NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. – Rye Brook’s Rob Forcelli is tied to the Iona College men’s basketball program for life after having served as the team manager from 1999-2003. The Iona alumnus still has season tickets and lives and dies with each win and loss.
Forcelli was just one local Gaels fan delighted on Sunday when the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee gave the Gaels an at-large invitation to the March Madness Big Dance after Iona lost the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference postseason tournament and an automatic bid to the postseason tournament.
“I am not surprised (about the at-large bid),” Forcelli said. “The MAAC historically has performed well in the tourney with Manhattan and Siena each picking up wins in the past few years. Plus, with Iona having two potential NBA draft picks on their team (Scott Machado and Mike Glover), they deserve exposure.”
The Gaels (25-7) were one of 38 teams to receive an at-large bid into the tournament. Iona will play Brigham Young University in a play-in game Tuesday night at approximately 9 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will be a No. 14 seed and advance to play No. 3 seed Marquette on Thursday in Louisville, Ky., as part of the West bracket.
New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson joined the local fans in support of the Gaels.
"Like most people in New Rochelle, I am delighted that a local team has qualified for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and I'll be rooting for Iona's success,” Bramson said.
Guy Falotico, an Iona alum and former Eastchester resident now living in Connecticut, is a member of the Iona College Alumni Board of Directors and manages IonaHoops.com, an unofficial site not related to the college itself.
“Everyone associated with the program feels like we've been given new life after the disappointment at the MAAC Tournament,” Falotico said. “Win or lose against BYU, the season has been a great success, and was topped off the right way."
Forcelli said he thinks the Gaels can beat BYU, and remembers losing in the tournament twice when he was a player under then coach Jeff Ruland.
“We lost to Maryland in the NCAAs my freshman year and Mississippi my sophomore year,” Forcelli said. “Also, we had one of the biggest wins in program history my senior year, beating North Carolina in Madison Square Garden.”
But Forcelli’s most indelible memory came in 2006.
“My greatest memory was watching senior Ken D’Agostino as the clock was winding down in the MAAC Championship game,” Forcelli said. “Before the game he had written ‘we're going dancing’ on his chest. As the clock was winding down he lifted his jersey to show the country. They hung with LSU in the NCAA tourney for about 30 minutes and then ran out of gas.”
Fans can follow Tuesday’s BYU-Iona game via Westwood One Radio, truTV and at http://www.ncaa.com/march-madness.