BY PETER KROPF
“An education of the game of basketball on the court and of the game of life off the court.” That is what Jason Posser hopes to provide every student-athlete who crosses his path.
After nearly three seasons as assistant coach of the Queens College men’s basketball team, Posser has already made quite an impact. His positive, yet aggressive coaching style helped the 2016-17 Knights end a five-year East Coast Conference (ECC) playoff drought. The coach also assisted in the growth of former QC stars Tyrone Hall, Diego Maldonado, and Tyree White, all of whom received conference honors under his tutelage.
In fact, Posser’s motivation and ability to develop athletes stem from the oft-quoted aphorism he lives by: “The saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” The saying, famously uttered in the film “A Bronx Tale,” reminds Posser to make sure his players perform at their highest potential.
Ever since his first game — his favorite to date — when Queens pulled out an overtime win against Assumption College with only seven active players, Posser has tried to get the most out of his men. The coach’s incredible work ethic, intensity, and knowledge are the result of the remarkable paths he has taken in his hardwood-centric life.
Posser, who currently resides in Long Beach, N.Y., was born and raised in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. His general interest in sports was sparked by after-school programs he participated in as a youngster.
By the time he enrolled at Fordham Prep, he had narrowed his focus to hockey and basketball. At one point during his high school career, he was playing both sports for the Rams at the same time. This was not plausible for the long term, so he decided to keep playing hockey for the school and play Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball later in the year to avoid scheduling conflicts.
However, Posser knew that basketball was his true love. He left New York for Rhode Island to attend Providence College, where he majored in business management. He tried out for the men’s basketball team, but ultimately did not make the roster. Posser then set his sights on coaching, with the dream of one day becoming a head coach.
Without too many connections or a recognizable last name, he explored and grabbed every available opportunity. During summers he worked as a basketball counselor at Camp Winadu in Pittsfield, Mass, where Posser learned the ropes of coaching, soaking up advice and instruction from gurus/mentors Mike Murphy and Bob Walsh.
In 2004 he took his first major step toward a coaching career by becoming a student manager for the Providence men’s basketball squad. His responsibilities included collaborating with staff regarding player development and individual workouts as well as assisting in practices and daily operations.
His hard work resulted in his promotion to head manager in 2008, and he would stay with the team until 2009. “It was a privilege and a phenomenal experience,” Posser said of his five-year stretch with the Friars.
Under head coaches Tim Welsh and Keno Davis, he learned the value of “paying attention to the smallest of details” and was able to see how an “elite basketball team operates from top to bottom.” Furthermore, Posser worked with future NBAers Ryan Gomes, Herbert Hill, and Marshon Brooks while at Providence.
One of the coach’s favorite memories with the Big East team was its upset of the then-number-one ranked Pittsburgh Panthers late in the 2008-09 season.
Feeling the need to work on his craft, Posser coached at One on One Basketball Inc. in Providence in 2009-10. There, he gained an “awareness of the game and of the coaching profession, and better learned how to handle players.”
More prepared, the coach came back home to New York the next season to work as a graduate assistant for Hofstra University’s men’s basketball team (of the Colonial Athletic Association, or CAA). Pride head coach Mo Cassara welcomed him with open arms and always appreciated his efforts.
“Coach Mo taught loyalty. He looked out for everyone and paid attention to the outside staff,” Posser said.
As graduate assistant, he oversaw the squad’s operations and managerial staff, while also monitoring players’ academics. Additionally, Posser played a role in the latter part of Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins’s illustrious collegiate career.
Arguably the greatest player in Pride history, Jenkins scored more than 2,500 points, was a three-time Haggerty Award winner, and would go on to be drafted by the Golden State Warriors in 2011.
Moving forward, 2013 was a year of change for both Posser and the Pride. The future coach took the video coordinator position and Cassara was replaced by Joe Mihalich.
As video coordinator, his title for the next three years, Posser was responsible for all film exchange, creation of video scouting reports, and game editing. Breaking down all this film vastly improved his knowledge of the more advanced facets of the sport.
Mihalich, like Cassara, maintained a solid working relationship with Posser as well as with other staff.
“Joe defined everyone’s roles and kept you sharp,” Posser said.
He was most impressed, though, with how Mihalich consumed the game.
“He lived, ate, and slept basketball, and was the most detailed offensive coach I’ve ever worked with,” Posser said.
This fanaticism explains why Mihalich, who still holds the clipboard for Hofstra, has had historic success this year.
While in Hempstead, Posser also received a Master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies, one that virtually guarantees him continued work in various capacities at the collegiate level.
