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Consistency is Key: Extend Chris Ash and Steve Pikiell This Year

Pat Hobbs is a smart AD and he knows adding on to the coaches’ deals will only strengthen Rutgers

NCAA Basketball: Illinois at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Politi beat me to the punch.

After Saturday’s dramatic win over Maryland, Chris Ash reached the four total wins most predicted for this season. He did with three games still to go and he did it the hard way, losing to EMU but beating three Big Ten teams. Ash’s squad is rounding into form and clearly his defense are buying into what he’s selling. Recruits are taking notice to.

So, after this season is over, Chris Ash deserves an extension. Two more years added on to his current deal. Prove to recruits that he’s not going anywhere. He’s not getting fired. Show the media that Rutgers is building things the right way. Pat Hobbs is being patient. I could go on and on about what Ash has had to deal with after taking over for Flood.

He had a thin roster to build upon. He had possible NCAA violations up in the air to deal with on the recruiting trail. And yet, Ash keeps going out there and doing the work. The team practices hard and the defense, though wearing down through injuries in the secondary, is showing a resiliency that hasn’t been seen on the Banks in at least 5 years and maybe more. In just a year and half, Ash has a team that isn’t the worst team in the toughest college division. He’s climbing the ladder. Just imagine how exciting the team will be once they add offensive depth.

With the relentless way Ash recruits, high school coaches and players need to know that Rutgers isn’t about to cut bait anytime soon. Have Ash sign on the dotted line.

But we need to take it one step further. In March, Steve Pikiell deserves to be extended as well.

Think about what Pikiell has done in just 20 short months. He took a program that was in tatters and turned them into grinders on defense and opportunists on offense. He took a team that won 7 games, filled out the roster with his type of players and more than doubled those wins. The team went to overtime with Wisconsin and would have won if the game was at the RAC. They beat Penn State on the road. The beat Nebraska. They beat an Illinois team that appeared ticketed to the NCAAs and then went into the Big Ten Tournament and won a game. That was—excuse the phrase—knight and day better than things had been.

Then he went out and landed the best recruiting class Rutgers has seen since the early Mike Rice years. Montez Mathis, Ron Harper, Jr. and Shaq Carter are more pieces that will line up with Geo Baker, Mamadou Doucoure, Myles, Johnson, Peter Kiss, Issa Thiam and Eugene Omoruyi to turn the ship around in the future.

And yesterday, in an exhibition, he beat a team that is one of the more talented teams they’ll face this season. Sure, they’re not the best coached team, but Pikiell ran circles around Chris Mullin and shows that Rutgers won’t beat itself. And yes, it was an exhibition, but the second half was impressive. The Scarlet Knights squad isn’t mega talented yet. It appears, however, they are building on last year’s turnaround. Rutgers had a killer instinct in their eye, and St. John’s too the game seriously as well—as evidenced by Shamorie Ponds nearly throwing fisticuffs at Freeman in the second half. Things in sports can change dramatically from day-to-day, but it appears things are looking up. Rutgers did not look like the worst team in the Big Ten yesterday. We’ll have to watch it play out over the season, that’s the next step, much like Chris Ash, get this team out of the basement.

I’m making a lot of assumptions about the season to come for Pikiell. If Mike Williams is out for an extended period of time, that will hurt. Hope for good news on that end. The build still continues. Pikiell still has to reel in even more talent.

And, that said, he’s in with some big names in the 2019 class and Pat Hobbs has a chance to show those recruits that Steve Pikiell will be here as well. The 2019 class has potential to be the one that puts Rutgers and Pikiell over the top. Pikiell in deep with players like Paul Mulcahy, Eric Dixon, and Aundre Hyatt. Adding two more years to Pikiell’s contract will show those players that the school isn’t going to just willy-nilly fire Pikiell. He’s in it for the long haul.

Early returns give off the sense that success is coming soon for both basketball and football. Some people will be shocked that success can happen at Rutgers and think that there’s no way either coach will stick around for the long term. Teams in search of coaches might try to poach.

Which is why Hobbs has to be even more savvy. Not only does he have to extend these coaches to make sure recruits know they will be around, but he has to up the buyout on the contracts to scare other teams off.

So far, over the past two years, Pat Hobbs has made the right move after the right move. He knows consistency and patience is key.

The next step, then, is to make sure he coaches are here for a long time. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe, lock them up soon.

And keep the train rolling. Extending Stringer was the first move. Next up is Ash, then hopefully Pik

With success of the horizon, Pat Hobbs can beat other ADs to the punch.