Among the three assistant coaches that Steve Pikiell hired in April once he took over at Rutgers, Jay Young was the least known for most fans. Associate head coach Karl Hobbs won Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honors in 2006 and led George Washington to the NCAA tournament three times. Of course, he was also a longtime assistant at UConn, where he was a part of two national championship teams. Brandin Knight was one of the best players in recent Big East history at Pitt and served as a longtime assistant under Jamie Dixon there the past 8 seasons. He will be key in developing the backcourt for Rutgers.
Young has an established pedigree in his own right, having been an assistant coach at Stony Brook for all 11 seasons during Pikiell's tenure, with the last 7 as his top assistant. He is known as a master defensive strategist and was in charge of developing frontcourt players at Stony Brook under Pikiell. His bio from the school credits him with the development of Dallis Joyner, a 3-star undersized forward who left Stony Brook an all-conference player and is second all-time in rebounding in their program's history.
Of course, Young also coached Jameel Warney, who became Defensive Player of the Year twice, after beginning his career as the America East Rookie of the Year, in addition to his three consecutive America East Player of the Year awards. Warney said in this article what a great relationship they have and how he values Young's opinion "more than anything in the world." Warney is projected by most sites to be drafted in the second round of the NBA Draft on Thursday.
Last season, Rutgers was one of the worst defensive teams in the country. Jay Young is going to change that. Young ran a defense under Pikiell last season that allowed just 63.4 points per game, tops in the America East conference. He also specializes in the frontcourt regarding player development. Stony Brook traditionally ranked in the top 20 of Division I each season in rebounding margin. Both are areas that Rutgers needs major improvement in for next season.
The frontcourt of Rutgers is raw, but they have size and ability. They need to be coached and developed. Young's philosophy and coaching style seems to be exactly what is needed. RVision posted a video of Young working with the Rutgers bigs this week and it is a great watch. Young has a hands on style and is building sweat equity in his own right at practices. From the video, Young had this to say:
"I don't want to be one of those guys who just sits on the sidelines telling them what to do and not kind of going through the motions with them. I have this philosophy that we are all in this together."
"We are going to be better dramatically defensively with an emphasis on rebounding the basketball."
That is a far cry from last season's declaration from Eddie Jordan that teaching rebounding is not in his package as a coach. Young is setting an example and forcing change by sheer force and will.
With Candido Sa already working out (Young refers to Dido in the video), and Issa Thiam expected next week per Jerry Carino, Young will have four players 6'9" or taller to work with. The others are Ibrahima Diallo, who missed the majority of last season with injuries, and Shaq Doorson, who missed the entire season with a leg injury. Added to the mix are 6'7" forward Deshawn Freeman, who only played seven games due to injury, and 6'6" forward Jonathan Laurent. There is talent to mold with this group and Young seems like the perfect coach to do just that. With two juniors, three sophomores, and one freshman comprising the frontcourt, Young has a nucleus in which he can develop for multiple seasons.
Young wasn't coach Pikiell's splashiest hire, but he may be his most crucial one regarding on court improvement next season. While depth is an issue heading into next season, one thing seems for sure, defense and rebounding will be better thanks to Young.