Rod Strickland hopes to give LIU a big assist

July 11, 2022 Andy Furman
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He is the godfather of current NBA player Kyrie Irving.

But he won’t be fleeing from Brooklyn anytime soon.

“I’m here for the long haul,” Rod Strickland told the Eagle the other day. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of developing and helping youngsters.” 

The new basketball coach at Long Island University certainly has a track-record of longevity – and staying in one place for a long time.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The first-round draft selection of the New York Knicks in 1988 managed to hang around the NBA long enough for a 17-year career.

“I’ve always had an itch to be on the court; to be coaching,” he said. “As for the LIU deal, I was ready, and the timing was right.”

But why LIU?

“Well, it peaked my interest for sure,” he said, “and you know I’m a New York City guy. It just seemed right.”

Rod Strickland has played at the highest levels of basketball, but still refers lovingly to the hoops played in his home in the Bronx.

“I tell people the purest basketball is right here,” he said.

He was something special on the playgrounds of the city. He played for the New York Gauchos, and while a junior he led Harry S. Truman High School of the Bronx in Co-Op City to the state championship and was ranked as one of the top 10 high school recruits in the nation.

As a senior, he transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.

Steve Lappas was coach at Truman when Strickland transferred there after his freshman year at Brother Rice High School.

Lappas, who later went on to coach Manhattan College and Villanova had his brother John as an assistant coach at Truman.

“The first time Strickland came into the gym and dribbled the ball I looked at my brother and said, ‘I think this is what a pro looks like when he’s 15 years old,’” said Lappas to NBA reporters, when he was coaching at Villanova.  “He was a skinny little thing, about five-foot-nine-inches, and 130 pounds…He was like a piano virtuoso.”

But the New York City kid bolted to Chicago for college where he scored 1,448 points for DePaul in 87 games for a 16.6 points-per-game average.

“DePaul,” he said, “was a top 10 program at the time, and they had a pipeline to New York and New Jersey for players. I was a big fan the way they played.”

He also admits he was a fan of Kenny Patterson, a 6-1 guard out of Forest Hills, New York, who was a third-round pick of the Indiana Pacers in 1985, after his DePaul career. 

The Strickland resume is a good one.

Seven NBA teams in a 17-year career; 1,094 games and a 13.2 points-per-game average. In fact, from 1990 to 2000 he averaged double-digits every season with an 18.9 per-game high in 94-95 with the Portland Trailblazers.

Other uniforms he wore – San Antonio Spurs, Washington Bullets and Wizards, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets.

“That was then,” he said, “now, my job is getting these players better. Now it’s time for me to get these kids better. To add value to their game.

“My career was from ’88 to 2005,” he continued, “that’s over now.”

Now is the challenge of taking the Sharks of Long Island University to the next level in basketball.

And that may be the biggest challenge Strickland has faced in the game of basketball.

The Sharks have reached post-season play in the NCAA Tournament just five times in the past 26 years – the most recent invite came in the 2017-18 season when they were bounced in the first round by Radford, 71-61.

Rod Strickland led the NBA is assists in the 1997-98 season and is 13th on the career list in that category.

The 55-year-old new coach of the Sharks just may give LIU the basketball assist that program has been looking for the past decade.

One thing is for sure – he plans on being at the school for the long haul.

“And,” he said, “if I don’t move to Brooklyn, I’ll be pretty close.”

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected];  Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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