PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: Head coach Tim Cluess of the Iona Gaels yells to his team during the first half of the game against the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 15, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

A Queens native, Tim Cluess took the Iona Gaels to six NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments, including the last four.

Iona College announced on Friday that men’s basketball head coach Tim Cluess will step down to focus on his health. Cluess, 61, will remain with the program in an advisory role.

“I want to sincerely thank the Iona College community and administration for the opportunity to be a part of Gael Nation for the past ten years,” Cluess said in a team statement. “I appreciate the concern and care that the Iona Community…has demonstrated for me and my family over the past few months as I have been dealing with a complicated health issue that kept me from coaching.

“I look forward to my new role and assisting the College in every way I can going forward. On behalf of myself and my family, I want to thank Gael Nation, including every student-athlete I had the honor to coach, for all their ever-present and vocal support.  I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together and look forward to supporting the program in my new advisory role.”

Under the decade-long watch of Cluess, the Gaels men’s basketball program became one of the nation’s most accomplished mid-major programs. Iona won four consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference titles, becoming the first team to do so. The Gaels were also one of only 13 Division I programs to appear in the last four NCAA Tournaments. They and Gonzaga were the only representatives in mid-major conferences to pull off the feat.

Other postseason accomplishments for Cluess’ Gaels include an appearance in the 2011 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament championship game. Iona topped Valparaiso, Buffalo, and East Tennessee State before falling to Santa Clara. The Gaels also won five MAAC Tournaments under Cluess, with the first coming in 2013.

They earned an at-large NCAA Tournament bid in 2012, ending a six-year drought.

Cluess ends his NCAA coaching career with a 297-131 record, including a 199-106 tally with the Gaels. He previously coached LIU Post at the Division II level, along with St. Mary’s Manhasset High School and Suffolk Community College.

His 22 wins in the MAAC Tournament are the most by any coach. Cluess places third in MAAC regular-season wins (124) behind Joe Mihalich (166) and Jimmy Patsos (132).

“We’re extremely proud of Tim Cluess and how he represented our program over the last ten years,” said Director of Athletics Matthew Glovaski in the same statement. “He elevated Iona men’s basketball and put us into the national spotlight on an annual basis. I want to recognize Coach’s resilience in dealing with a complicated health situation that kept him off the court this last season. We will continue to support Tim and his family as he manages his health matter and are very happy he will continue to contribute in an advisory role and remain an important part of the Iona family.”

An undisclosed medical issue sidelined Cluess for all of the 2019-20 season. His assistant and associate head coach Tra Arnold served as acting head coach and guided the Gaels to a 12-17 record (9-11 MAAC).

As a No. 7 seed, they won their opening-round game in the 2020 MAAC Tournament in Atlantic City, topping No. 10 Canisius 70-60 at Boardwalk Hall on Tuesday. The Gaels then narrowly fell to second-ranked St. Peter’s 56-54 prior to the rest of the tournament’s cancellation due to coronavirus concerns.

Reports from Jeff Borzello of ESPN indicate that the Gaels are set to reach out to Seton Hall legend Shaheen Holloway, the head coach of the aforementioned St. Peter’s, for the vacant spot. Iona is also interested in Bryant head coach Jared Grasso, who was Iona’s Associate Head Coach under Cluess through 2018.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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