By Jarrod Browne
Lead Sports Writer
As the 2016-17 college basketball season is upon us, the IUP men hold only two seniors on their roster.
Despite a relatively young roster, the Crimson Hawks will make up for their youth with a wealth of experience from the coaching staff.
Head coach Joe Lombardi is entering his 10th season with IUP after leaving the University of Pittsburgh, where Lombardi spent three years as an assistant coach under former Pitt coach Jamie Dixon.
Entering the season, Lombardi hopes to lead IUP to his eighth NCAA tournament appearance as the IUP men’s coach.
Not only is Lombardi’s success recognized in the record books, but he also receives high praise from his peers and competitors.
“Coach Lombardi is a phenomenal coach and leader,” assistant coach Chuck Harris said in an August 2015 article in The Indiana Gazette.
Lombardi has even managed to raise the eyebrows of prestigious coaches at the Division I level.
“I think Indiana is a really good team,” said legendary Syracuse University coach Jim Boeheim in a news conference following IUP’s 83-65 loss to the Orange Nov. 1. “They won their league last year. I think they are really well-coached.”
Lombardi’s has been praised for his postseason performances after leading IUP to Division II men’s basketball championship game appearances in 2010 and 2015 while at the same time placing himself in the school record books.
Lombardi broke the school record for career wins following a 72-64 victory Nov. 27, 2015, over the University of the Sciences.
This victory gave Lombardi his 207th win, allowing him to pass Gary Edwards as the winningest basketball coach in IUP history.
Lombardi currently stands at a 225-85, a .726 winning percentage.
Entering the season, the Crimson Hawks are ranked No. 24 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC), with conference foe Kutztown University in at No. 14. Lombardi plans to prove those rankings wrong and win his fourth PSAC championship, with the previous ones coming in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Although Lombardi has experienced a wealth of success in his time at IUP, he tends to keep the credit away from himself.
“I’m really grateful for the opportunity I’ve had in the last 10 years, the opportunity to be at a good institution with a good
athletic department and a great basketball tradition,” Lombardi said in a Gazette article Thursday. “This program gives whoever is coaching it a lot of help to be successful, and you put that with a lot of good fortune we’ve gotten along the way, whether that was in recruiting or player development, and it’s made for a great run over the last 10 years.
“I’ve also been blessed to have a lot of great assistants to take on a lot of the workload, and they certainly poured themselves into the program to help get it to the level of expectation every year. I hope the next 10 are as good as the last 10.”
Lombardi and the Crimson Hawks will open up the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday here in Indiana against Lincoln University in the S&T Bank Atlantic Region Challenge.