Overall, Posser feels “very blessed” to have had a seven-year stint with the Pride.
Despite getting a director-level job offer from the College of the Holy Cross, Posser stayed true to himself and continued to search for coaching gigs. When an assistant coaching position at Division II Queens College opened in 2016, he could not resist, especially since he knew head coach Matt Collier through their CAA days — Collier was an assistant with Drexel University’s men’s basketball team while Posser was at Hofstra.
Collier, also currently in his third season with the Knights, interviewed Posser. It went smoothly, with Posser saying that he thought he and Collier were “mirror images of each other.”
Since both coaches have taken similar paths to get where they are, it is not surprising that they have a close bond.
“We communicate, we trust each other, and we are always striving to evolve,” Posser said.
He and Collier, both with extensive Division I experience, seek to bring the Knights back to the top of the ECC standings and into the conference tournament. To expedite the process, Posser is stressing accountability and the recognition that “mistakes will happen, but we have to move forward.”
With a love of rebounding and defense, he clearly values the overlooked and unglorified aspects of basketball.
“We have to continue to make all the little things cool and instill in our players a sense of pride in the plays that don’t have rewards,” Posser said.
The most difficult part of coaching for him is simultaneously “catering to the players and maintaining authority,” a struggle most coaches encounter regardless of level or sport. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that today’s players “now have answers in their hands and shorter attention spans,” Posser said, referring to the overwhelming prevalence of smartphones.
So why should a high school hoops star choose Queens College over other similar schools? Well, Posser insists that QC’s main advantage is location.
“We are the only D-II school in New York City and if a player wins here, everyone will know him and he’ll be able to market himself,” Posser said.
The coach also cites the quality education the college offers, one that will help prepare athletes for life after basketball.
What helps separate Posser from the rest of the coaching crowd is his past and present involvement in the community. His influence and empathetic attitude have reverberated well beyond the confines of any gymnasium he has worked in.
The coach has been a counselor at a variety of basketball camps and academies, including the Joe Mihalich Elite Boys Basketball Camp, 5-Star Basketball Camps, the Speedy Claxton Skills Academy, and Providence College Basketball Camps.
While at Hofstra, the coach served as associate director of summer men’s basketball camps and currently runs QC’s summer basketball camps/clinics. With a busy schedule as is, some may wonder why Posser takes time to guide young basketballers. For him, though, it’s an easy decision.
Viewing himself as a teacher, he understands that “care can go a long way” for a child. Participating at these camps has the added benefit of “humbling and grounding” him. Plus, it’s a way for Posser to gauge his coaching skills.
“I figure that if I can engage a bunch of 8- to 12-year-olds, then I’ll probably be able to do pretty well with the 18- to 22-year-olds,” he said.
Posser’s off-the-court work has been equally impressive.
Throughout his career, he has been instrumental in community fund-raising and publicity activities. At Queens College, he directs campus-based recreation, partners with the student government to organize events such as health and wellness fairs, and helps raise money for general campus improvements.
In addition to these efforts and his coaching responsibilities, Posser is the school’s facilities coordinator and fitness center manager. Physical health is important to him, and he knows the fit center can “provide a release” for college students and aid in “recharging their batteries.”
Moreover, he thinks working out there and taking fitness classes is a great way for students to engage with the college community, something that isn’t always easy at a commuter school.
When Posser isn’t coaching at a practice or breaking down game film, he is watching hoops. A proud subscriber of NBA League Pass, he watches the games to relax, but also to learn. He constantly analyzes them, looking for something he can apply to his own coaching.
Growing up, Posser idolized athletes Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter. Now as a coach, his role models include Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and the late John Wooden, the coaching icon who won 10 NCAA titles with UCLA. Posser boldly claims Wooden is “the greatest teacher ever.”
Basketball may be the coach’s central focus, but he does find time to hang out with his girlfriend, family, and friends. His favorite movie is the 2000 sports classic “Remember the Titans,” and his favorite TV series is The Wire. When he pops on his headphones he usually turns to hip-hop or R&B, listing rappers Jay-Z, Eminem, and Tupac as his go-to artists. He particularly enjoys the way they “spoke to people through their music.”
“Basketball must become your life.” This is Posser’s message to aspiring coaches, and it is advice he has certainly lived by. Balancing ambition and patience, his main life goal is still to one day become a head coach and “represent an institution.” Already one of the most hard-working and dynamic basketball minds in the New York area, it shouldn’t be too long before his dream becomes reality.