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Former Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell loses heartbreaker; his Rutgers team eliminated from NCAA Tourney

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Steve Pikiell grew up in an Irish Catholic family.

Unfortunately for the former Stony Brook men’s basketball coach, his team was playing the Fighting Irish in a game that ended on St. Patrick’s Day.

Pikiell’s Scarlet Knights lost a heartbreaker to Notre Dame early Thursday morning, falling 89-87 in a wild double-overtime in a First Four game.

For the uninitiated, the First Four is a play-in game between teams who didn’t win automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. The winner of these games advance to the first round of the tournament.

“They were just one possession better than us,” Pikiell said after the game in a post-game interview.

Tip-off for the game was Wednesday night, but the back and forth classic lasted more than three hours.  Paul Atkinson Jr. rebounded a missed shot and put back a layup with 1.4 seconds left to give the Irish an 89-87 win and put them into a first-round West Region contest.

Pikiell was named Rutger’s coach in 2016, and faced a daunting task competing in the Big Ten.

But he has surpassed expectations, compiling a record of 98-91 and reaching back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.

This was the first time in more than 40 years Rutgers had made back-to-back tournament appearances, both courtesy of Pikiell.

“Thirty years of coaching I’ve never had a group like this,” said Pikiell. “By far my best team. By far.”

Nearly 17 years ago, Pikiell was named head coach of Stony Brook men’s basketball.

For more than a decade, he coached on Long Island and in 2016 led the Seawolves to their first NCAA Tournament appearance. 

Earlier this month, Pikiell was rewarded for his success when he and Rutgers agreed to a four-year contract extension and is set to make another $16 million under the deal.  

Top: Rutgers’ head coach Steve Pikiell yells from the bench during a First Four game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament against Notre Dame, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Dayton, Ohio. Notre Dame won 89-87 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)