During his 20+-plus years as the head coach of Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick, Kevin Boyle ran one of the top programs in the nation, producing players like Dexter Strickland, Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Rutgers and Seton Hall often tried to land those players, and sometimes, as in the case of Shaheen Holloway (Seton Hall), they succeeded.
But more often than not, Boyle’s top players went to places like North Carolina (Strickland), Duke (Irving) and Kentucky (Kidd-Gilchrist).
“You always want to give the local schools a fair chance to recruit the kid, and you’d like to see them do well…but it’s also hard if you’re building, if it’s Seton Hall and Rutgers and Duke comes in, and North Carolina comes in,” Boyle told SNY.tv by phone this week.
“Its hard to not have a kid look at that. If you get beaten, it almost looks like you’re there doing something wrong and you’re like, ‘What the hell’s going on?” and….the kid went to Duke.”
Now that Boyle is coaching Montverde (Fla) Academy, he is no longer pressured to send kids to Rutgers and Seton Hall. He is no longer dealing with programs struggling to move from the bottom half of the Big East to the top.
Instead, the program he coaches is now located in a state where the University’s head coach won back-to-back national championships in 2006-7, yet comes off as a regular guy.
“Billy Donovan has a great reputation as an individual-improver as well as a great coach,” Boyle said. “Not just winning two national championships, Billy’s a really humble guy. He’s just a good person. You’d never know he’d won two national championships, he’s just a regular guy.”
In just the few months he’s been at Montverde, Boyle has already sent two players to Florida in 2012 shooting guard Michael Frazier and 2013 point guard Kasey Hill.
“He’s not Kyrie Irving good, but he’s potential first-round NBA good,” Boyle said of Hill.
Florida is one of many schools also involved with Dakari Johnson, the talented 2014 center who left St. Pat’s long with Boyle for Montverde.
(For more on Florida’s recruiting goals moving forward, read my Five Star feature here.)
Still, Boyle said his son, Brendan, is “the biggest Seton Hall fan” and Boyle himself hopes both Rutgers and Seton Hall do well.
“Both staffs have done a really good job,” Boyle said. “You think that Mike [Rice] did a great job last year and you see their recruiting class and they’re going to be fine as time moves on and they might turn the corner eventually and become that Top 25 team.
“And then Seton Hall, it looked like last year [coach Kevin] Willard was dealt with that bad hand coming in, and you say, ‘Wow, they’re in trouble right now with the classes they had.’ And so far, he’s done a terrific job this year where most people think they were dead in the water.”
The Pirates were 13-2 coming off Tuesday’s upset of No. 8 UConn and could be ranked in the Top 25 by Monday if they handle Providence Saturday.
As for his own team, Montverde (12-1) is ranked No. 10 in the Five Star Basketball Power Rankings and No. 9 by ESPNU. Their only loss came in the semifinals of the City of Palms Classic — the same event St. Pat’s won for the first time in 2010 after losing five times in the final.
“Apparently, we’re going to have a legitimate choice to be in that national [ESPN] tournament and end up No. 1,” Boyle said. “I think we have a chance to go the distance without losing again. But obviously you gotta play really well and beat some great teams to do that.
“But we could end up being the best in the country by the end of the year.”
After holding the No. 1 ranking for much of last year, Boyle, Kidd-Gilchrist and St. Patrick lost to Kyle Anderson and St. Anthony in the mythical national championship game at Rutgers.
That loss was especially painful, but Boyle, unlike his former St. Pat’s players, has another shot.
“I hate to lose and I’m as competitive as anybody,” Boyle said. “But I’m pretty good at it two days later, moving on from it and dreaming and hoping for the next trip.”
Photo: Naples Daily News