Editor’s note: Sam’s full MAAC Season Preview (MAACgnum opus) is now available in PDF form at this link, and also at the bottom of this webpage.
The hits kept on coming. Every passing moment without a devastating blow was a cause for celebration, but at the end of the day we woke up totally broken, having to pick up the pieces and put ourselves back together on the fly. No, this isn’t me telling a story of war, but the life of a mid-major basketball conference during transfer portal season.
Seeing the stars of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, those that we’d cheered on and covered so closely, enter the transfer portal in search of greener pastures and big NIL deals, is a bittersweet feeling. It’s going to be exhilarating to watch Noah Thomasson ball out at Georgia, Javian McCollum at Oklahoma, Walter Clayton Jr. at Florida, Juju Murray at Ole Miss, and Daniss Jenkins at St. John’s, but now, we must turn our attention to finding the next MAAC stars, the ones that will tell the story of the 2023–24 season.
From last year’s 15 All-MAAC selections, Rider’s Mervin James is the only one that remains in the league, with many graduating, and the rest transferring. Over 50 players from the MAAC entered the transfer portal, with many of them finding new homes, but the MAAC is also a new home for over 40 transfers, all looking to make an impact. It’s a new world in college basketball, and for better or for worse, a new look in the MAAC. Coaches around the league had to scramble to fill competitive rosters, the mad dash to find the right players for each system that occurred throughout April and May turned the MAAC, and the college basketball landscape, upside down, and it will continue to do that every year.
The MAAC also sees three coaching changes, including the league’s biggest national attention point over the last few years, Rick Pitino, bolting from Iona to St. John’s and taking a few of his Gaels with him across the Throgs Neck (or the Whitestone, dealer’s choice here). Pitino’s success at Iona, while immense and impressive, was not unprecedented for the program, but his replacement made national waves in March, doing the unthinkable. Tobin Anderson, fresh off upsetting top-seeded Purdue in the NCAA Tournament with Fairleigh Dickinson, crosses the Hudson to coach in New Rochelle.
Despite Manhattan’s alumni base and players begging for the appointment of interim coach RaShawn Stores to the full-time head coach role, former athletic director Marianne Reilly decided to give the reigns of the program to a well-respected northeast basketball figure, with former Hartford head coach John Gallagher taking the head job in the big city. After the initial backlash, Gallagher says he’s been very impressed by the support that he’s gotten from the alumni, and he hopes to win over any that aren’t already convinced with his performance as coach.
Baker Dunleavy shocked the MAAC when he stepped down from the head job at Quinnipiac in April to return to Villanova as the general manager, a new position created specifically to help in the era of the transfer portal and NIL. Dunleavy’s replacement is former Hofstra and Fordham coach Tom Pecora, who has been working on QU’s staff since 2017.
In the making of this preview, I spoke with every head coach in the league in order to provide the most informative and accurate preview I possibly could, hearing thoughts from the coaches themselves on how they view their team in the league. Without further ado, let’s break down the MAAC.