BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Monday, Niagara University men’s basketball head coach Greg Paulus was awarded the Joe B. Hall National Coach of the Year, given to the top first-year head coach in Division I college basketball.

“I’m extremely honored,” Paulus said. “It’s a credit to our team, our players, and our support staff. I’m just so appreciative of the opportunity from Father Maher and Simon Gray and everybody at Niagara University for having this opportunity. I’m just really proud of what our group achieved this year, as individuals, as a team, and as a program.”

In Paulus’s first year as head coach, the Purple Eagles finished with a 12-20 overall record, and went 9-11 in MAAC play. Niagara also notched their first win in the MAAC Tournament in three years when they defeated Marist 56-54 in the first round.

“We’re really excited about the identity and the culture that we have built within our program,” Paulus said. “We saw so many positives from the start to the end, not just on the basketball court but in the classroom and the community, and as people as our players and everybody are developing.”

“I know our guys are excited about the development and the progress that we’ve made, and we want to continue to work hard and try to keep building off of that.”

It was a season full of ups and downs, but through the wins and the losses, Paulus says his team and coaching staff both learned a lot from each other, and he’s proud of the growth the team took throughout the year.

“I always think that you learn so much from your team. You certainly learn a lot about yourself,” Paulus said. “There’s a lot of situations in the highs and lows of the season and all that goes into it. Our players taught our staff so much, I loved the ability of our guys just to continue to fight and stay together and be positive. I took away so many different things from our experiences together that I’m hoping we can use in the future.”