It was 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, and Hofstra assistant coach Mo Cassara was in his dorm room — where he and the rest of the staff had been calling home since being hired five weeks ago.
Cassara was putting together a list — a recruiting list, albeit not your typical one. “I was putting together a list of people in and out of the business to call for a job,” Cassara said. “I was thinking I may be out of basketball.”
The following morning he went to sleep at about the same time as the head coach.
Cassara, 36, has gone through a virtual whirlwind over the past two months. First, he was blindsided when Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo opted to cut ties with Al Skinner, putting Cassara and the rest of Skinner’s staff on the unemployment line.
However, Cassara found work quickly, landing a spot on Tim Welsh’s staff at Hofstra. He had been in Hempstead for about a month when he heard the news last Friday that Welsh had been arrested after being caught driving while intoxicated.
Cassara was worried he’d be back on the unemployment line again, but this time, he knew he wouldn’t be as fortunate to land as quickly as the last.
Essentially Cassara was a third assistant in the ACC, a guy who Skinner didn’t give the leeway to go out and do what he does best: recruit.
Cassara put together arguably the most potent prep school team in the past decade while going 90-21 at Worcester Academy. He coached current NBA guys Jarrett Jack and Craig Smith in the prep school ranks.
Cassara also worked for a year under Brian Gregory at Dayton, spent a couple years as the head coach at Division III Clark University and has been with Skinner at BC for the past four seasons.
But there was a pecking order with Skinner, and Cassara was the new guy on the staff. He had to wait his turn, as Pat Duquette did when he was the third assistant under Bill Coen and Ed Cooley.
Finally, Cassara was set to be able to get out and recruit under Welsh — and he wasted little time in the past month doing so.
But everything changed Friday, and Cassara’s cage was rattled again when word spread of Welsh’s arrest.
There was uncertainty over the next few days whether Welsh would be let go — especially since he had yet to coach a game for the Pride.
“I had no idea what was going to happen,” Cassara said.
Then his worst fears became reality on Monday when Welsh resigned.
Cassara went into scramble mode — along with DeMeo and Griffin — in an attempt to keep the players in the program on solid footing and try to retain their own jobs as well.
Cassara was hopeful that maybe the next coach would keep the staff and was secretly pulling for Skinner, whose name began to spread as a legitimate candidate for the job. Then, Cassara received a call Tuesday morning from athletic director Jack Hayes about going into meet with school president Stuart Rabinowitz. He threw a suit on and wound up in the office for about an hour.
“It turned out to be the start of the process,” Cassara said. “But I had no clue it would turn into an interview.”
Even after the so-called interview, Cassara still didn’t think it would be a reality that he would be offered the job the following day. Just about everyone felt that DeMeo, who worked under Welsh at Providence and was the head coach at Division II Newberry College, would be the logical pick.
Many of the players went to the administration in support of the trio of Cassara, DeMeo and Griffin.
“We talked to the AD and voiced our opinion,” said Hofstra guard Mike Moore. “We told them we liked the staff and didn’t want to change again.”
Cassara was then offered a multi-year deal to replace Welsh as the permanent head coach Wednesday afternoon, and just like that, he went from nearly unemployed to the head coach of one of the more highly regarded mid-major programs in the Northeast — and maybe the country.
“Nobody knew it, but it was like a five-week interview process for him,” Hayes said shortly after officially announcing Cassara as the new coach.
“I’m very fortunate,” Cassara said. “I know that. I owe a lot to Jack Hayes, Stuart Rabonowitz and (associate AD) Danny McCabe. I know they are taking a leap of faith with me.”
“But we’ve got a great staff here. You aren’t going to find two better coaches than Steve DeMeo and Allen Griffin,” he added. “This is a program that Jay Wright built and Tom Pecora has done an incredible job with. He left us with a really good team.”
The Pride were 19-15 last season and return the CAA Player of the Year in Charles Jenkins and four of its top six players. If no one else transfers out of the program, it’s a team that could challenge for the league title next season.
Cassara remains in scramble mode — but not for another job.
“It’s surreal,” Cassara said. “It really is. It’s been a crazy week.”