Queens Village native named new Hofstra coach

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Less than 24 hours after Jay Wright left to become the new head coach at Villanova University, Hofstra found his replacement. The search began and ended with Tom Pecora, as the Queens Village native was introduced as the new men's basketball coach at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

"I consider myself a very lucky person," he said. "I learned at an early age to have passion for what you do and I do love my job and I also have a tremendous passion for Hofstra and I'm honored to be here."

After helping build Hofstra into a quality mid-major Division I program for seven years as an assistant under Wright, Pecora becomes the 10th coach in 54 years of basketball at the Hempstead school. While details of his contract were not disclosed, Pecora inked a five-year deal believed to be in the neighborhood of $100,000 to $125,000 a year.

Pecora, 43, inherits a Hofstra program that has won back-to-back America East titles, advanced to the NCAA tournament two straight years and built a 50-12 record in three years. Hofstra will move to the more competitive Colonial Athletic Association next year.

"There's a saying, 'It takes a village to raise a child,' and I truly believe that," Pecora said. "Seven years ago we came here to Hofstra to rebuild a basketball program and it was a rebirth of sorts. We started out crawling, and eventually we got to walking and then we crawled again, then we walked and eventually we got to running and we did that the last few seasons."

After his name was linked with numerous vacant coaching positions, including Rutgers and Villanova, Wright ended weeks of speculation Tuesday by filling the void at Villanova after Steve Lappas resigned to take the job at the University of Massachusetts. By the time Wright finally accepted the job, Pecora had been used to dealing with rumors surrounding his close friend.

"A few years ago it happened with Fordham [when Nick Macarchuk resigned to take over Stony Brook], last year there were murmurs about [St. John's head coach Mike] Jarvis leaving and Jay might be a candidate there," Pecora said. "A day or so ago my wife [Mary Beth] and I were looking at each other and I said we're not even excited about this yet. When it happens, it's going to happen, but we've been down this road before."

To find a replacement for Wright, Hofstra decided to buck the recent trend of extensive, nationwide searches. According to the school's athletic director, Harry Royce, there was no need.

"We didn't involve other persons because we thought how it would go," he said. "It just would've been an unnecessary step to open this up to some type of interview process. Not when we knew all along what we wanted to do."

Instead, Royce sat down with Hofstra president James M. Shuart and, after Shuart met with some of the Board of Trustees and came back with a unanimous decision, they informed Pecora Tuesday night.

"They knew the ramifications of dragging out a process," Pecora said. "They wanted to show New York City and Long Island basketball people they weren't going to flinch and the program is going to continue to grow and I think this is the best way for them to do it."

Pecora said he spoke to Wright briefly Tuesday night and left a message for him on Wednesday morning.

"I said 'Pinch yourself, but it's not a dream - you are at Villanova and I am here," he said. "It couldn't have worked out better. Our wives were on the phone last night because they were so happy."

Pecora, a graduate of Martin Van Buren High School, is known as a brilliant recruiter with strong New York City ties. After spending nine years as an assistant coach at Division I schools University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Loyola Marymount University and Hofstra, Pecora finally has his first head coaching job since heading the program at SUNY-Farmingdale from 1987-92. Before that he was an assistant at Nassau Community College and Long Island Lutheran High School after graduating from Adelphi.

"It's a thrill," he said. "I was out west and it was beautiful, but I was a fish out of water. I needed to get back to New York and be with my roots. It's just great for me."

Pecora will retain Bayside resident David Duke, who was also an assistant under Wright for one year, as an assistant coach and will hire two additional assistant coaches over the next few weeks. It is not believed he will hire any area high school or AAU coaches.

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