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‘Heartbroken’ Cassara tries to steer Pride through a sticky situation while changes are forced to be made

By Angelo Brussich (Sports Editor)

Parents will get angry with their kids; it’s a fact of life. But not much was worse in younger years than knowing you had disappointed them. It was a look on their face that they weren’t angry, they were hurt. That was the face that Hofstra men’s basketball coach Mo Cassara wore while addressing the media for the first time about the four Hofstra players arrested on charges of burglary. “The word ‘heartbroken’ comes to mind,” said Cassara. “Challenging, but like I said, we’re going to persevere and we’re going to keep working hard, and just work on getting even better.  I told our team that today, we’re going to focus on getting better.” But getting better sure is hard when two of the team’s starters and two other scholarship bench players are not on the team. “I think the mood in the athletic department was that this is a very disappointing situation, [for] all of us,” said Hofstra Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway. “People that have been here 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, and people like me that have been here five months, we have deep Pride, and we work  every day to do the best that we can to move this athletic program and to make it something that the University and the University’s extended community is proud of.” Sophomore guard Shaquille Stokes and freshman forward Jimmy Hall have played well as starters, putting up impressive numbers. Freshman guards Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin have been effective off the bench. Now they are all gone. “I’ve been here a little over two years, and there’s been some fabulous days here,” said Cassara. “I think about hanging Charles Jenkins’ jersey in the rafters, I think about winning the most CAA games we’ve ever won, and there’s been some challenging ones too; and that was a challenging day, a challenging meeting.” Could this have been prevented? Or were these student athletes just people who lost sight of right and wrong and began to make the wrong decisions? “Just like those of us that have kids, it’s the same thing that we say to them,” said Hathaway. “Who you’re around, where you’re at, the situations you find yourself in; and making sure that you understand the responsibility and accountability of being a Hofstra student athlete.” This game was supposed to be a fun match of Mo Cassara versus the legendary basketball coach Larry Brown of the SMU Mustangs, but with this news breaking just a day before the match, the game became an afterthought. Not often does Brown walk into a press conference full of reporters who have nothing to ask him. He walked in, sat down, looked around and after a few seconds of awkward silence said, “So how about those Knicks?” Cassara said, “I think Larry Brown has forgotten more basketball than I know, a Hall of Fame coach, and he gave me a couple of real positive words before the game. He said I wanted to come down and spend a couple of minutes with you, you’ve got some good players, and you’ve got a good team, you’ve just got to keep working hard, and I’m sorry for what you’re going through right now.” Hofstra cannot waste the season away, but with NCAA rules preventing them from adding any more scholarship athletes during the season, the Pride will need to rally around those they already have. “You can’t reissue scholarship aid during the midseason in the sport of men’s basketball,” said Hathaway. “So a transfer or a situation like that is not going to be helpful... The nine guys we have on scholarship is who we’re going to play with, and the three walk-ons we have.” So what could have been done differently? Does Hofstra have to look at its recruitment process to try and prevent this kind of this from happening? “I can tell you that since I arrived in June,” said Hathaway, “Mo and I and other coaches have met on numerous occasions and we’ve had conversations about what our expectations are for a Hofstra student athlete.” He continued, “We’re going to do everything we can do to find out that we are bringing the very best people to this campus to wear Hofstra on their chest. I think from what I’ve seen in my time here that our basketball staff has done that.” Cassara is there for all recruitment of Hofstra players. He goes into the homes of these players to try and convince them and their parents that he can take them in and improve their skills on his team. “I love this university, I love Hofstra, I love coming to work here every day, I love the support staff, I love the people, I love our team,” said Cassara. “As I said earlier, I am incredibly disappointed, in fact heartbroken in many ways, so all I can do is work as hard as I can every day for a place that I love very much.” And it’s that love that made this hurt so bad.

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