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The New York Post
Howie Kussoy

In just a few days, one of the brightest futures in college basketball has become one of the most uncertain.

Less than a week after Steve Masiello nearly led 13th-seeded Manhattan to a stunning upset over defending national champion Louisville - in the Jaspers' first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years - the 36-year-old coach has been placed on leave by The Bronx school, the latest in a dizzying sequence of events.

Masiello was ready to leave Manhattan on his own, having been offered - and accepted - the vacant head coaching position at South Florida on Tuesday, but later that night the offer was rescinded after a search firm hired by the school discovered "a previously undetected discrepancy in his background check," according to the Tampa Tribune.

The Post has confirmed the discrepancy was the fact Masiello never graduated from the University of Kentucky, as was listed on his résumé and on his biography on the websites of the schools where he previously coached.

As a result, Manhattan has placed Masiello on leave, the school announced in a statement late Wednesday afternoon:

"As a result of a background check commissioned by the University of South Florida, Manhattan College has learned there is a question of the validity of head men's basketball coach Steve Masiello's undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky," the statement read.

"Masiello is currently in the process of reviewing his degree status with the University of Kentucky. Manhattan College has placed Masiello on leave while he completes this process with the University."

Masiello attended Kentucky from 1996-2000, when he was a walk-on with the Wildcats, but Kentucky officials were unwilling to comment on how many credits Masiello still needed in order to earn a degree.

A White Plains, N.Y., native, Masiello then spent one season as an assistant at Tulane before another four at Manhattan and six more under Rick Pitino at Louisville.

When Masiello applied for the Manhattan head coaching job in 2011, a bachelor's degree was a listed as a requirement for the position - as it was with South Florida - according to a source familiar with the situation.

Masiello, who has two years remaining on his contract with Manhattan, had agreed to a five-year deal worth more than $1 million per season to coach South Florida in the American Athletic Conference.

"During the search for a new men's basketball coach, an agreement in principle was reached by USF and candidate Steve Masiello," the University of South Florida said in a statement released Wednesday. "The agreement was pending a verification of credentials. Through the verification process it was determined the candidate's credentials could not be substantiated and therefore he did not meet the requirements for the position."

A similar situation occurred at Rutgers last year, when it was discovered new coach Eddie Jordan did not graduate from the school, though it was not a requirement of the job. Jordan stayed on as coach and is working toward finishing his degree.

After taking over a six-win Manhattan team in 2011, Masiello led the Jaspers to the biggest turnaround in Division I. In his second season, he took an injury-plagued team within one win of the NCAA Tournament, before ending the school's decade-long drought this month.

One day after the loss to Louisville, Manhattan athletic director Noah LeFevre told The Post the school would do everything in its power to retain Masiello as coach.

"I'm confident [he'll stay] because we're dedicated in doing everything that we can to have him be a member of the Manhattan community for many years to come," LeFevre said Friday. "I fully anticipate coach being our coach well into the future, meaning beyond his existing contract."

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Liars' club

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello is certainly not the first sports figure to pad his résumé or embellish his life story. Here are a few others:

In 1999, Blue Jays manager Tim Johnson was fired by the team in spring training of what would have been his second season. Johnson often had used stories from his time serving with the Marines in Vietnam as means of motivating his players. Turns out Johnson had trained recruits preparing to go to Vietnam but had never been there himself.

In 2001, George O'Leary (above) resigned five days after being named football coach at Notre Dame when it was learned he had never played football at the University of New Hampshire nor received a master's degree from NYU, as his résumé stated.

O'Leary is now coach at the University of Central Florida.

In 2010, Yale football coach Tom Williams was forced to resign after he concocted a story about being a Rhodes Scholar candidate while attending Stanford. In fact, Williams never even applied. Williams was exposed after his quarterback at Yale, Patrick Witt, had to decide whether to play versus Harvard or interview with the scholarship committee. Williams said he was faced with the same predicament as an undergraduate and chose to play.

In 2013, Rutgers hired former Scarlet Knights player Eddie Jordan to be its head basketball coach. In putting together his biography, the university's sports information office wrote that Jordan, who played at the school from 1973-77, had received his degree from the university when, in fact, he had not. Rutgers retained Jordan and he is currently taking classes to finish his degree.

howard.kussoy@nypost.com

March 27, 2014
 
 
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