It was 2:30 a.m. Monday and Steve Masiello had no intentions of sleeping anytime soon.

Shootaround for the MAAC Championship was beginning in eight hours, but Manhattan’s film session was just getting started.

The third-year coach had just finished watching the team’s MAAC semifinal win over Quinnipiac and was settling in to watch tape of every game against Iona from the past three seasons.

He started by reliving Manhattan’s crushing title game loss to its rival last year, 363 days in the past and no less frustrating.

All offseason the loss had lingered. Masiello made sure of it. The score followed the team everywhere it went:
60-57.

In every arena, it was displayed on the scoreboard. When the team was in the Bahamas playing exhibitions during the summer, it was there. When the team was practicing at Draddy Gymnasium in the offseason, it was there. On chalkboards and dry-erase boards, 60-57 went wherever the Jaspers went.

Before the film began, Masiello exuded confidence his team would be well-prepared. He knew his staff would know everything there was to know. He knew his players would be ready for any situation. The only issue was there was little left for him to do.

A coach can only do so much.

With a mix of helplessness and excitement, Masiello could no longer hold back what day-to-day goals kept him from saying:

“Man, I want that ring bad,” he said.

Ten years after winning a MAAC title as an assistant with the Jaspers, the 36-year-old earned his first ring as a head coach, as Manhattan defeated Iona 71-68 to earn its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in a decade.

When Masiello returned to Manhattan in 2011, following seven years as an assistant with lifelong mentor Rick Pitino, the White Plains native entered an unenviable situation, taking over a team that had won just six games, its worst finish in 12 years.

With his energetic, defense-first philosophy that encourages players to participate in meetings and timeouts, Masiello orchestrated the biggest turnaround in Division I in his first season, leading the team to 21 wins before taking an injury-plagued squad within one game of the NCAA Tournament last season.

“I didn’t know him, but we trusted him and we believed in him,” star senior George Beamon said. “Now we’re here. We made it. It’s a great feeling.”

On Monday morning, Masiello talked about how he never thought the team would be so successful so soon.

On Monday night, standing on a podium underneath an empty rim after the nets had been cut down — surrounded by his tight-knit, senior-heavy team — the coach hugged the giant golden championship trophy like he would never let go.

Masiello, the man who doesn’t allow himself to enjoy any win, finally could stop looking forward. The moment meant everything.