When he first stepped foot on Long Island, Stony Brook Men’s Basketball head coach Jeff Boals looked to embrace the culture. He took his family to Broadway shows, went to Gilgo Beach and immersed himself in the food, especially enjoying Se-Port Deli.
His Instagram account is as concerned with Long Island as it is with Stony Brook Athletics. His profile is filled with photos of Stony Brook’s campus, the beach and New York City.
“I’ve been in the Midwest pretty much my whole life and never been to Long Island for an extended period of stay,” Boals said. “When we first moved here as a family, we tried to do as much as we could with our kids.”
His interest in the way of life around where he lives dates back to his Ohio State days, where he was an assistant coach under Thad Matta. At Stony Brook, the culture lies within the surrounding area, but in Columbus, it revolves around the university.
“In Columbus, if you needed something or someone or a restaurant, he was the guy you went to,” Aaron Craft, former Ohio State guard, said. “One of the bigger things he did was he immersed himself in the university.”
Boals is a players’ coach. He uses his experience to help guide players as opposed to forcing a system onto them. After all, Boals helped lead Ohio University to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1994 as a player during his junior season.
“One of his biggest strengths was just his consistency,” Craft said. “If you were in the gym and you heard somebody clapping in the hallway coming into the gym, it was coach. He loved being in the gym. He loved being around us. He loved getting better.”
That same belief helped transform senior guard Lucas Woodhouse from a pass-first point guard into an America East Player of the Year contender. Woodhouse’s role with the Seawolves transformed from running the offense and getting the ball into the paint to becoming an aggressive scorer.
“The coaches have been on me to be more aggressive in other ways besides passing, such as scoring,” Woodhouse said.
While Boals pushes his players to go beyond their comfort zones, he also makes sure they do not feel forced into anything.
“Being the new guy coming in, it wasn’t one of those deals where it’s my way or the highway,” he said. “We kept some things that they had last year, terminology-wise, drill-wise, that these guys liked. The biggest thing is to build trust.”
Boals also brings a sense of celebrity to Stony Brook. During his time at Ohio State, Boals coached current NBA players Jared Sullinger, Evan Turner and D’Angelo Russell. Boals used Twitter to reach out to Spike Lee and got the director to speak to his Buckeyes team. During an NCAA Tournament game, Boals used Twitter again, this time reaching out to John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. The two appeared at the game in support of Ohio State.
“[Russell] was actually going to come,” Boals said. “[The Lakers] played Boston and, I think, the Knicks a couple of weeks ago. If we had a home game, they had a couple days off, he was going to come. But we were unfortunately on the road that game, I think at Albany. He’ll definitely be out here at some point.”
In his first season, Boals coached the Seawolves to a 12-4 conference record. He exceeded expectations, as Stony Brook was ranked seventh in the America East preseason coaches’ poll, and will now get to remain on the sideline coaching the No. 2 seed in the America East Playoffs.