Jon Teitel continues our season preview series by chatting with Iona coach Tim Cluess about how to replace the third-leading scorer in the nation.
You lost your leading scorer from last year (Momo Jones), whose 22.6 points-per-game was third in the nation. How will you be able to fill the offensive void left by his departure? We cannot fill it with one player so everyone will have to be a little better offensively and a lot better defensively.
Your non-conference road schedule includes trips to Kansas, Dayton, and Nevada, which of these three games do you feel will present your biggest test? Obviously playing Kansas at Kansas: there will not be anything bigger than that.
What are your expectations for the upcoming season? We always try to play for a championship in March.
In the 1979 NCAA tourney as a player at St. John’s under Coach Lou Carnesecca, Reggie Carter scored 21 points including a bank shot with three seconds left in a two-point win over Duke and Wayne McKoy scored 10 points including a shot with five seconds left in a two-point win over Rutgers. What is the key to winning close games in March? A little bit of luck! Hard work and preparation are also important: you have to concentrate on every play.
One of the players you coached at St. Mary’s High School was Danny Green, who won am NCAA title at North Carolina in 2009 and set a record for most three pointers made in an NBA Finals series last spring. How good was Green back in the day, and did you ever think he would make it to the NBA Finals? Danny was not the best player back then but constantly worked so hard at his game to improve every single year. At first I would have never thought he could make it that far, but now it does not surprise me at all.
In 2009 as coach at CW Post you led your team to a 24–0 regular season record: how were you able to keep your team focused for every single game that year? We just felt the target on our back got bigger and bigger after each game, so we had to work harder and harder to protect it.
You were hired at Iona in 2010, why did you take the job? I thought it was a great opportunity to be at a D-1 school in the metro New York area.
In the 2011 CIT title game Mike Glover had 22 points and 12 rebounds in a seven-point loss to Santa Clara. How much of a home-court advantage did you have, and what was the reaction like in your locker room afterward? Anytime you lose a game you are disappointed, but our fans were great and I was really proud of how competitive our guys were.
In the 2012 NCAA tourney Noah Hartsock scored 23 points in a six-point win by BYU. How were the Cougars able to come back from a massive 25-point deficit (the biggest comeback in NCAA tourney history)? We were up big when we had two guys get in foul trouble, and BYU’s size wore us down in the second half. We were as hot as could be in the 1st half, but missed a layup down the stretch: it was two completely different halves.
In the 2013 NCAA tourney Sam Thompson had a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds in a win by Ohio State in Dayton. What did your team learn from that game that you think can help you this year? Our guys understood that we were playing 1 of the best teams in the country. We do not face teams with the Buckeyes’ size and athleticism in the MAAC, so I hope we realize that it is important to share the ball and be a better defensive team. When you have not been there before it is a learning experience.