Rutgers commitment to Pikiell was the best move

Geo Baker, and Steve Pikiell, Rutgers Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Geo Baker, and Steve Pikiell, Rutgers Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /
Geo Baker, and Steve Pikiell, Rutgers Scarlet Knights. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights looked like a lock for March Madness this year. How far they might have gone will never be known. At least their Head Coach Steve Pikiell is locked up through 2026.

The state of Rutgers basketball doesn’t rely on a deep run in the NCAA tournament anymore. The program already reached heights that were unexplored for decades. They were ranked for the first time since 1979 and were set to make their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1991.

Regardless of the fireworks that these two feats sparked for RU, one of the biggest headlines of the season was when Head Coach Steve Pikiell received a two-year contract extension. He’ll be inked through 2026, as this was his second extension since he signed.

He’ll be paid $3.5M as his base salary in the 2024-2025 season, and $4.05M in the 2025-2026 season. His base salary for 2025-2026 will be $3.75M, but if he stays around that long, he’ll get an additional $300,000 as a retention bonus.

This was the first year with any success under Pikiell. But to have any success at all, in even just one season, at a historically bad program is impressive. The university had to make a long-term commitment because other teams in need of new head coach would have been targeting Pikiell this offseason.

Pikiell needs to be the guy moving forward for Rutgers basketball, he’s already orchestrated the leap that the squad made this year. This team looks to be tournament-bound next year as well, showing that Pikiell’s success looks sustainable. This team didn’t achieve what they could this year with the postseason canceled. But so far Pikiell has already established a major culture change, as well as a drastic change in how the team’s playing.

There’s been a carousel of head coaches in Piscataway, but none of them had the RAC absolutely rocking like it was all this year. Posting an 18-1 record at home is a testament not only to the performance of the team but to the energy and enthusiasm that Pikiell exudes. Additionally, the same energy and enthusiasm have been reciprocated back to him by his players.

Nobody wanted to come to games at the RAC before Pikiell arrived on campus. Their games became an event. Not only the atmosphere but also the quality of the wins that Rutgers had at home drew spectators.  Four ranked teams entered the arena, and all four experienced a bloodbath.

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Even when the Scarlet Knights played ninth-ranked Maryland, Rutgers was not counted out by the national media. Sure enough, RU proved why and dominated the Terps. Every college basketball fan is well aware of the type of team Rutgers had this season.

Pikiell has earned the respect of the NCAA basketball community, especially with ending the road losing streak with a win over a top-10 team. He’s also earned the respect of the campus, other fans, and the RU athletic department. If anyone’s going to continue turning this program around, it’s Pikiell.

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