Eddie Jordan

Reports: Mike O’Koren, Greg Vetrone to join Rutgers coaching staff

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The 2013-14 season was a tough one for first-year Rutgers head coach Eddie Jordan, with his tenure beginning amidst controversy and the program going through its lone season as a member of the American Athletic Conference. The Scarlet Knights lost 21 games, the last of which being a 92-31 defeat at the hands of Louisville in the conference tournament.

Jordan felt the need to make changes to his coaching staff, with David Cox being fired and Kyle Triggs’ contract not being renewed. Wednesday it was reported by multiple outlets that the replacements have been found, with former Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Greg “Shoes” Vetrone and Mike O’Koren joining the Rutgers coaching staff.

They’ll join Van Macon, the lone holdover from last year’s staff and one of two assistants to survive the end of the Mike Rice era (Cox was the other).

The news has yet to be made official by the school, but it is expected that Vetrone and O’Koren will have their new roles in time to hit the road for the July open recruiting periods. There are three five-day periods during the month in which coaches can hit the road and watch targets play, the first of which runs from July 9-13.

On the hiring of Vetrone and O’Koren, Jerry Carino of Gannett New Jersey wrote the following about the issues with last year’s coaching staff and where O’Koren can help the Scarlet Knights:

In reshaping his staff, Jordan made chemistry a priority after some of his people did not see eye-to-eye during Rutgers’ 12-21 campaign. O’Koren, a good friend who is universally well-liked in hardwood circles, should help in that regard. He also figures to provide tactical and player development support, especially for Rutgers’ bigs.

These hires will be important ones for Rutgers as they look to take steps in the right direction in 2014-15. That will be tough however, with the program playing its first season in the Big Ten. While the American was certainly formidable at the top, the conference didn’t have the depth that the Big Ten possesses.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
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Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?