Canisius names Hofstra assistant Parrotta as coach

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Tom Parrotta understands the challenge he faces in rebuilding Canisius College's basketball program.

Introduced as the head coach Monday, the former Hofstra assistant recalled his first meeting with Golden Griffins players last weekend.

Asking them to describe a certain game from last season, Parrotta was surprised by what he heard: The players couldn't remember the outcome of a game they had won.

"One kid told me, 'We were so used to losing that I just figured we had lost,' " Parrotta said. "When you talk about vision, that's what has to change here right now. ... I need to talk to those kids to let them know that the culture is going to change here."

Parrotta, 39, accepted his first head coaching position, taking over a program that went 9-20 last season, the Golden Griffins' fourth 20-loss season in seven years. He replaces Mike MacDonald, who was fired last month after nine years.

Athletic director Bill Maher cited Parrotta's energy and vision and noted his experience in helping rebuild programs as an assistant coach.

"You want someone who's been able to help turn programs around," Maher said.

At Hofstra, Parrotta worked under Tom Pecora in helping the Pride rebuild after Jay Wright's departure in 2001. After three losing seasons, Hofstra rebounded to post consecutive 20-win seasons, including a 26-7 finish and an NIT berth last season.

Parrotta also spent six years at Niagara, where he helped turn around a team that had five straight losing seasons before Joe Mihalich's arrival in 1998.

Parrotta's role as a recruiter played a factor for both teams. He was credited for recruiting Juan Mendez and Alvin Cruz at Niagara, two star players who eventually helped the Purple Eagles to an NCAA Tournament berth last year.

At Hofstra, he helped bring in star junior guard Loren Stokes.

Pecora and Hofstra AD Jack Hayes both traveled to Buffalo to attend Parrotta's first news conference.

"I think he brings immediate legitimacy," Pecora said. "Bittersweet's the term, but I knew it was time for him when this opportunity came up."

Parrotta's work at Niagara makes him familiar with western New York and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. He also was an assistant at Nazareth College in Rochester and a star player for Fordham when the team competed in the MAAC in the 1980s.

At Fordham, Parrotta also played one year under former Canisius coach Nick Macarchuk.

The Golden Griffins are a once-proud program that enjoyed four NCAA Tournament berths, the last in 1996.

"I'm very much aware of the community here and the great history that is Canisius College," Parrotta said. "It's going to be a challenge and I'm looking forward to it. ... It's going to take rolling up your sleeves, hard work and refusing to lose."