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The 2011-12 Northeast Conference men's basketball season was filled with terrific performances, and the architects of three of the league's top programs were honored this week as National Association of Basketball Coaches District 18 Tri-Coaches of the Year. Jim Ferry, who led LIU Brooklyn to a second straight NEC title was recognized, along with Robert Morris' Andrew Toole and St. Francis (NY)'s Glenn Braica.
Ferry guided the LIU Brooklyn men's basketball program to the NEC regular-season and tournament championships for a second straight year. The Blackbirds went 25-9, compiling 25 or more wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 70 years. LIU was 16-2 in NEC play for the second straight season, matching a program record for league wins. The two-year winning percentage of .889 was a conference record. The Blackbirds have won 27 straight games at home, which stands as the second-longest active streak in the nation behind Kentucky (52 games).
Ferry guided a team that featured NEC Player of the Year Julian Boyd and fellow All-NEC First Teamer Jamal Olasewere. Sophomore Jason Brickman was named to the All-NEC Second Team and the trio of players all earned spots on the NEC All-Tournament Team as the Blackbirds defeated Robert Morris, 90-73, for the conference crown on March 7. In addition, Boyd and Olasewere were named to the NABC All-District First Team, with Brickman garnering a spot on the second team. Boyd is also a finalist for the Lou Henson Mid-Major Player of the Year Award after being selected to the Lou Henson All-America Team by College Insider.
Despite a roster that features just one senior for the second straight year, second-year head coach Andrew Toole led the Colonials to an overall record of 26-11 in 2011-12, including a mark of 13-5 (.722) in the NEC that helped Robert Morris earn the No. 3 seed in the 2012 NEC Tournament. RMU advanced to its fourth straight NEC Tournament championship game before suffering a 90-73 setback @ LIU Brooklyn (3/7/12).
Robert Morris made its fourth postseason appearance in the last five years by taking part in the 2012 CIT. The Colonials beat both Indiana State and Toledo on the road before falling at Fairfield on Wednesday. The Colonials appeared in the NIT in 2008 while earning back-to-back berths in the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2010.
Toole is at the helm of an RMU program that has experienced unprecedented success over the last five years. The Colonials own NEC records for victories over the span of three, four and five years. Since the beginning of the 2007-08 season when Toole joined the staff, Robert Morris owns an overall record of 117-55 (.680), with the 117 victories both a school and NEC record for a five-year span.
In just his second year directing f the St. Francis (NY) program, Braica has transformed the Terriers into NEC contenders, perhaps quicker than many expected. The Terriers were picked 11th in the preseason coaches poll after losing a pair of all-stars in Akeem Bennett and Ricky Cadell who combined for nearly 2,500 career points and finished the year as the #4 seed in the Northeast Conference Tournament.
With starting point guard Dre Calloway sidelined by a season-ending injury in late November, St. Francis got off to a slow start, but began turning things around once the new- year arrived. Over the next month, the Terriers began to build momentum and won nine-of-ten games to vault into the upper tier of the Northeast Conference standings.
By year's end, St. Francis had won 12 league contests, the most for the program since 2003-04. Braica has been able to seamlessly incorporate a number of new faces into the lineup, and with balanced scoring, a commitment to rebounding and a trio of long range bombers at his disposal, found the magic formula for success