When a background check conducted by South Florida officials showed prospective coach Steve Masiello had not graduated from Kentucky as he previously claimed, the revelation left Manhattan administrators with a difficult decision to make.
Ultimately, it appears Manhattan has decided the potential for future success under Masiello outweighs the discrepancy on his resume. The school announced Monday afternoon it will reinstate Masiello once he completes the requisite work to earn his degree from Kentucky this summer.
Masiello has been on leave at Manhattan since March 26 when reports first surfaced that South Florida had backed out of a verbal agreement to hire him away from the Jaspers because of the discovery he had not finished his degree. Associate head coach Matt Grady will lead Manhattan as interim head coach while Masiello is finishing his remaining coursework.
“After an extensive review of the situation and extenuating circumstances, we determined that Mr. Masiello executed poor judgment but did not intentionally misrepresent himself in applying to the College," Manhattan president Brennan O’Donnell said in a statement released by the school. "After participating in graduation ceremonies at the University of Kentucky, he enrolled in summer courses with the intention of completing his degree, but never followed through to make sure that the degree was awarded."
The timing of Manhattan's announcement is surely no coincidence. By waiting until less than five hours before tipoff of the national title game, Manhattan ensured as little national publicity as possible for its decision to retain Masiello.
Also noteworthy is that O'Donnell goes out of his way in his statement to frame the issue with Masiello's resume as "poor judgment" rather than an outright lie. That's important because other coaches have lost high-profile jobs in the past for falsifying details on their resume.
In 2001, Notre Dame hired Georgia Tech football coach George O'Leary only to fire him a few days later when it became clear he had lied about playing football for the University of New Hampshire and earning a graduate degree from Stony Brook. In 2004, Louisiana-Lafayette had to fire Glynn Cyprien weeks after he accepted the school's men's basketball head coaching job because he did not graduate from Texas-San Antonio as he claimed on his resume and his other degrees came from unaccredited diploma mills.
It's easy to see why Manhattan had reason to be more lenient with Masiello.
The former player and coach under Rick Pitino was considered one of the rising stars of the coaching industry prior to this incident. In three seasons at Manhattan, he led the Jaspers to a 60-39 record, two postseason appearances and the school's first NCAA bid since 2004.
In the same statement released by Manhattan, Masiello expressed relief the school took him back but also stopped short of admitting to a lie.
“I am extremely grateful and humbled by the opportunity to continue as the head men’s basketball coach at Manhattan College,” Masiello said. “I made a mistake that could have cost me my job at an institution I love. Details matter. Manhattan College has shown me a great deal of compassion and trust during this process, and I will do everything in my power to uphold that trust."
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