Steve Pikiell Agrees to Extension at Rutgers

Rutgers fans rejoice. Head Coach Steve Pikiell has agreed to a long-term contract extension keeping him in Piscataway for the foreseeable future. This is huge news for a program that has been a laughing-stock in college basketball for many years, but is finely beginning to trend in the right direction. The number of years or salary of this extension are unknown right now. The deal is expected to be approved later today.

In 2016, Pikiell left Stony Brook after reaching the NCAA tournament and signed a five-year contract with Rutgers. His average salary on his initial deal was $1.6 million per year. While the school had him locked in until 2021, they were wise to extend him sooner rather than later. Pikiell is certainly moving the program in its most promising direction since 2013, when they were still a part of the Big East Conference.

Pikiell hasn’t turned RU into a powerhouse in two years on campus. He hasn’t made them a tournament team or a threat to win the Big Ten. No coach could have done that in two years with the program he inherited. What Pikiell has done however, was change that attitude within the locker room and outside perspective surrounding the program. In doing so, it’s led to the type of marquee wins that help move a program out of the basement.

In year one at Rutgers, Pikiell went 15-18 and 3-15 in the Big Ten. Those are numbers on par with that of Eddie Jordan in his tenure at RU. This year Rutgers is sitting at 11-6 and 1-3 in early Big Ten play. Only time will tell if this season is much different from last from a record standpoint, but it’s clear this team is different.

Corey Sanders hoists the Garden State Classic trophy after Rutgers shocks Seton Hall in Piscataway

One of those 11 wins came against in-state rival, Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights upset the nationally ranked Pirates at home in December, claiming bragging rights in the state of New Jersey for at least one year. The win was followed by a court storming, something junior guard Corey Sanders said he hasn’t seen in his time on campus. And while wins like this are great for the program, Pikiell knows there is still a lot of work to be done.

And that’s another reason Rutgers was smart to lock him up. He’s a good recruiter.

Pikiell was fortunate to inherit Sanders, who has been the team’s leading scorer each of the last three seasons. This year however, Sanders is getting some help from the outside. Freshman guard Geo Baker has been great, averaging 11.6 points a game and leading the team with 3.7 assists per contest. Mamadou Doucoure has also provided solid role minutes in his first collegiate season. These are pieces that Pikiell and his staff brought in themselves. And there’s more help coming.

Pikiell has landed the commitment of John Carroll’s Montez Mathis, ranked the 93rd best player in the Class of 2018 by ESPN. Mathis, along with Baker and Sanders, will give Rutgers a three-headed attack from the outside. Mathis committed to Rutgers because he wanted to be a part in turning the program around. He will hopefully start a trend of top ranked recruits choosing Rutgers as a destination.

This isn’t an article handing out a participation trophy. Pikiell and Rutgers don’t get moral victories for winning one game or landing one recruit. There’s still a lot to be written in the story of Steve Pikiell and Rutgers Basketball. Today’s news told us that this story will be extended a couple of chapters. Based on the early recruitment, change in culture and overall vibe surrounding the program, Rutgers made the right decision in extending that story.