Monday, May 28, 2018
Sports

USF Bulls seek to finalize deal with Steve Masiello

TAMPA — Almost 18 years to the day after one Rick Pitino disciple was hired to revive a foundering Sunshine State program, USF is hoping another can perform similar resuscitation.

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, a walk-on for Pitino at Kentucky and later one of his assistants at Louisville, reportedly has agreed to replace Stan Heath as Bulls coach.

Several national outlets — citing unnamed sources — reported Tuesday the deal was done, but the school made no official announcement amid rumors of prolonged negotiations.

Masiello and new USF athletic director Mark Harlan were believed to be meeting Tuesday in Dallas, near the headquarters of the private search firm employed by USF for $60,000 to help it find Heath's replacement.

CBSSports.com first reported that Masiello agreed to a five-year contract worth slightly more than $1 million annually. Manhattan's student newspaper reported Tuesday morning via Twitter that Masiello had informed the Jaspers players he had accepted the Bulls job.

While in Orlando for his team's second- and third-round NCAA Tournament games last weekend, Pitino told the Tampa Bay Times that Masiello had asked him about the USF job. "I said, 'For you it's a grand slam,' " Pitino said.

In a twist of timing, Thursday marks the 18-year anniversary of Florida's hiring of Billy Donovan who, like Masiello, played for Pitino (at Providence) and coached for him (at Kentucky).

Donovan, who has won two national titles at Florida, leads the top-ranked Gators into Thursday's Sweet 16 game against UCLA.

"I'm sure that the South Florida people, based on Rick Pitino's recommendation, are hoping and praying that they strike gold like when Rick recommended Billy Donovan to Florida," ESPN analyst and Basketball Hall of Famer Dick Vitale said.

"Rick was convinced that Billy would be a fantastic coach, and obviously he was right because Billy's headed to the Hall of Fame. Steve Masiello has a lot of those qualities. He's a great communicator, he has tremendous energy and enthusiasm."

A 36-year-old New York native and former Knicks ball boy, Masiello transformed the Manhattan program virtually overnight.

Winners of six games the season before his arrival, the Jaspers finished 21-13 in 2012 — the nation's biggest turnaround that year — and have gone 60-39 in Masiello's three seasons.

They earned their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title — and the conference's automatic NCAA berth —this season, losing to Louisville 71-64 in the second round despite leading late.

In his half-dozen years at Louisville, Masiello earned national acclaim for his recruiting chops, helping Pitino land four top-20 recruiting classes and four McDonald's All-Americans during his tenure.

In that span, national websites foxports.com and rivals.com named Masiello one of the nation's top 25 assistant coaches.

USF baseball coach Lelo Prado, whose tenure at Louisville (1996-2006) was briefly overlapped by Masiello's (2005-11), called Masiello "a great hire" Tuesday when it appeared an announcement was forthcoming at any time.

"I mean, everything I used to hear about this guy, he's going to be a star, he's a go-getter," Prado said. "I think they hired a great guy. … I think he'll go big-time into the community and I think it's a great hire."

A walk-on guard for Pitino and later Tubby Smith at Kentucky, his four seasons in Lexington amounted essentially to a coaching apprenticeship. Masiello totaled 42 career points in 215 total minutes but was on two Final Four teams, including the 'Cats' 1998 national title team.

"When we were around Rick, you could tell (Masiello) was a guy that just went about his business, did what he had to do, worked his tail off, and was a fun guy to be around," Prado said. "I think he's like a young Rick Pitino. He's a go-getter."

Counting the eight-week search for Harlan, USF will have paid $160,000 (not including expenses) to Plano, Texas-based Eastman & Beaudine in the past two months to help it land a new AD and basketball coach.

The newest contract for the men's basketball search, obtained Monday upon a records public-request by the Tampa Bay Times, was dated March 12, two days before Heath was fired. It was signed by Cynthia Visot, the USF Board of Trustees chief of staff, on behalf of President Judy Genshaft on March 18.

Comments
LeBron James, Cavs beat Celtics, advance to NBA Finals

LeBron James, Cavs beat Celtics, advance to NBA Finals

Times wiresBOSTON – LeBron James scored 35 points and played all 48 minutes Sunday night  to lead the Cavaliers to an 87-79 victory over the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to advance to the NBA Finals.James added 15 rebo...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

Rays journal: Reliever Austin Pruitt pitches nearly six scoreless innings for second career save

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RHP Austin Pruitt has started and worked out of the bullpen, in both short and long relief.But he did not expect to pick up his second career save Sunday by having to log 5⅔ innings, allowing only three hits whi...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rick Stroudís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Orioles game

Rick Stroudís takeaways from Sundayís Rays-Orioles game

So the team that just got back from a 10-day, 11-game road trip in three time zones is headed back out west for Memorial Day? The Rays travel to Oakland, Calif., Seattle and Washington, D.C. It's the first time they visited the West Coast on back-to-...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Martin Fennelly: A column to match Rays’ upside-down pitching

Martin Fennelly: A column to match Rays’ upside-down pitching

† In the spirit of the Rays' topsy-turvy pitching alignments, last goes first in this column. Go to the end to start reading. "The buy-in that we get, the buy-in to each other, and the team effort has been really fun to be part of to this point," C...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

Rays bats come alive with six-run rally to beat Orioles 8-3

ST. PETERSBURG — If you think the Rays are holding their pitching staff together with baling wire, duct tape and an overbooked shuttle to Triple-A Durham, a bigger story might be how their bats keep producing runs no matter who is swinging them...
Updated: 9 hours ago
For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

For starters: Rays RHP Sergio Romo opens the game for the second time in 48 hours vs. Orioles

ST. PETERSBURG – Speaking of openers, the Rays will start RHP Sergio Romo (1-1, 4.66 ERA) for the fourth time this season, the second time in 48 hours vs. the Orioles. The 35-year-old Romo did not make it out of the first inning Friday, allowin...
Published: 05/27/18
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Raysí closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Raysí closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegasí birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegasí birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Published: 05/26/18
Updated: 05/27/18
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says heís retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says heís retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Published: 05/26/18