Charlie Russo makes a shot. (Photo Credit: SNHU Penmen)

February 23, 2018 will go down as one of the toughest days in SNHU Men’s Basketball history as the Penmen suffered a crushing defeat to Southern Connecticut State University and were eliminated in the first round of the NE10 Championship for the first time since 2008.

Charlie Russo (’19) recalls the fieldhouse atmosphere after the defeat, “It was very disappointing because we started off so strong. We knew that we had a lot of potential, and [with] the way that we ended the season we knew we could’ve gone further.”

This game also marked the the final game Head Coach Stan Spirou would coach as he retired later in the year after being head coach for 33 years.

Then on June 5, Jack Perri was announced as the sixth head coach in the program’s history and brings an impressive level of experience with him.

A head coach for LIU Brooklyn, Perri helped the Blackbirds win two out of an impressive three straight NCE Championships and has never had a season where they finished fewer than four games above .500. He was an assistant coach for Boston University last season and saw this position as a good opportunity.

“Reality is at this place,” Perri said. “A great league, NE10, obviously it’s great. When I came up here for my interview, I was so impressed with how they handled things. I think you can have great success here, obviously coach Spirou showed that, and I am a very competitive person and want to win, and I feel that that this is a place where you can do that.”

Coach Perri strongly believes in instilling a mindset of playing hard and caring for teammates on and off the field. Based on the team’s preseason practices, his wisdom of the game and vision of the fieldhouse is earning the respect of both Penmen veterans and newcomers.

“Coach Perri really knows what he’s talking about during practice. He’s a a great motivator, and [he] breaks down every drill bite by bite for us so we can understand what he’s trying to get us to do. His resume from his previous schools shows that if there was anybody who was going to replace Stan, it was him,” said Russo about his early impressions on Coach Perri.

“I think he’s a great guy, a great coach. He definitely holds us all accountable, and not only does he care about us being prefect on the court, he [also] expects that in the classroom as well as how we present ourselves on campus. All around he cares for us, and that’s all you can ask from a coach,” Shawn Montague (’20) added.

Even with the positive reception and the high expectations for Penmen success, there seems to be one major issue that has arisen during practice and that is the team hasn’t yet come full circle. Coach Perri reasoned that the team is younger than last season, with five new freshmen compared to one freshman last season, and that it will take time for the new mix of rookies and veterans to jell. Once they do, however, he feels that the team will be unbeatable.

In addition, the overall fieldhouse mentality entering this season has improved significantly, as Eamonn Joyce (’20) has experienced.

“It’s definitely a tighter bond in the clubhouse for sure, we are always hanging out together, we pretty much do everything together,” Joyce said. “It’s more of a family feel, you know we are amazing and great. Perri wants us to know that he has faith in us, and we have faith in him, so it will all come down to how we perform during the games.”

The 2018 season for men’s basketball begins November 10 against New York Institute of Technology at the Stan Spirou Fieldhouse. It will not be long for the Penmen to be put to their first test, and only time will tell if the Penmen can reach the mountaintop.