New York basketball legend Rod Strickland is getting his first head coaching job in the city he calls home. The Bronx, N.Y. native is taking over at Long Island University in Brooklyn.
The former All-NBA point guard is a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I was born and raised here,” Strickland said. “New York made me as far as basketball and as a person, I’m through and through New York City. So to have the opportunity to come back here and be a part of LIU and try to do something special, it’s great.”
Strickland arrives in Brooklyn following a 17-year NBA career and brings loads of coaching experience at both the collegiate and professional level. His coaching career began as the director of basketball operations at Memphis. He also worked as an assistant coach and in an administrative role under John Calipari at Kentucky.
From 2014-17 Strickland was on the coaching staff at USF. Most recently, he took on the role of program director with the NBA’s G-League Ignite where he worked to evaluate, recruit and develop talent.
“The G-League was great for me going into [head coaching] because I basically was the general manager and oversaw everything: player evaluations, recruiting, coaches and staff, budgets,” Strickland said. “I think my experience has helped me a lot as a leader, to better understand both sides of basketball, on the court and in the board room, and just recruiting in the country and internationally has created relationships for me.”
Strickland faces challenges immediately as two of the program’s top players (Eral Penn and Isaac Kante) entered the transfer portal. Penn was second on the team in scoring with 17.1 points and pulled down 7.4 rebounds last year. Kante averaged 12 points per game and 7.5 boards.
But despite the initial challenges he’s faced, Strickland has come in with a plan for his first offseason at LIU and thoroughly emphasized the importance of building relationships with staff and players from day one.
“It’s about recruiting, getting a feel for the campus, getting to know my players and create that relationship,” Strickland said. “But right now, it’s just me getting my feet planted, getting my staff together, and then implementing what we’re gonna do next year.”
Strickland mentioned he has been in touch with his players from early on and has taken the opportunity to familiarize himself with the team and to understand the difficulties that this transition might have on everyone.
He also looks to stake claim in the hotbed of New York’s Division I basketball talent.
“In general you want to have skilled, smart players,” Strickland said. “Obviously in the game now you would love to have versatile guys but hard-working, tough-nosed, going to bring it everyday type players. I love New York players, I think we have grit and a will and we have a competitive spirit so New York will definitely be a main source for recruitment.”
Once the team is fully back on campus later this month, Strickland is relishing the chance to get working and highlighted the importance of development in his young core.
“Obviously we want to win games but it comes down to relationships,” Strickland said. “I believe these young men want to be developed, on and off the court. They have to know that you’re there with them. I will be in the trenches with them, competing with them, celebrating with them, going through the struggles with them, going through all that with them.”
Strickland replaced Derek Kellogg, who went 74-74 in five seasons with LIU. The Sharks finished 16-14 last year and finished third in the NEC.