John Giannini has been let go as La Salle University’s head men’s basketball coach. A statement from the school said the Explorers and Giannini “have mutually agreed to part ways.”
“John is a great guy, always with the best interests of his student-athletes at heart, and he did his very best to advance the men’s basketball program at La Salle,” athletic director Bill Bradshaw said in a statement. “John made academic success a big part of his coaching philosophy — 100 percent of the seniors he recruited have graduated, and La Salle finished in the top 10 percent in the nation for [Academic Progress Rate] each of the past three years. We wish John and his family nothing but the best, and he will be remembered for his contributions to La Salle, on and off the court.”
Giannini had coached the Explorers since 2004 and led them to the regional semifinals of the 2013 NCAA tournament — the program’s only appearance in the tournament since 1992. Since then, La Salle has won 69 games and lost 88, posting a 13-19 record in 2017-18.
A coach who was animated on the court but often just as easygoing away from it, Giannini may be remembered best for La Salle’s 2013 NCAA run, when Tyrone Garland’s game-winning shot against Ole Miss, dubbed the “Southwest Philly Floater,” pushed the Explorers into the Sweet 16. La Salle won three NCAA tournament games that season, starting in the play-in round.
Over Giannini’s 14 seasons in charge at 20th and Olney, his record was 212-226. The Explorers finished .500 or better six times in the Atlantic Ten, but only once in the last five seasons, going 9-9 in 2016-17. La Salle’s best A-10 finishes under Giannini were ties for third in 2006 and 2013.
This season, the Explorers went 7-11 in the league, tied for 10th. One of their notable nonconference games was a 77-68 loss to Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center, a game that La Salle led within the final five minutes. La Salle beat Temple and Penn this season, split with St. Joseph’s, and lost to Drexel. The Explorers struggled on the road this season, going 2-10, their only victories coming at Penn and Fordham.
Giannini had previously been the head coach at Maine for eight seasons and locally before then at Rowan, where he won an NCAA Division III national title in 1996.
“I am truly blessed to have the relationships, challenges, and achievements that come from 29 years of being a head coach. In my time, I have witnessed hundreds of coaching changes involving many terrific coaches and schools,” Giannini said in a statement. “Today Bill Bradshaw and I mutually agreed that La Salle University could benefit from a new voice in leading the program. It is difficult to admit this but I have given every effort possible for success and I have received nothing but support and encouragement from Bill and President [Colleen] Hanycz. Greater things may be accomplished for this storied program and great university with the approach of a new coach. I am forever grateful, especially to my loyal staff and dedicated student-athletes. I look forward to my next challenge and La Salle’s future success.”
La Salle had announced in February that the contract of women’s basketball coach Jeff Williams would not be renewed.
Several people with knowledge of Giannini’s contract said he had two years left on it. Giannini declined to comment, texting that he’d decided to let his statement stand alone. Bradshaw said he couldn’t say much of anything about the process that led to this decision.
As for the next coach, Explorers fans like to throw around the name of ex-La Salle star Tim Legler, now an NBA analyst for ESPN. Former Explorers assistants include current Villanova top assistant Ashley Howard, current 76ers assistant Billy Lange and Maryland staffer Matt Brady.