CLEVELAND – The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team clinched two more trophies, a day before the Bulls set foot on the court in the MAC Tournament.
The MAC on Wednesday announced Nate Oats as the MAC coach of the year, and CJ Massinburg as the conference player of the year.
In Oats’ fourth season at the helm at UB, the Bulls are 28-3 and won the regular-season conference championship. Top-seeded UB opens the MAC Tournament at noon Thursday against No. 8 Akron.
Oats earned his second consecutive coach of the year honor, only the sixth time in league history that a coach has repeated as its coach of the year. UB set a program record for wins with 28 and a MAC record with 16 and has been ranked for 18 consecutive weeks, the most for a MAC school.
“It’s great to be honored for coach of the year, but I’m going to tell you, there’s been other years we didn’t do nearly as well that we worked a lot harder at coaching the team,” Oats said. “I had to work at it this year, but it almost feels like a well-oiled machine, with how good some of these kids are.”
Massinburg led UB in scoring at 18.5 points per game and scored in double figures in all but one game. He was second on the team in rebounding with 6.4 per game. Massinburg was named the MAC East player of the week six times during the season.
He enters the conference tournament with 1,910 career points, second in school history.
“It’s hard to keep (standards) at a high level, when everybody’s gunning for you every night out, and I think it speaks to where the program’s gotten itself to,” Oats said. “It speaks to the staff, and our staff chemistry is at an all-time high. Everybody is comfortable and knows their jobs.
“It’s the players, too. Our players have, obviously, outperformed their recruitment. CJ is not that highly recruited but is the player of the year in the conference and the national player of the year, so when you get really good players with great attitudes and the chemistry is great, the coaching is really easy.”
Oats might not be done collecting postseason honors as he is a semifinalist for the Naismith National Coach of the Year and a finalist for the Skip Prosser Award, which recognizes success on the court and integrity off the court among Division I men’s basketball coaches.
The awards cap a week in which Oats is also in the process of negotiating another contract extension with UB.
Oats said he doesn't have a deadline for a contract extension or terms, but told the News he is “100 percent confident that we’ll get something done here, shortly. I just don’t know when or what exactly it will be, but I’m not stressing over it. I’m concentrating on trying to coach the team. .”
“Last year, they had it done before the MAC Tournament was done and if they can come to an agreement with all the details, I’ll sign it before then,” Oats said. "I'm not in a rush. I'm not going to talk to anybody else about anything until the season's over. But it'd be nice if I don't have to talk to anybody."
In March of 2018, UB and Oats agreed to a five-year contract, obtained by the News through a FOIA request, that pays Oats a base salary of $600,000.
"I don't know where it's all at, but I know it's not far off, because I'm not asking for that much,” Oats said of negotiations to extend his current contract “I want to make sure it gets done. I’m not trying to milk them for every last penny I have, but when they get whatever needs to be hammered out, hammered out and it’s time to discuss with me, I told them to give me a call.”