Not much has been reported about why Manhattan College fired basketball coach Steve Masiello at the worst possible time.  Hoops fans here were stunned to learn the news when it broke 10-25-22 because Masiello was shown the door just 12 days before Manhattan’s season opener at Virginia Commonwealth.  

Manhattan was a team on the rise with a senior-dominated roster built to make a run at a Big Dance bid this season.  Masiello had become a fixture at Manhattan over 11 seasons.  His fiery  sideline demeanor and concerted efforts to mine hard-working and tough recruits made him popular at the small Catholic school on a big hill in Riverdale.  

Manhattan’s A-D Marianne Reilly put out a statement concurrent with the boisterous, incredulous Twitter reaction from NYC hoops fans the day the Masiello news came down.  It was a nonsensical explanation.  Said Reilly in part via press release posted on the athletics web page:   “As we look to building successful teams for the future — and with the signing period approaching — we determined that it is time to begin rebuilding from the top down.”

Masiello was entering the final year of his contract.  If Reilly foresaw a stalemate on a new deal – or wanted a new coach – the window of time to execute that decision came after the end of last season – or after the end of the current season.  Not days before the schedule starts.  The cruel timing of Reilly’s decision prompted the team’s star player Jose Perez (and two other likely starters – Omar Silverio and Samba Diallo) to walk away from the Manhattan program with school already well into the session.  Perez had been touted as the preseason player of the year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.  When he heard the news on Masiello, Perez said he wanted off the team.  He was immediately swarmed with offers.  Perez soon packed his belongings for Morgantown, WV.  He will play for Bob Huggins and WVU once the NCAA sorts out his eligibility.  

Firing Masiello less than two weeks before the opener ruined Manhattan’s season.  It’s unfair to the players who effusively professed love for their coach and linked their enrollment decisions to play for him – not the institution.  

Is there more to this than a contract extension tussle?  There’s been no deep digging.  These types of pretty big NYC sports stories used to be blanketed by coverage.  Unfortunately, the traditional print outlets in this market have all but quit covering college athletics.  Manhattan College’s school newspaper has done a couple stories this calendar year suggesting minor problems in the program.  One involved payment for team meals and such and the other featured a beef by a grad student who didn’t like Masiello’s handling of a scholarship question.       

Masiello has said nothing publicly.  His Twitter feed is stacked with recent entries from assorted low-profile pontificators posting vaguely-worded philosophical takes on life challenges.  As a collection of thoughts since the firing (none of them written by Masiello – rather – he either “liked” or retweeted them), it’s not clear what led to his termination from his perspective.

I would assume Manhattan will pay out on Masiello’s final year – and I would also assume that if there were some scandal or wrongdoing that led to the dismissal – the AD would be compelled to disclose that given Masiello’s popularity.  

As a fan of Masiello, it was with great delight that I saw him this past Friday night in Hempstead, NY sitting behind the left shoulder of Iona head coach Rick Pitino.  Pitino and Masiello go way back and Pitino in this instance has his friend’s back.  What must be the irony of all ironies for the leadership at Manhattan is that Masiello has rebounded – and is now coaching (as an unpaid friend) for Iona which is probably Manhattan’s number one rival in the Metro Atlantic. 

Throughout Iona’s exciting five point loss to Speedy Claxton’s Hofstra squad Friday night, Masiello was active verbally, in the ear of Pitino.  Wearing an Iona polo shirt, Masiello (pictured above – coming out of halftime intermission) didn’t join huddles but he was strategically positioned with a folding chair closest to the head coach.  He joined the post-game handshake line and accepted numerous well-wishes from both Hofstra and Iona fans. 

I almost didn’t get into the game.  After a two and a half hour trip via two trains and a bus to get out there in a rainstorm, I arrived at the box office to a posted sign that said there were no tickets available.  The sign suggested checking Hofstra’s ticketing page on the athletics web site.  With game time approaching, I tried to buy a single ticket and came up empty after about 20 minutes of repeated attempts.  Just as I was about to give up and return home, a premium seat popped up.  28 bucks with charges.   Center court five rows up.

My final full day in Paris took me to Saint-Cloud and an eight race all-flat card on the grass.  I’d been to St.-Cloud on previous visits to Paris but the weather was beautiful Monday so I couldn’t resist going back.  

With schoolkids in France on a two-week Autumn break, there were a lot of adults with their children on hand to see the horses.  It was a more festive vibe than on previous visits.  Just five euros to get in.  I don’t bet on the French races given my unfamiliarity with the sport there but I love how they’re presented.  At St.-Cloud, big fields of classy horses bred mostly in France, Ireland and the UK (with a few German-breds too) are paraded in two separate walking rings in advance of the race – and then unsaddled and inspected afterwards in a small, enclosed space near the grandstand afterwards.  Jocks, trainers, owners, grooms all converge in this space while horses circle in tight quarters.  Watching this play out while attempting to eavesdrop on the interactions was great fun.  The jockey Sophie Chuette was especially animated and appeared happy describing her two notably strong closing rides for the Mikel Delzangles barn.    

Italian apprentice jock Andrea Cottu won the second race with a big late rush aboard Port Au Prince for Delzangles.  It was the second race in France ever for Cottu.  He’s just sixteeen years old.  

Old pop music played between races on the sound system.  The Robert Palmer tune “Johnny and Mary” came on between the 5th and 6th.  I hadn’t heard it in forever.  “Mary always hedges her bets, She never knows what to think…”  It sounded perfect.  A race track song, for sure. 

The ham and cheese on a baguette from the track concession was great.  

Rain started on the way back to the hotel.  It was the only time the weather was anything other than great the entire 11-day trip.  

I abandoned my plan to take an RER train to the airport for my Tuesday morning flight home.  I saw a tweet from RATP (the public transit operator in Paris) Monday night about overnight construction on the B line and stewed about it as I laid in bed in advance of an early wake-up to make the 518 AM train.  Even if the train was on time, it could have been a scramble to make the 920 AM flight home.  The RATP tweet suggested possible delays coming out of the overnight work.  So, when I checked out of the hotel at 415 AM, I asked the clerk about lining up a taxi.    

My driver looked fatigued on arrival and he was driving a little erratically on the highway, so my anxiety kicked in hard.  I asked him if he spoke English.  He said no.  So, I threw down some basic questions in French purely to promote alertness, engagement and my own sanity.  He became animated.  He was fine.  My desperate attempt to gauge his fitness worked almost immediately.  He said he had just started his shift.  He discussed a recent trip to the states which included a visit to see a wealthy sister in California.  I became completely comfortable. 

The fare was 62 euros.  I gave him 75.  We shook hands.  

The airport process was a piece of cake.  No lines at any point.  Flight was good.  Back to work on Sunday.  Gotta pay the piper now, keep the head down with hopes of a return to France in late 2023.  For those going to Paris anytime soon, I offer this tip.  Take a stroll down two great streets in two distinctly different Paris neighborhoods:  1.  rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th (especially the stretch near Passage Brady – and especially at night when it’s totally jumping) and 2. rue Daguerre in the 14th.