Iona introduces new coach Cluess

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Tim Cluess, a member of one of the New York area's most prominent basketball families, takes over an Iona Gaels team expected to be among the favorites next season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Cluess, a successful high school coach on Long Island who led Division II C.W. Post to a 98-23 record during the last four seasons, was introduced at the campus Friday, a day after the school announced he would succeed Kevin Willard, who left after three seasons to coach Seton Hall.

"Kevin left the program in great shape and I hope I can take it even to another level," said Cluess, who inherits a team that went 20-10 last season.

"I didn't expect to be doing this so soon, but Kevin Willard definitely got this program on the right path," athletic director Pat Lyons said.

C.W. Post went 23-6 this season, reaching the East Coast Conference title game for the fourth straight year. In 2008-09, the Pioneers won a school-record 30 games.

Cluess will be coaching a Division I team for the first time, but that doesn't faze him.

"Division I programs may have more bodies and a little more size," he said. "The discrepancy isn't what people perceive. There are great players and great coaches at the other levels."

Cluess is one of four brothers who played at St. John's after outstanding high school careers in Queens or Long Island. Hank Cluess played with the then-Redmen from 1964 to 1966, and Greg was at St. John's from 1970 to 1972.

Kevin played there from 1973 to 1975 and Tim played there in 1980 and 1981 before finishing his playing career at Hofstra.

"My brothers led me in the world of basketball," Cluess said. "They were always successful and to be able to carry on the tradition of that name they left and built is an honor. Maybe coaching is a little different, but many of the things I do as a coach is what I learned from them in the backyard, with them in parks and in leagues. They were the biggest influence in my life by far."

Cluess started filling out his staff by hiring Jared Grasso, who was the interim coach last season at Fordham, taking over after Dreck Whittenburg was fired in December.