Owner Gary Nice wanted someone with an ideal grasp of Western New York basketball culture to lead the Buffalo Rapids into their first season in the American Basketball Association.
That's why the selection of Rich Jacob makes so much sense.
Jacob, a college basketball coach in Western New York over the last 25 years, was officially named the Rapids' coach and general manager Tuesday when he agreed to a four-year deal. Terms were not disclosed.
The Rapids are one of 37 new teams scheduled to join the ABA for the 2005-06 season.
"The timing couldn't be better for basketball in Western New York," said Jacob, 46. "The work done by many of the coaches around here is the reason for that. I've been fortunate to practice my craft in my own backyard, and that's one of the reasons I'm getting this opportunity."
There aren't many places in the area where Jacob hasn't coached.
He has been an assistant coach at Niagara, the University at Buffalo and, most recently, Buffalo State under the now-retired Dick Bihr. He has been the coach at Niagara County Community College, Villa Maria, Daemen and Medaille, and athletics director at Villa Maria and Medaille. He has master's degrees from Canisius and Niagara, and he serves as an assistant professor and sport management degree coordinator at Medaille. This fall, he is scheduled to receive a doctorate in education from UB.
In 2000, Jacob started the sports management program at Medaille, which has helped him build relationships with the Bills, Sabres and Bisons. He has run youth camps in the area for years and has worked coaching clinics in five European countries. He has a strong relationship with former Knicks General Manager Scott Layden, who was his backcourt mate at Bishop Duffy/Niagara Catholic High School in the mid-'70s.
"He's devoted his life to basketball in Western New York, and this is just another step for him," said Canisius coach Mike MacDonald. "He loves the game of basketball and he loves Western New York, so I think it's a good fit."
Another Buffalo native, Kevin Cadle, a highly respected coach on the pro circuit in England, was strongly considered for the position. Nice also reached out to former NBA players -- including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- but says Jacob is a better fit.
"Not only is he very talented as a coach, but he believes in education and helping basketball go further than just the game," Nice said. "He has really strong connections in the NBA. He's everything I needed a coach and general manager to be. I really wanted someone from Buffalo."
The next steps for the Rapids are landing a venue for next season -- Erie Community College and Buffalo State remain options -- and building the team around local talent, perhaps starting with former Bennett and NBA guard Trevor Ruffin. The 34-year-old Ruffin has become somewhat of a summer basketball legend with his 50-point outbursts.
Former college prospects include St. Bonaventure guard Tim Winn, Canisius' Brian Dux and Jon Ferris, UB's Modie Cox, Turner Battle and Mark Bortz, and former local high school stars such as Leonard Stokes and Julius Page.
"We have some local talent that's looking to help us right away," Jacob said. "We want to attract people on the brink of the NBA. We want as many local players as possible, but there's no shortage of players around the world, and we have the whole world to look for players, and we intend to do that."