Jake Presutti, Pitt basketball’s newest coach, has seen his playing and coaching careers take him all around the nation.
With stops at Syracuse, Eastern Michigan, the Houston Rockets, USA Basketball, Marquette, and now Pitt, Presutti has certainly learned a thing or two about coaching.
Presutti’s basketball story began with his playing career, which took him from local stud at Genessee Valley High School in Belmont, New York, to student manager, then walk-on, and eventual scholarship player for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse.
In his senior year at Syracuse, Presutti saw action in eight games, earning himself a scholarship along the way. Since the conclusion of his playing career, he has spent time working jobs such as graduate manager, video coordinator, director of player development, and most recently all the way up to an assistant coach with Marquette.
How did he work his way from that graduate manager role all the way up to division one assistant coach?
With the mindset of a walk-on.
“As a walk-on, your role is to execute the drill, execute the scout team, bring great, positive energy, to really challenge the rotation players,” Presutti told Pittsburgh Sports Now. “I think how it shaped me was that I try to bring a great energy every day, bring great value to the program every day. Try to be super positive with the guys and give them confidence. So that is the biggest takeaway, I just try to bring great energy and positivity into the gym. I think that is the biggest thing that I try to carry over from my days as a walk-on.”
Presutti officially joined Pitt’s staff on Oct. 6, just under three weeks ago, with the title of Assistant AD of Scouting. While Pitt did not have a previous coach under that title, Presutti will not just handle scouting, and will provide everything that is needed of him for Capel and his assistants.
“I am going to be heavily involved in all of our opponent scouting and things like that,” said Presutti. “Obviously I will be assisting the assistant coaches and Jeff with any recruiting needs and help that they might need, but my main focus will be scouting of ourselves and game-planning of our opponents and things like that.”
For a native of Western New York who has spent the last seven years of his career coaching in Milwaukee, how did an opportunity in Pittsburgh come about? How did Presutti first land himself on Capel’s radar?
“I worked for/with Jeff at USA Basketball,” Presutti said. “He was the head coach and I was on the support staff, operations type. That was in San Antonio in 2009/2010. We knew each other there, you know, I didn’t know him well, but I worked with him. I didn’t know Jeff on a personal level. Obviously I worked for Wojo [Steve Wojciechowski], he knows Wojo, he knows Hop [Mike Hopkins], he knows Coach Boeheim, USA basketball, you know, so we had all of these touch points in our career that brought me into the conversation with Pitt.”
“When he [Capel] presented an opportunity for my family and I, it was just something that I could not turn down,” Presutti continued. “I grew up three-and-a-half hours north of Pittsburgh and my wife grew up three-and-a-half hours east of Pittsburgh, so, an opportunity to come home, per say, and to work for a great guy, a great person, a great coach, a great program, was just too good of an opportunity to turn down.”
During Presutti’s time playing for Syracuse, he faced off against Pitt three times and lost all three matchups at the hands of LeVance Fields, Ronald Ramon, and more of the best Panther basketball players in school history.
“When this opportunity came up, not only to work with Jeff, but to be at a program like Pittsburgh,” he went on. “They were a rival of where I went to school. It was always a battle. It was a program that just had incredible respect not only in the conference but across the country. They were physically tough, physically imposing, guys that can make shots. You just knew it was going to be a battle every night. I have the utmost respect for this program, just a historic program.”
His coaching career began back with the Orange, where he served under Boeheim breaking down film, scouting opponents, and much more as a graduate manager.
“I always knew that my playing career wasn’t going to be this long playing career, right? So, I wanted to stay in the game and that led me to coaching and to Syracuse,” said Presutti. “Obviously, Coach Boeheim will always be that person for me [who inspired him to coach]. He gave me that incredible opportunity to play for him, to work with him, and he is someone that I really look up to as a basketball coach. He is someone that I stay in contact with today, for sure.”
“The second person would be Mike Hopkins who is the head coach at the University of Washington,” he continued. “He is someone that I just learned so much from at Syracuse and he is just someone who I consider a mentor, someone that I think the world of. The third person would be Wojo. Wojo gave me an incredible opportunity at Marquette, I learned a lot from him, and he is someone that I didn’t really know when I took the job, but we became great friends and I just think the world of him.”
After a long seven-year stint with the Golden Eagles, Presutti takes on a new challenge with Pitt, a program that is trying day in and day out to rebuild and return to college basketball glory.
“I wouldn’t say different,” he said when asked what differentiates Pitt from other programs he has been with. “I think the biggest thing here is trying to get every day, trying to take steps every day to get this program back to where it was. Where it was when I was in school, and even after. You know, we have Gilbert Brown on staff, and we talk a lot about what made those teams great, about what made those teams special, and just trying to take away those characteristics from those teams and instill those in the players that we have in the program that we have here at Pitt. Just trying to get better each and every day and instill those daily habits and characteristics in our guys.”