Rutgers is set to introduce Steve Pikiell as its new head men's basketball coach during a press conference on Tuesday.
Here are five suggestions on what Pikiell -- who this year led Stony Brook to its first NCAA Tournament bid -- needs to address immediately.
1. Attend Monday's TOC Final
Wouldn't it make quite a statement if the new Rutgers coach showed up at the Sun Bank Center in Trenton tonight (Monday) to watch the Tournament of Champions final between St. Anthony's and Linden?
The game just happens to feature arguably the two best high school coaches in the Garden State in Bob Hurley (winner of 12 TOCs) and Phil Colicchio. Pikiell should go and greet both coaches and sit courtside to show he's on top of New Jersey hoops from the get-go.
"I really don't know Steve," Hurley told me this weekend. "They really haven't recruited any kids from our school recently."
Asked if the Rutgers coach needs to recruit the state, Hurley quipped, "You would think, yeah. It's the State University. He hasn't been that far away. He's been in Long Island. He's done a good job. His coaching record is very good and he's gotta develop a familiarity here in state."
2. Bring in Jim Calhoun as an advisor
The former UConn coach and Hall of Famer told me this weekend that his former point guard was "a great choice" for Rutgers.
"I think it's a great day for Rutgers," Calhoun said. "He's a great combination of a lot differrent things. He brings winning, he has tenacity, [he] built a program, and I think it's a great day for Steve and for Rutgers."
Calhoun said he had spoken several times to both Pikiell and Rutgers AD Pat Hobbs. What if Pikiell were to make Calhoun some kind of special advisor to the program, similar to what Gene Keady was to Steve Lavin at St. John's? Calhoun would bring instant credibility and a knowledge of the Northeast.
3. Add some sex appeal to the program
Right now, Rutgers basketball has no buzz nationally or even regionally. Zero, zip, nada.
The biggest buzz its gotten in recent days may have been when I asked Bill Murray about the job at Madison Square Garden and the comedian said, "I'll take the Rutgers job for three years but then I gotta get back to work."
Told by ESPN's Jeff Goodman that Pikiell had filled the job, Murray said on ESPN, "It's been filled? No phonecall."
OK, so Rutgers won't have the former "Caddyshack" star hanging around games the way he did for his son Luke Murray at Xavier, but Rutgers can make things more interesting for recruits.
What about bringing in Chris Smith in some sort of graduate assistant position? Then you might have the support of people like Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith, Giants wideout Victor Cruz (who played AAU ball with J.R.) and NJ Playaz director Jimmy Salmon.
You don't think recruits in New Jersey would take notice if those guys were at a game or an event on campus?
4. Visit and offer the 2018 and '19 kids immediately
Seton Hall made a bold and strong move by making a 'Fab Five' offer to the Class of 2018 kids from the Sports U AAU program: Naz Reid, Luther Muhammad, Jahvon Quinerly, Atiba Taylor and Louis King.
Rutgers, as I reported earlier this year, never offered them as a group and barely had those kids on campus under former coach Eddie Jordan. Seton Hall had them there. All. The. Time.
Should Rutgers offer the 'Fab Five' right away?
"I would," Sports U director Ed Bright told me this weekend. "I would."
There you go.
PIkiell and his staff should immediately visit those kids -- along with Class of 2019 kids like Bryan Antoine and Scottie Lewis of the Ranney school -- as well as their high school and AAU coaches.
"He's got to start recruiting young," Bright said. "Right now we have the top sixth-, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders in our program. He's got to get to know those families, the kids. Everybody wants our 2018 unit, everybody wants them, but he's gotta focus on 2019."
Oh, and while they're at it, it's probably not a bad idea to visit with uncommitted Roselle Catholic senior guard Matt Bullock, too. All that kid's done is win four New Jersey state titles and two TOCs.
"They've gotta get something before the year's done, I don't know if there's anybody still loose," Hurley said. "They need to add to the roster, and then start the rebuilding process for the future."
5. Meet with the area's top high school and AAU coaches immediately
When Chris Mullin got the job at St. John's, he brought in many of New York's top high school and AAU guys and shared a single message.
"Chris Mullin brought us all in and he said, 'Listen, we can do all the things we want to do right here at St. John's University,'" Bright said. "He brought in Matt Abdelmassih, who did a great job at Iowa State [as an assistant], he brought in Slice [Barry Rohrssen], he brought in guys who have been here, done it, and can get in the trenches. And Rutgers can't be high and lofty, either. They've gotta have guys who get in the trenches with us."
"It's not just New Jersey, he has to go into New York," Bright added before Pikiell was hired. "He's gotta deal with Munch [Terrance Williams of the PSA Cardinals], he's gotta deal with [Dana] Dingle [of the NY Lightning], he's gotta deal with Andy [Borman of the Rens], he's gotta deal with these guys. He's gotta bring them all together and say, 'Listen, we can do everything we want to do right here in New Jersey.'"
So Pikiell needs to immediately meet or reach out to everyone I've mentioned above, along with guys like Roselle Catholic coach Dave Boff (who I'm told he's already spoken with), St. Pat's coach Chris Chavannes, Hudson Catholic coach Nick Mariniello, Blair Academy coach Joe Mantegna, Pope John XXIII coach Jason Hasson, Seton Hall Prep coach Kevin Williams, as well as New York guys like Cardozo's Ron Naclerio, Christ the King's Joe Arbitello, Mount Vernon's Bob Cimmino, Thomas Jefferson's Bud Pollard and Lincoln's Tiny Morton.
All you have to do is look at the NCAA Tournament to see all the talent that came from New York and New Jersey playing for other schools.
Sports U alone had 13 kids in the Big Dance, including Maryland's Jared Nickens, St. Joe's DeAndre' Bembry, Temple's Josh Brown, Vanderbilt's Wade Baldwin and Wichita State's Markis McDuffie.
There has always been talent in the Garden State. Pikiell's challenge -- like that of Eddie Jordan, Mike Rice, Freddie Hill and Gary Waters before him -- is to keep it home.
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