|Hometown:||New Britain, Conn.|
Coaching: Assistant Coach, Hofstra, 1985-88 Assistant Coach, St. Thomas Aquinas College, 1988-89 Associate Head Coach, Mattatuck Community College, 1990-91 Head Coach, Mattatuck Community College, 1991-92 Head Coach, Athletic Director, St. Thomas Aquinas High, 1993-97 Assistant Coach, Rhode Island, 1997-99 Head Coach, Rhode Island, 1999-present
So much for the Honeymoon.
When Jerry DeGregorio was named the 17th head coach in Rhode Island history on April 15, 1999 following the departure (twice) of Jim Harrick, the 38-year old native of Bronx, N.Y. probably thought he would have had time to bask in the glow of his new position.
DeGregorio must have thought that all of the pieces of the puzzle were falling into place with all-everything Lamar Odom planning to return for his second season in a Rhode Island uniform and the best recruiting class in school history ready to sign with the Rams.
Odom, a first-team All-Atlantic 10 Conference pick in his first season in a Rhode Island uniform, led the Rams to their third straight NCAA Tournament berth. It was Odom's long three-pointer at the buzzer that lifted the Rams to a victory over Temple for Rhode Island's first-ever conference championship and the automatic NCAA Tournament slot.
But the departure of Odom to the NBA where he was the draft's fourth pick, going to the Los Angeles Clippers, coupled with Harrick's exit to Georgia, brought DeGregorio's recruiting hopes crashing down.
DeGregorio, who earned a reputation as a top-notch recruiter in his two years as an assistant coach, had lined up the best recruiting class in school history. But Harrick's sudden departure left the recruits scurrying to other destinations. The 1999 recruiting class included Croatian native Ivan Bracic and junior college big man Joe Casper, both of whom have since transferred, along New York prep star Brian Woodward, who sat out the season. The newcomers combined to average just 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds per game.
When talented forward Ed Brown was declared academically ineligible DeGregorio was forced to appeal to the student body for help. Four walk-ons were added to fill out the roster. Justin Henry, a member of the football team, played the role of enforcer while Mike Jilling, Toby Guidry and Tay Prescott all saw action during the season. In late December, Howard Smith, a point guard from Texas, joined the team just prior to the SunClassic in El Paso.
Injuries torpedoed his first year as head coach at Rhode Island. Starting forward Tiger Womack was lost at mid-season with a broken foot. He appeared in just 13 games while averaging 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds. Starting center Luther Clay suffered an eye injury in mid-February that ended his season after he scored the 1,000th point of his career. After averaging 12.4 points and a team-best 8.0 rebounds per game, Clay was a 10th round (96th overall) draft pick of the CBA's Connecticut Pride.
On Nov. 21, in DeGregorio's first game as headman of the Rams, Tulsa bolted to a 15-0 lead in the game's opening minutes and the Hurricane cruised to a 91-66 victory. The game was only a foreshadowing of things to come for the affable coach.
The Rams spent the Thanksgiving holiday at the Big Island Invitational. Following an overtime loss to Santa Clara, the Rams reeled off victories over Cleveland State and Mercer to return from Hawaii with a 2-2 record. The Rams nudged above the .500-mark with a 77-71 win over state rival Brown on Dec. 1 in their next outing.
Injuries, coupled with lack of quality depth and game experience, spelled doom as the Rams lost 10 straight games before winning back-to-back Atlantic 10 games over La Salle on the road and Duquesne at Keaney Gymnasium. The Rams finished the year with 13 more defeats to end the season with a 5-25 (2-14 in Atlantic 10 play) worksheet.
Immediately following the season, DeGregorio hit the recruiting trail. The 2000-01 Rams will feature no fewer than eight new faces from the opening game a year ago. Dinno Daniels, a starter two years ago at Memphis, was added to run the point guard position, allowing Zach Marbury to move back to his natural swing guard slot. Woodward, who sat out the 1999-00 campaign, has been impressive and will vie for a starting guard slot, as well.
In addition, 6-9 prep standout Andre Scott and 6-8 Marcus Evans give the Rams size inside. The easy-going DeGregorio is modest and unpretentious. He has a blue-collar work ethic that dates back to his childhood. Born in New Britain, Conn., the personable DeGregorio grew up in the Little Italy section of the Bronx. His father, Nicola, was born in Italy and his mother, Celina, in Spain. He credits his father with instilling in him the importance of hard work and perseverance. His mother taught him about faith.
A center at St. Thomas Aquinas High in New Britain, Conn., DeGregorio decided to follow in the footsteps of his high school coach and mentor, Bill Cadarelli and become a teacher and coach. Getting a taste of collegiate coaching, he helped out at nearby Hofstra for three seasons under Coach Dick Berg. In 1988-89, he spent a year as an assistant at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, N.Y.
Following a year off to work on his master's degree at Hofstra, he moved on to Mattatuck Community College in Waterbury, Conn. where the Chiefs finished with a 26-4 record in 1989-90. He was promoted to head coach and the team finished fourth in the nation with a 28-3 mark. The 1991-92 team produced two All-Americans and led the nation in scoring, averaging 112 points per game.
DeGregorio was named athletic director and head basketball coach at his high school alma mater, St. Thomas Aquinas, in 1992. The winning ways continued as his team compiled a four-year coaching record of 65-35, never having a losing season. His final St. Thomas Aquinas High team posted a 17-7 record and advanced to the state tournament semifinals.
DeGregorio, whose major role as an assistant coach was as recruiting coordinator, brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the country and the best in Ram history. The group of newcomers was considered the best recruiting class in America by Bob Gibbons of the All Star Sports Report, No. 2 by Athlon Sports and No. 4 by the Hoop Scoop.
In his two years as an assistant coach at Rhode Island, the Rams advanced to the Elite Eight in 1997-98 when they finished 25-9 and were ranked 11th in the nation. The 1998-99 squad won the school's first-ever Atlantic 10 championship and earned a NCAA berth for the third straight year. The Rams posted a 45-22 (.672) log in his two seasons as an assistant.
When Harrick left Rhode Island for the head coaching position at Georgia, DeGregorio was the overwhelming favorite for the job. At the annual Basketball Awards Banquet, frequent chants of Jerry ... Jerry ... Jerry, reminiscent of the Jerry Springer Show, could be heard throughout the banquet hall.
A packed house was on hand on April 15, 1999 where DeGregorio was introduced as the 17th head coach in Rhode Island basketball history. "Jerry is well-known and well-liked by our boosters, fans and players," Athletic Director Ron Petro said at the time. "He's been a major part of the success of Rhode Island basketball over the last two seasons and is a proven recruiter and motivator. He impressed the search committee with his commitment, loyalty and emphasis on academic achievement."
Off the court, DeGregorio is an avid reader with a book collection that numbers well over 1,000. It's no surprise that the former history teacher's favorite literary subjects revolve around American presidential politics, Supreme Court cases, the War Between the States and the Vietnam War. DeGregorio is a movie buff with a video library that includes some 600 titles.
Active in the community, he has established a charitable foundation to support local charities including the Christian Fellowship Center in Bristol, Conn., which sponsors a soup kitchen and a home for single mothers.
A lifelong New York Yankees' fan, DeGregorio resides in Narragansett, R.I.