Wednesday, October 27, 2010
New Faces, New Places: Glenn Braica
By Dana O'Neil
The biggest adjustment: pointing his car in the opposite direction out of the driveway.
Otherwise, the move to St. Francis (N.Y.) has been pretty seamless for Glenn Braica.
In a profession where coaches are typically forced to change addresses more often than their underwear, Braica has climbed the ladder to head coach without leaving the state of New York. Braica grew up in Brooklyn, was educated in Queens, got his first coaching job at New York Tech, his second at St. Francis and his third at St. John’s.
And now he’s back where he started, in Brooklyn Heights with the Terriers.
“I don’t like change,’’ Braica laughed. “I know some people run around the country chasing jobs. That’s never been for me.’’
But really, Braica didn’t have to crisscross zip codes to get what he wanted. In fact, his stay-put mentality really was among his best selling points.
Braica knows New York, and more, knows the New York high schools. In a city teeming with talent, he has made a career out of finding it. While at St. John’s, he helped convince Rob Thomas, Malik Boothe, Justin Burrell, Dwight Hardy and Malik Stith all to stay home.
“There’s something to be said for being able to walk into a gym and everyone knows who you are,’’ Braica said. “You don’t have to go out and build relationships. They’re already established.’’
Perhaps as vital as his Big Apple lineage is Braica’s previous St. Francis ties. He spent 15 years on the sidelines under former UNLV assistant Ron Ganulin, helping make the Terriers a player in the Northeast Conference. With his help, St. Francis finished with a .500 or better record in seven consecutive seasons, produced a player of the year, six first-team all-conference selections, two players that led the conference in scoring and two NEC rookies of the year.
More, St. Francis twice won the NEC regular-season title.
And therein lies the caveat. In each of those championship seasons -- 2001 and 2004 -- the Terriers were upset in the conference tournament, failing to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Consequently, St. Francis’ NCAA streak stands at 0-for-forever, having never tasted the joy of a Selection Sunday. Since the Terriers are the oldest collegiate program in New York City -- dating back to 1896 -- that’s a long line of futility.
Needless to say, Braica knows his charge.
“We can get back to that level of producing championship teams,’’ Braica said. “That’s what we’re aiming for.’’
But, Braica admits, the plan is a long-term one. It’s been a long time since St. Francis fielded a contender, let alone a winner. The Terriers haven’t finished at .500 since the 2004 season, enduring a woeful run of disappointment that has resulted in 10 or fewer wins in four of the past five seasons.
Braica, though, isn’t daunted. Thanks to his first go-round, he has the benefit of perspective and sees changes in both the university and the administration that leads him to believe change is in the air.
He also knows that nothing will happen overnight.
“When Ron Ganulin worked for Jerry Tarkanian, he said Tark never cared about wins and losses,’’ Braica said. “Right now we’ve got to work on just getting better. In a league like ours, where everything is on that one bid, there’s so much pressure on these kids. We don’t need to put on more right now.’’
The good news? Braica has something to work with. The Terriers return four of their five starters, including Ricky Cadell, who has led the team in scoring the past two seasons.
The bad news? Those players only could muster eight conference victories last season.
But let’s not rain on Braica’s parade.
The man is sitting in a head coach’s chair without moving out of his neighborhood.
“I live between here and St. John’s,’’ Braica said. “I used to go about 20 minutes east on the Expressway to get to St. John’s. Now I just go 10 minutes west to get to St. Francis.’’