Canisius College rowing head coach Joel Furtek has announced the addition of Chris Pucella to his coaching staff to replace former assistant coach Skip Kielt, who recently accepted a position at Rutgers University. Furtek also announced the return of former Griff Jessica Leemans to the team as graduate assistant.
Previously, Pucella served as the men's head coach at Marietta College for seven years, where he was also a member of the faculty. Prior to his move to Marietta, he was the men's freshman coach at the University of Central Florida for two years. He has coached at U.S. Rowing Development Camps in Philadelphia and at the Buffalo-based West Side Rowing Club. He earned both a bachelor's of arts in political science in 1997 and a master's in education in 2002 from the University at Buffalo.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome Chris to Canisius College and our coaching staff. His student-athletes have shown a clear record of success on the race course, and in the classroom," said Furtek of the hire. "His experience in running a program will be key as we grow our men's team. Chris has shown the ability to recruit top-notch student-athletes and we expect that success to continue."
His Marietta crews won the Dad Vail twice and medaled three other times, while receiving invitation to compete at the 2011 IRA Collegiate National Championship. As a student-athlete, Pucella was a Dad Vail champion, three-time Royal Canadian Henley Cup champion, and a U.S. National Champion.
"I am excited about the opportunity to return to Buffalo, and take over the helm of a young program," said Pucella. "It is clear that Canisius College is serious about supporting a competitive men's rowing program, and I am look forward to being at the forefront of the program's development."
Leemans returns to the Canisius crew as an assistant coach. She was a four-year member of the women's soccer team before taking up the sport of rowing just last September as a graduate student. She would conclude the season as part of the Varsity Eight that finished tied for fifth place at the MAAC Championship in April.
"I'm proud to announce our first home-grown assistant coach. What Jessica may lack in a long-rowing career, she more than makes up for in knowing what it means to be a Griff, and what it means to compete at the top levels in any sport," said Furtek. "I expect Jessica to quickly pick up the mechanics of coaching, but to make an immediate impact on the spirit, dedication, and tenacity of our crews. The entire team cheered when they learned of Jessica's return."
Former assistant coach Kielt left Canisius for an assistant position with his alma mater, Rutgers University.
"We hate to see Skip leave, but are proud to see him step into a role at his alma mater, in the country's fastest men's racing league, after just one year at the helm of our young program," stated Furtek. "We wish him only the best and will see him out at the races."
Assistant coach Stephanie Parrish will return for her second season with the Griffs with new responsibilities as the head coach of the Griffs' novice program.
"Stephanie was a huge part of our first year's success, and there isn't a woman in our program who isn't faster and smarter and a little more awesome because of her impact," said Furtek. "She played a key role in attracting our six recruited freshman student-athletes to Canisius, and will continue to drive the recruitment of more this year, but I am pleased to see her take on the role of novice coach this year. Seven of the nine women in our varsity eight last year were novices, and if Steph can produce another great class to compliment our experienced freshmen and returners, we'll be well on our way to competitiveness in the MAAC and beyond.
I can say without question that we've put together an ideal staff for our young program. It is a group of four ready to take Canisius College beyond the start-up year and into steady state speed," said Furtek.
The Griffs will open their fall schedule against the University at Buffalo on Saturday, September 29 along Tonawanda Creek. An official start time will be announced in the coming weeks.