Steve Masiello was 60-39 in three years as Manhattan
's basketball coach. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)
UPDATE at 5 p.m.:
Manhattan has placed Steve Masiello on leave, according to a statement.
"Masiello is currently in the process of reviewing his degree status with the University of Kentucky," the statement read. "Manhattan College has placed Masiello on leave while he completes this process with the University."
On its website, Manhattan College bills itself as a "caring Lasallian Catholic community," a 22-acre patch of land just north of the actual island of Manhattan that promotes "faith, respect, education, community and social action." Of those five qualities, it may be the first that is most persuasive, one way or another, in determining whether Steve Masiello continues to coach the school's basketball team.
As of Tuesday evening, Masiello had reportedly agreed to become the new coach at South Florida. Hours later, Masiello had been removed from consideration, reportedly due to claiming a degree from Kentucky that he didn't have. A Kentucky spokesman confirmed to SI.com Wednesday morning that Masiello was a student in the college of communications from 1996-2000 but did not receive a degree.
This was predictably problematic, given that his bio on the Manhattan website describes Masiello as "a 2000 graduate of the University of Kentucky with a degree in communications." South Florida discovered the discrepancy on a background check, at least saving itself from having to later fire Masiello.
Manhattan has a different problem. Masiello never officially resigned, a spokesman confirmed, so this is now entirely the school's concern. As of Wednesday evening, it had inched ahead in attempting to resolve it: Manhattan put Masiello on leave while he reviews his "degree status" with Kentucky. The school's statement said it will be an "expedited process," and refrained from commenting further until it's over.
The details will be important here -- Is Masiello far short of a degree? Is he one class away? Did he fail to pay some parking tickets? -- but ultimately the administration has to decide whether it can welcome back a coach who is at worst a deliberate liar and at best careless, a coach who didn't want to be there anymore. Masiello's relationships with school president Dr. Brennan O'Donnell and athletic director Bob Byrnes may determine all. The 36-year-old Masiello may be considered a rising star in coaching, but it's his popularity and equity in those two offices that influences the direction of this saga.
No one can pretend that a false line on a resume ultimately matters as much as the NCAA tournament invite the Jaspers received this year. But all schools must maintain appearances. Realistically, it isn't as concerned with appearances as, say, Notre Dame was with the George O'Leary fiasco, but that's because no school can be as concerned with appearances as Notre Dame. The more accurate analogy is Georgia Tech not welcoming O'Leary back; but then Rutgers hired Eddie Jordan, discovered he didn't have the degree he said he did, and stuck by its new coach. There is precedent either way, and the decision could go either way.
So everyone waits on the completion of the "degree review." If Manhattan decides to keep Masiello, the solution is simple: The coach apologizes publicly, and the school reduces his pay and/or suspends him for a few games of the 2014-15 season. He is a basketball coach who lied about a college degree. That is more idiotic than insidious; and if every college coach who lied was out of a job, there would be zero college basketball coaches. In this scenario, Manhattan does something to preserve its integrity while claiming it acted in accordance with its own values.
But if Manhattan isn't inclined to welcome back Masiello, it's a defensible position. Masiello should have known better, a long time ago. Now he'll have to wait and see just how much faith runs through Manhattan College.