The Jaspers took a tumble downhill as soon as Bobby Gonzalez bounced for a better coaching job at Seton Hall. Gonzalez left big shoes for Barry Rohrssen to fill, but the former Pitt assistant coach was expected to be successful in bringing in top recruits from New York City.
Seven roster spots to fill left Rohrssen with a lot of work to do in his first offseason in Riverdale, but he was able to complete his squad by the start of the 2006-07 season.
A handful of his recruits showed potential in their freshman seasons.
Rohrssen brought in an even better three-man class for 2007-08. However, he was unable to maintain Rashad Green, who transferred to the University of San Francisco.
Of the nine players that Rohrssen brought in on scholarship, Darryl Crawford is the only one who has noticeably improved. Other than Crawford, the other Jaspers have either stayed steady or declined.
Devon Austin, who is the only Jasper left from the Gonzalez era, was a sophomore in Rohrssen's first season. Austin was hyped up, and Manhattan fans thought that Gonzalez got a steal in Austin. The small-forward from White Plains showed tremendous ability and potential as a freshman on the Jasper team that upset Maryland in the 2006 NIT.
Under Rohrssen, Austin has not enhanced his game.
Antoine Pearson, part of Rohrssen's first Jasper recruiting class, was impressive as a freshman and led the team in scoring as a sophomore. The only part of his game that improved was his three-point shooting.
Pearson has a special talent of being able to drive to the basket—almost at will against the competition that Manhattan faces—but Rohrssen has not allowed his point guard to play his style.
At the beginning of this season, Rohrssen neglected to start Pearson.
Patrick Bouli has declined, so has Jamel Ferguson. Andrew Gabriel and Brandon Adams have come through in the clutch occasionally, but they have not improved under Rohrssen.
No one knows what he was thinking when he brought in Herve Banogle. The center from Cameroon is not a Division I player. He can put in a layup from underneath the basket and grab rebounds—only because of his size—but he would foul a mannequin if it set foot on the court.
Rohrssen got lucky that Chris Smith was ineligible at Seton Hall, but he has not been able to handle the younger brother of J.R.
Smith is a talent. He may be the best scorer on the team, but Rohrssen does not run the proper offense for Smith—or any other Jasper, for that matter.
Rohrssen thinks that standing around and passing the ball works. Somehow, he doesn't realize that the Jaspers play worse in that offensive set than when they run.
He built a team that was meant to run, yet he refuses to let them loose.
Pearson is one of the quickest guards in the MAAC. Crawford is one of the most athletic guards in the MAAC. Smith would flourish on transition threes and mid-range pullups. Austin would see much better shot opportunities in a running offense.
Although they appear lazy and sluggish, Gabriel and Laurence Jolicoeur have played well in running stretches.
Brandon Adams and Jamel Ferguson would give their legs for the success of the team. They hustle more than any player on the team—with good coaching, they could have developed into solid MAAC players.
Nick Walsh is the purest shooter on the Jaspers, but he is too small to prosper in a stand-still offense. If Manhattan runs, Walsh will be able to contribute with transition threes—he shot 51 percent from deep last season.
The point is Rohrssen needs to incorporate a running game. Even starting by setting picks—yes, they only set about three screens a game—the offense will see more options.
It doesn't make sense that a coach could be so blind.
The offense is not the only problem. The hustle defense has improved, but the Jaspers still struggle to defend the perimeter. Every season under Rohrssen, the team has given up open look after open look from deep. Rohrssen has done nothing to mitigate the weakness on the perimeter.
Obviously, Rohrssen has done something right. The team is 7-4 and three of their losses were by two, three, and four points—don't forget that they were 6-3 in the non-conference last season. With a better coach, this team would have won those three close games.
The only double-digit loss of the season was against American. Rohrssen showed no control over his players and responded to sluggish play by emptying his bench. Manhattan came back, but Rohrssen left his bench in for too long and let the Eagles regain a double-digit lead before he brought back his starters.
There is no doubt that Rohrssen is a good recruiter. After seeing the players he has brought to Manhattan, I know he can sign good players. However, he has trouble coaching them and running a team.
He is a nice guy and a good recruiter, but he is not ready for a head coaching job.
I don't know what Manhattan will do if they fire Rohrssen. I don't even know if they can fire him. Some say they have to let him see his first recruits graduate, and if the team has not improved by then, he will be gone.
The future does not look too bright for the Jaspers...