A new era of Iona basketball is about to begin. In March, Iona signed Rick Pitino to be their next head coach and he is bringing in 8 new players for the 2020-21 season. It’s safe to say the team will look very different next season with the new players and coaching staff. That being said, one familiar face that will be on next year’s team is forward Dylan Van Eyck, a rising senior who played a pivotal role for the Gaels last year.
I was lucky enough to get in touch with Van Eyck and ask him some questions about next season. For those who don’t know, Dylan Van Eyck brings unmatched energy and heart to every game he plays and I have no doubt that he will be a key player on next year’s Iona Gaels.
Regarding coach Pitino, Van Eyck spoke very highly of the Hall of Famer, saying that he’s “a great coach with a great resume” and he is “very excited about working with him and getting his knowledge of the game.” Van Eyck, who was recruited by Tim Cluess and a whole other group of coaches, is already calling his new coaching staff “amazing” despite having yet to see them in person. This speaks volumes about how much confidence players have in Rick Pitino. No one will be second-guessing or questioning a coaching staff that they have such a great deal of respect for.
Considering there are so many new recruits coming next season, I asked Van Eyck if he had taken the time to contact any of them. Being the leader that he is, Van Eyck told me that he’s “reached out to most of the guys through social media” and “some guys don’t have social media platforms so [he] will probably just ask coach (Pitino) for their numbers.” It is good to see that Van Eyck is already forming relationships with the new recruits because he can lead the younger players by example in games as well as practice by demonstrating hard work and a high basketball IQ. By connecting with the new players, he is already gaining their trust and respect.
Van Eyck has no concerns about having a younger, inexperienced roster: “We have a lot of young guys who are hungry to work hard and want to win.” After playing with a more experienced team featuring EJ Crawford and Tajuan Agee, who received All-MAAC First and Second team honors respectively, it is great to see that Van Eyck believes next season’s team can become great if they “all buy in with coach Pitino’s game plan.”
No one is doubting that the 2020-21 Iona Gaels will have talent, but leadership is somewhat of a question mark after graduating four year starter and three-time MAAC champion EJ Crawford. However, signs of Van Eyck’s leadership qualities were definitely shown last season, which is why it was great to hear Van Eyck say that he is “definitely going to take a leadership role this year together with some of [his] teammates who have been in the college game.” Talented teams win games, but teams with great leadership win championships and I am very confident Van Eyck will be the leader that this young Iona team needs.
I ended the interview by asking Van Eyck what his expectations are for next season, and he responded very optimistically, saying that they “have a talented squad and an amazing coaching staff. Once [they] can get back to campus and working out, and [they] get the team chemistry going, [they] are going to be a dangerous team.”
Expect Dylan Van Eyck and the Iona Gaels to make a lot of noise in next year’s college basketball season. There is obvious talent and potential on this team and who better than Hall of Famer, two-time national champion Rick Pitino to lead them to success?