Manhattan basketball players rip school for bypassing interim coach

The announcement Wednesday that Manhattan has hired John Gallagher as head coach of the men’s basketball team has incited an uproar from Jaspers players in support of interim coach and alumnus RaShawn Stores.

Two players expected to be part of the 2023-24 Jaspers, Adam Cisse and Aryan Arora, have entered the transfer portal, while two players from last season’s team, fifth-year senior guards Nick Brennen and Samir Stewart, said the hiring appears to be racially motivated.

Gallagher, 45 and most recently the head coach at Hartford, is white, while the 31-year-old Stores, a two-time captain and back-to-back MAAC champion for the Jaspers, is black.

“Unfortunately during my time here, I’ve seen racism kind of play a role in a lot of things,” Brennen said. “I don’t want to believe that’s what it was, but there’s no other black [head coach] on this campus.”

Brennen claimed that during his first year at Manhattan, the team was told that alumni took issue with the “Black Lives Matter” patches on the Jaspers’ jerseys and those of every other MAAC team.

The players also had requested “Black Lives Matter” be printed on the court, but their requests were denied.

“Honestly, whoever made the final decision made it clear he didn’t want a black head coach,” Stewart said.

The Manhattan men's basketball team announced the hiring of John Gallagher, bypassing interim coach RaShawn Stores.
The Manhattan men’s basketball team announced the hiring of John Gallagher, bypassing interim coach RaShawn Stores.

According to Marianne Reilly, director of intercollegiate athletics at the college, Manhattan received more than 200 applications from a diverse pool of candidates for the position.

“Any [assertion] that race had to do anything with this is absolutely incorrect,” Reilly said.

Stores stepped up as interim head coach just a few days before the start of the season after the unexpected termination of Steve Masiello.

Stores had been an assistant under Masiello since 2017.

Upon Masiello’s firing, three key players, including star Jose Perez, left the program in a matter of days.

Despite the turnover, Stores led the Jaspers to a 12-18 overall record and 10-10 in the MAAC this season, their most conference wins since 2014-15, when they made their last NCAA Tournament appearance.

Manhattan players had been campaigning for weeks on social media for Manhattan to “remove the interim tag” from Stores’ title.

“Yeah let’s just go against what the students, every player, alumni and supporter wants,” Brennen tweeted on Tuesday, after news of Gallagher’s hiring was leaked on Twitter

RaShawn Stores.
RaShawn Stores.

Cisse, set to be a fifth-year senior, and Arora a junior, entered the transfer portal since Gallagher was hired. Reached by The Post, Arora declined to comment on the hiring or his reasons for deciding to enter the transfer portal.

Brennen said after Gallagher’s hiring, members of the team immediately cleared out their lockers, intending to never return. He expects the Jaspers have lost the support of most senior members.

“We were going to have to do it at some point and [Tuesday] seemed like the day,” Brennen told The Post. “I know that I will never be coming back to a game here.”

Brennen said he believed the decision not to hire Stores came from board members who “haven’t even been to a game this season.”

Dr. Ronald Gray, the college’s vice President of student life, added that the candidate pool was representative of the student population and Catholic values Manhattan College upholds.

“RaShawn did a great job, he really did. But when you have a national search, and you interview multiple people, it’s open,” Reilly said. “And when you look at things like experience, or head-coaching experience — those things play a factor.”

Stores had looked to change the culture of the program. He served food to students at the school’s dining hall, delivering treats to different campus departments, forming supportive relationships with other teams on campus and taking his daughter to meet students on the Quad.

His wife, Callan Stores, is the assistant coach of the women’s basketball team at Manhattan. The two met while they were assistants for their respective Jasper teams and were married in 2021. Their daughter, Raylan, was born last year.

“He [Stores] taught us a lot more than just basketball,” Brennen said. “He really taught us how to be men.”

Gallagher went 169-207 with Hartford from 2010-22 and led the Hawks to the NCAA Tournament in 2021.

He resigned from that job last November, less than two days before the start of the season, claiming the school had breached his contract and jeopardized player safety. Before Hartford, Gallagher served as assistant coach at Boston University, Pennsylvania, Hartford, Lafayette and LaSalle.

“John brings more than two decades of college coaching experience to Manhattan and has success and experience in leading a team to the NCAA Tournament,” Reilly said in a statement released by the college. “He has a track record of excellent recruiting, developing student-athletes and providing a world-class student-athlete experience.”

Reilly said she hopes Stores will stay on “at some capacity,” but admitted the decision is ultimately up to Gallagher.

“It sucks to be in the position of the new coach. No one is … attacking him,” Brennen said. “It would have happened to anyone who got the job because no one but Ray [RaShawn] deserved the job.”