Joe Reilly will enter his 11th season as the head coach of the Wesleyan University men’s basketball program in 2018-19. The Connecticut native also holds the title of adjunct professor of Physical Education at Wesleyan.
Under Reilly’s stewardship, the Cardinals have achieved a high level of success unmatched in the history of the program. Wesleyan has won at least 18 games and finished with single-digit losses in each of the past four seasons. It’s the first time in program history that the Cardinals have won 18 or more games in four-straight years, and the first time since 1977-80 that the program went four-straight seasons with single-digit losses. Additionally, Wesleyan has qualified for four consecutive NESCAC Championships and has reached the NCAA Tournament in three of the past four years after never advancing to the national postseason before.
The Cardinals are coming off their best year in program history as they finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 22-7 overall record and a 7-3 mark in the NESCAC, while Reilly won his 300th career game late in the season. Both the 22 overall wins and seven conference victories set program records—the 22 wins surpassed the previous mark of 20 that Reilly’s team set during the 2011-12 season. Wesleyan also reached the NESCAC finals for the second time-ever (both under Reilly’s watch) and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. The Cardinals earned hosting duties for the first time and won their first postseason game in school history with a 101-71 first round victory over Southern Vermont. Additionally, Reilly’s squad claimed its third consecutive Little Three title and second outright. Jordan Bonner ’19, Jordan Sears ’18, and Austin Hutcherson ’21 all received NESCAC recognition following the season as Bonner was named to the Second Team, Sears was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Hutcherson was awarded Rookie of the Year. Hutcherson was also named the D3hoops.com Northeast Region Co-Rookie of the Year.
In 2016-17, Reilly’s team won the Little Three title outright for the first time since the 1990-91 season with a 3-1 record against its rivals Amherst and Williams. Wesleyan earned the No. 4 seed in the NESCAC Championships and later received its first-ever NCAA at-large bid to return to the national postseason tournament for the second time in three years. The 2016-17 squad posted a 19-7 overall record—second-most wins in program history—and a 6-4 mark in the ultra-competitive NESCAC.
In 2015-16, the Cardinals won a share of the Little Three title with another 3-1 mark against the Mammoths and Ephs. Midway through the year, Reilly surpassed 100 career victories as Wesleyan’s head coach as the team finished with 18 wins.
In 2014-15, Reilly guided the Cardinals to the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in the modern era of Division III basketball. The national tournament appearance capped a 19-win season and an incredible run to claiming the NESCAC Championship. The 19 wins fell just shy of Reilly’s 2011-12 team, which set the Wesleyan standard with 20 wins in a single season. Five of the six highest win total seasons in Cardinal basketball history have come in the past 10 years under Reilly’s watch.
In his first year at the helm of the Cardinals, Reilly brought in a high-impact recruiting class that included Shasha Brown ’13, Mike Callaghan ’13, Greg St. Jean ’13, and Derick Beresford ’13. Brown finished his career at Wesleyan as the all-time leading scorer (1,745 points) and assist man (393). Callaghan finished with 1,175 career points, good for sixth all-time in program history, and continued his basketball career post-graduation playing professionally in both Ireland and Spain. Beresford also finished his stellar career as a member of the 1,000 point club, while St. Jean graduated from Wesleyan and went on to become the youngest assistant coach in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings. He currently serves as an assistant on Chris Mullin’s staff at St. John’s University.
Among the five recruiting classes that have fully matriculated through Wesleyan during Reilly’s tenure, five different players have finished as 1,000-point scorers (Brown, Callaghan, Beresford, BJ Davis ’16 and most recently Harry Rafferty ’17).
Throughout his coaching career, Reilly has brought his teams on multiple international trips, to destinations such as Taiwan, Ireland, England and Spain. He is very involved in the local community running basketball camps for all ages, along with youth clinics and coordinating various school visits. Reilly has also been honored twice with the Schoenfeld Sportsmanship Award during his time at Wesleyan (2010 and 2015).
Before returning home to Connecticut, Reilly was the head coach at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine for 11 years. After inheriting a three-win team, Reilly turned Bates into a consistent NESCAC winning program, accumulating 154 victories during that span. He was named the NESCAC Coach of the Year following the 2005-06 season, in which his team won 20 games and set a school record with 16 straight victories. Over his final six seasons at Bates, Reilly amassed a .701 winning percentage. He was named the Maine Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year three different times and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame Coach of the Year in 2003.
Reilly is a 1991 graduate of Trinity College, majoring in economics, and completed his MBA at the University of Rhode Island in 1994. He currently resides in Cromwell, Conn. with his wife, Isabel, and four children (Joey, Carly, Lenna and Johnny). Part of a rich basketball coaching family with deep roots in the state, Reilly’s father Joe Sr. was the long-time head coach at South Catholic High School, where he won more than 500 games. His uncle Gene Reilly achieved similar success as the head coach of Portland High School, while brother Luke has captured two State Championships as the head coach of East Catholic High School in Manchester, Conn.