Minutemen Select Steve Lappas as Head Basketball Coach
March 26, 2001
Amherst, Mass. -- University of Massachusetts Athletic Director Bob Marcum announced today that Steve Lappas has been hired as the 19th head coach in the 92-year history of the Massachusetts men's basketball program.
Lappas comes to UMass after nine highly-successful seasons at Villanova University, where he guided the Wildcats to a 174-110 (.613) record. The 47-year-old Lappas owns a 230-172 (.572) mark in 13 seasons as a Division I head coach, including a four-year stint at Manhattan College.
In nine seasons as head coach at Villanova, Lappas took the Wildcats to postseason play seven times (four NCAAs, three NITs), including each of the past three seasons. His 2000-01 team finished 18-13 overall, 8-8 in the Big East (third-place tie in the East division) and played in the NIT.
Lappas-coached `Nova teams averaged 19.3 wins per season (20.8 wins over his last eight seasons), and reached the 20-win mark six times. In addition, his squads won at least 10 Big East games five times and posted a .500 or better league record seven times during his tenure. He is one of only four coaches in Villanova history to win at least 150 games, and his 97 career Big East victories (includes nine conference tournament wins) rank sixth all-time in league history (third among active league coaches behind Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Connecticut's Jim Calhoun). Since 1993, no Big East team has put together more 20-win seasons than the Wildcats (six).
Five Wildcat players were drafted by the NBA during Lappas' stint as head coach, including lottery picks Kerry Kittles (eighth selection by the New Jersey Nets in 1996) and Tim Thomas (seventh pick by the New Jersey Nets in 1997). In his 13 seasons all-told at Villanova, he coached nine NBA players.
Lappas went to Villanova as an assistant coach in 1984 and in his first season was a member of Coach Rollie Massimino's staff that led the Wildcats to their only NCAA championship in 1985. In his four seasons as an assistant at `Nova, the Wildcats posted an 87-53 (.621) record and twice advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
In 1988, Lappas left Villanova to become head coach at Manhattan College, where he directed a remarkable turnaround of the Jaspers' hoop fortunes. The New York, N.Y., native improved his victory total every season at Manhattan, from seven wins in his first campaign to 11 in year two, 13 in his third year and 25 in his fourth and final season (1991-92). He earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year honors in his last campaign, as he led the Jaspers to the MAAC regular-season title and the third round of the NIT.
In the eight seasons prior to Lappas' arrival at Manhattan, the school had won just 75 games from 1980 through 1988. In addition to reaping league Coach of the Year honors in 1992, he also earned National Association of Basketball Writers District II Coach of the Year recognition and was selected as the New York Metropolitan Coach of the Year.
From Manhattan, Lappas returned to Villanova as head coach, and after a year of rebuilding in 1993, his 1994 squad finished 20-12, posting the school's first 20-win season since 1988, and captured the school's first National Invitation Tournament title. The Wildcats won 14 of their final 17 games, and Lappas was recognized as the Coach of the Year in the East region by Basketball Times and Big East Briefs for his efforts, and received a Special Recognition Award from the Philadelphia Big Five.
In 1995, Lappas' third season on the Main Line, Villanova finished 25-8 overall and set a school record for Big East victories (14). The Wildcats won the school's first-ever Big East Conference Tournament title (beating UConn in the title game) and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four seasons. He was presented with the Harry Litwack Award as the Eastern Coach of the Year by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association, earned Big Five Coach of the Year and was a finalist for AP and Naismith College national Coach of the Year honors.
The next year (1996), Villanova won a school-record 26 games (against only seven losses) and again played in the NCAA Tournament. Along the way, Villanova also reached its highest ranking ever in the Associated Press poll, checking in at No. 2 in December. Kittles became Villanova's first player to earn Big East Most Outstanding Player honors.
Year five (1997) of the Lappas' era saw the Wildcats claim the school's first Big East regular-season title since 1983, as Villanova went 24-10 overall and 12-6 in the league. Thomas became the first Wildcat in school history to earn National Freshman-of-the-Year honors, as the school earned its third-straight NCAA Tournament bid. It marked only the third time in Villanova history that the school reached the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons.
