left to join the staff of the New Haven Skyhawks of the USBL. After one season with the Skyhawks, 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.
Said Calhoun of his former player/assistant:
I coached Division I basketball for 40 years and Steve epitomizes what you hope your program will be about. He was our team captain, my assistant and I am incredibly proud of all that he has achieved. It's not just about his accomplishments. It's about his character, his personality and his tenacity. Those are the things that make Steve. That's why I have always believed in him.