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Parrotta building momentum

Tom Parrotta has been a head coach for half a season. But already, he feels a kinship with the winningest coach in Division I history.

"Bobby Knight said something that really hit home with me," the Canisius College coach said Thursday. "You get over a win a lot quicker than a loss. It's very true. After a win, a day goes by and then it's 'Now what?' So my stomach has been going all week."

Last Saturday, the Griffs recorded a resounding home win over Marist, the MAAC co-leader. It was the biggest win of Parrotta's young career.

After such a big win, you can't wait for the next test. Parrotta got a full week off, seven days of anguish before the Griffs' annual two-game trip to Manhattan and Iona this weekend.

The Griffs are 9-10, 4-5 in the league. That's about what Parrotta expected. He's searching for consistency and a winning foundation for a program that went 50-96 in the last five years.

"I would like to think we're competitive right now," Parrotta said. "That was the plan. I think we had to establish we weren't going to be taken lightly anymore. I know it's corny, but I like that the whole foundation is being set now."

Parrotta doesn't have an especially talented roster. But from the start, the Griffs have played hard for him. Parrotta has his players practice diving for loose balls. Practices are shorter these days, but they're still diving.

He inherited three seniors -- Darnell Wilson, Chuck Harris and Corey Herring -- who hadn't won much in college. Parrotta told them they could have senior seasons to remember. One day, when the program turned the corner, they could say they were part of the foundation.

"I like to think the better days are ahead of me, coaching-wise," Parrotta said. "I have a lot to learn. I give [Canisius] credit for hiring me, because they took a leap of faith. They could have gotten an established head coach who's called a timeout. I'll screw up along the way. But as time goes, I'll get better at it."

Parrotta, 40, possesses the vital qualities you look for in a coach. He can reach players, and he can recognize talent. He recruited the key players on a Hofstra team that went 47-16 the last two years. That includes two Buffalo-area kids, Loren Stokes and Chris Gadley.

Parrotta would love to pull an upset in the MAAC tourney, as Canisius did in John Beilein's first year. But the real breakthrough is a year or two down the road. Next year, Parrotta brings in a five-man freshman class that's being called the Griffs' best in 25 years.

Frank Turner, this year's star freshman, will be an all-conference player before he's done. Turner was a key find for Parrotta -- a true point guard and leader, an extension of the coach. If next year's freshmen are as good as advertised, the Koessler Center will be an exciting place in the coming years.

Until Saturday, the Griffs had played their last four home games before crowds of under 900. People are still skeptical after so many losing seasons. But Parrotta is confident the fans will show up if the product improves.

"I remember when I got to Niagara [in 1995], there might have been 200 people there," Parrotta said. "The environment wasn't what it is now. When I went to Hofstra, it was the same thing. There was nobody there."

On Wednesday night, Parrotta met in a local restaurant with some boosters and former Canisius players, including Tony Masiello. They discussed ways to get the students and the business community more involved with the program.

Someone said it's like pushing a boulder and waiting for it to gather momentum. Parrotta is pushing, and momentum is slowly building. Wait a year or so and it could really be rolling.


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