With the departure of four starters, three of whom went on to play in the NBA, Lappas' sixth VU team finished 12-17 overall in 1998. But, his 1999 squad bounced back to finish 21-11 overall and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time under his direction.
In 1999-2000, the Wildcats won 20 games for the sixth time in seven seasons, but were denied an NCAA Tournament berth and were forced to settle for an NIT bid. Lappas posted a pair of career milestones during the season, as he earned his 200th victory as a college head coach on Jan. 12, 2000, when Villanova downed La Salle (80-72). A few weeks later, Lappas picked up his 150th win as the head coach at VU when the Wildcats beat crosstown rival St. Joseph's, 68-61.
A 1977 graduate of City College of New York (bachelor's degree in education), Lappas began his coaching career as a volunteer coach at York College for one season, followed by a one-year stint as an assistant coach at Fort Lee High School. He then took over the reigns of the Bronx' Harry S. Truman High School program in 1979, where he coached until 1984 when he joined the Villanova staff. Lappas compiled a 91-32 record at Truman, including a 27-3 record in 1983-84 when his squad captured the New York State Class A title. He was a two-time New York Daily News Coach-of-the-Year.
A three-year letterwinner in basketball at CCNY and team captain as a junior, Steve and his wife Harriet are the parents of two children, Kristen (13) and Peter (10). Steve and Harriet have been active in the Philadelphia area, working with the Coaches vs. Cancer team and Special Olympics.
In addition to Lappas' personal involvement in the Philadelphia community, his team was active in the community, too. The Wildcats have made visits to Children's Hospital, participated in a campus beautification service project at Olney High School and been a part of the school's pen pal program with area middle schools.
Lappas replaces James "Bruiser" Flint, who was UMass' coach for the past five seasons and finished his career with an 86-72 record.
Steve Lappas' Year-by-Year Head Coaching Record Overall Conference Year School W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Place Postseason 2000-01 Villanova 18-13 .581 8-8 .500 3rd (TE) NIT (0-1) 1999-00 Villanova 20-13 .606 8-8 .500 6th (T) NIT (1-1) 1998-99 Villanova 21-11 .656 10-8 .556 4th (T) NCAA (0-1) 1997-98 Villanova 12-17 .414 8-10 .444 4th 1996-97 Villanova 24-10 .706 12-6 .667 1st (T) NCAA (1-1) 1995-96 Villanova 26-7 .788 14-4 .778 2nd NCAA (1-1) 1994-95 Villanova% 25-8 .758 14-4 .778 2nd NCAA (0-1) 1993-94 Villanova 20-12 .626 10-8 .556 4th (T) NIT Champions (5-0) 1992-93 Villanova 8-19 .296 3-15 .158 10th Nine-Year Totals 174-110 .613 87-71 .551 Four NCAA, Three NIT
1991-92 Manhattan 25-9 .735 13-3 .813 1st NIT (2-1) 1990-91 Manhattan 13-15 .464 8-8 .500 5th 1989-90 Manhattan 11-17 .393 7-9 .438 3rd (T) 1988-89 Manhattan 7-21 .250 3-11 .214 7th Four-Year Totals 56-62 .475 31-31 .500 One NIT
13-Year Career Totals 230-172 .572 119-105 .556 Four NCAA, Four NIT
%-Big East Tournament Champion.
As a Division I Assistant Coach Overall Conference Year School W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Place Postseason 1987-88 Villanova 24-13 .648 9-7 .563 3rd (T) NCAA (3-1) 1986-87 Villanova 15-16 .484 6-10 .375 6th NIT (0-1) 1985-86 Villanova 23-14 .648 10-6 .625 4th NCAA (1-1) 1984-85 Villanova 25-10 .714 9-7 .563 3rd (T) NCAA Champions (6-0) Four-Year Totals 87-53 .621 34-30 .531 Three NCAA, One NIT
In 13 seasons as a head coach, Steve Lappas has...
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