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September 10, 2013

NJIT Completes Staff

NEWARK, NJ-Jesse Agel, a coach at the Division I level since 1988 and head coach at Brown University from 2008 to 2012, has joined the NJIT men's basketball coaching staff, which is headed by Jim Engles. TJ Tibbs was selected by Engles as the program's Director of Basketball Operations, as well.

Agel, who graduated from Stuyvesant High School in New York City and later from the University of Vermont in 1984, brings a thick resume of accomplishment with him to NJIT.

"This is a great situation for us because he is a veteran coach who has experienced a lot of success at the Division I level," said Engles, the consensus 2012-13 Great West Conference Coach of the Year, who has led NJIT since 2008 and was a Division I assistant himself from 1991 until taking over the Highlanders. "He knows how to build programs, as a head coach and as an assistant, and he will be able to help us in every aspect."

Entering the coaching ranks in Vermont, Agel led Harwood Union High School, coincidentally nicknamed the Highlanders, to a state championship and 21-2 record one season. He joined the UVM staff in 1988 as an assistant coach and was promoted to associate head coach of the Catamounts in 1996.

During that time he played an integral part in Vermont's rise to become arguably the best mid-major Division I program in the East for a four-year period in the early 2000s.

Each year from 2001-02 to 2004-05, captured an America East Conference championship, winning the regular season in 2001-02, three straight America East tournaments from 2003 to 2005 and a regular season title in 2004-05 for a regular season/postseason double in 2004-05.

During that run, Vermont had the America East Conference Player of the Year for four consecutive seasons. The Catamounts qualified for three consecutive NCAA Division I Tournament appearances, going to the Big Dance in 2003, 2004 and 2005, highlighted by a first-round upset win in 2005 against Syracuse, 60-57 in overtime. Sports Illustrated named that win over Syracuse, two years removed from winning the 2003 National Championship, as the sixth-greatest college basketball upset of the 2000s.

During Agel's last six years at Vermont, the program had 37 awards for individual players on the America East Conference Academic Honor Roll.

The head coach of Vermont, Tom Brennan, who retired in 2005, relied heavily on his associate coach, Agel, for all aspects of the Vermont program, which was the most successful in school history, setting new school records for wins each year in the magical run.

Two of the top basketball writers in the country praised Agel for his work outside of the spotlight. Wrote Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe in April 2005: "It was no secret that coach Brennan had his own M.O, what with his daily morning radio show and all, and that Agel was indeed Vermont's chief tactician." John Feinstein of the Washington Post echoed Ryan and added: "Brennan would be the first to tell you that his long-time assistant coach Jesse Agel does most of the planning and scouting and technical coaching."

Following Brennan's retirement from Vermont, Jesse Agel moved on to Brown, becoming an assistant coach at the Providence, RI, Ivy League University in 2006-07, assisting head coach Craig Robinson.

In Agel's two years as Brown's top assistant, the Bears set a school record for wins in a season, with 19, good enough for the fourth national postseason tournament bid in Brown men's basketball history that dates back to 1900. In that 19-win season in 2007-08, Brown did something that is practically unheard of in the Ivy League, sweeping Princeton and Penn, the league's historically dominant programs, 4-0.

Promoted to head coach when Robinson was named head coach at Oregon State in 2008, Agel guided Brown to a win over Princeton in his first year as head coach and also led the Bears past Harvard and its star, the future NBA sensation Jeremy Lin. Brown also won games against opponents from the highly-regarded Atlantic 10 Conference in back-to-back years under Agel, who recruited three All-Ivy players in three years, as well as the 2011 Rookie of the Year and a CoSIDA Academic All-American.

The other new staff member TJ Tibbs (full name Thomas Tibbs, Jr.) is in his first college off-court role after graduating in 2013 from the College of Staten Island, where he starred on a team that won back-to-back City University of New York Athletic Conference titles. CSI reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2011-12, his final playing season. He was All-CUNYAC first-team in both seasons at CSI, also earning All-Met first team from the Metropolitan Basketball Writers from a group of players that includes all the Division III schools in New York City, Long Island, Westchester, New Jersey, and Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Tibbs played a huge role in the win that propelled the CSI Dolphins into the NCAA Sweet 16, as he scored 40 points in a 77-67 victory over Rhode Island College. Tibbs made six 3-pointers and shot 14-14 at the foul line in that game.

Named NJIT's Director of Basketball Operations, a position that is typically an entry-level job for aspiring young coaches, Tibbs has plenty of pre-existing ties to the Highlanders

He is a graduate of St. Peter's Boys High School on Staten Island, a distinction he shares with his new boss, Jim Engles, as well as with former NJIT assistant coaches under Engles, Mike Spisto and Kevin Tirone.

Tibbs was also a high school teammate of Ryan Woods, who graduated from NJIT in 2013 after a two-season Highlanders career that saw him make All-Great West Conference after NJIT won the 2012-13 GWC regular season title. Woods averaged 14.4 points per game and made a school-record 84 3-point field goals in his senior season.

While still an undergraduate at CSI, Tibbs was an assistant coach at Curtis High School, a public school on Staten Island. Curtis is the high school alma mater of Isaiah Wilkerson (NJIT Class of 2012), the second-leading scorer in NJIT's Division I era and the 2011-12 Great West Player of the Year and honorable mention Associated Press All-America. As contemporaries on the Staten Island basketball scene, Tibbs and Wilkerson, who played professionally last year in the NBA Development League, are lifelong friends.

In addition to his coaching at Curtis High School, Tibbs coached U17 players in the Staten Island Stingrays and Staten Island Musketeers AAU programs.

He began his college playing career at Division I Monmouth in West Long Branch, NJ, as a preferred walk-on, where he participated in daily practices.

"I'm excited to have him as part of our program," said Engles of his new DBO. "He brings a lot of passion and energy to the job in his desire to become a college coach."

The Highlanders are set to begin the 2013-14 season on November 8, when they head to New Orleans for a game at Tulane. The first home game is slated for November 23 against long-time opponent Lafayette.

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