By Vin Parise
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The best month of the year is nearly upon us. In two days it’s March and seedings are complete for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, who will be holding their conference tournament at The Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield next weekend for the first time ever. The top 3 seeds are Iona, Loyola and Manhattan and all three head coaches are legitimate candidates for MAAC Coach of the Year.
In the spirit of the Oscars…
Ladies and gentlemen, here are your nominees:
Tim Cluess – Iona
In just his second season, Cluess has the Gaels at 24-6 and captured the first regular season title in New Rochelle since 2001. From the big off season move to land Mo Mo Jones from Arizona, to the role players that come off the bench, Cluess has pushed all the right buttons for a team that lost just one home game this season. They are one of the best offensive teams in the country and notched non-conference wins against Maryland, Richmond, St. Joe’s and Nevada. Cluess won a league title with the bulls-eye on their backs all year long – and that is not easy.
Loyola – Jimmy Patsos
It’s taken 8 seasons, but Patsos finally has the Greyhounds where he wants them. The 21 wins this season is a Division 1 record for the program. The 13 conference wins are a school record as well. Loyola is also one of the few teams to beat Iona this season and they swept the 3 seeded Jaspers from Manhattan. With a mixture over the years of Maryland transfers and high school recruits up and down the east coast, Patsos’ team has been terrific all season long. Patsos has made Loyola basketball a championship contender – something many thought was impossible.
Manhattan – Steve Masiello
Nobody could have predicted what took place in Riverdale this year. Masiello’s Jaspers finished 20-11 & 12-6 in league. Manhattan was one of the best turnarounds in college basketball this season. A 14 game improvement from the prior season is as good as it gets when it comes to rebuilding a program. A new philosophy was installed for the veterans and dynamic freshman Emmy Andujar was signed late last spring. Preseason picked 8th last October, the Jaspers finished 3rd this year under their first year head coach. In terms of exceeding expectations and overachieving, Masiello did a stellar job.
And the Oscar goes to?
Check back tomorrow for my winner.
Who’s your pick for MAAC Coach of the Year? Sound off below…