Zak Boisvert will have a front row seat when college basketball’s “March Madness” begins next week. Boisvert won’t be just watching. He’ll be heavily involved in the game.

A Portland native, Boisvert is in his first season as an assistant coach for Iona College, which will play in the tournament as the representative from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

“We’re headed to the Big Dance,” said Boisvert.

Boisvert will be on the Gaels’ bench helping head coach Tim Cluess with offensive strategy and game adjustments. Boisvert graduated from Deering High in 2006 and from Fordham University in New York in 2010.

At 24, Boisvert is the youngest Division I assistant basketball coach in the country.

“I wasn’t as good a player as I wanted to be in high school, but I knew early on that I wanted to be a college basketball coach,” said Boisvert.

Boisvert played on the freshmen team and then the junior varsity his first two years at Deering, but was cut during tryouts his junior year. He was unlucky that Deering was stocked with talented players at the time. Boisvert’s senior class had nine players on the 2005-06 Deering team that won the Class A state championship. Carlos Strong, Martin Cleveland and Tim Miller were standouts. While they were scoring baskets, Boisvert was in the stands analyzing the game with dreams of becoming a coach.

“I’m still good friends with all three of those guys,” said Boisvert.

“I’m in contact with Tim Miller, and Carlos watched our MAAC championship game on television and told me he liked the shoes I was wearing,” he said.

Boisvert and the Gaels will be glued to the television Sunday when the tournament pairings are announced.

“I think we’ll be a 14th or 15th seed,” said Boisvert.

“We could go as close as Philly to play or as far as San Jose, Calif. The closer the better.”

Iona (20-13) entered the 10-team MAAC tournament as the fourth seed and had to win three games to reach the NCAA tournament. The Gaels beat Manhattan 60-57 Monday night for the championship.

Iona, located in New Rochelle, N.Y., is making its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The Gaels lost to Brigham Young in the first round a year ago.

Boisvert wasn’t with the team last season — he was working for Hoop Group, a basketball instruction company out of New Jersey that works with the top AAU teams in the country.

“My first year with Iona was an entry-level position after graduating from Fordham,” said Boisvert.

“I joined Hoop Group to build my resume. I really wanted to get back into coaching at the college level, and getting a chance to work for Coach Cluess again is a great opportunity.”

Boisvert is involved in scouting, recruiting, player development, practice assisting and game preparation. Being close to New York City, the school has a natural recruiting base, but there’s a lot of competition from the rest of the MAAC for New York and New Jersey players.

“The majority of our players are from the city or from across the river in New Jersey,” said Boisvert.

At Fordham, Boisvert was the team manager for four seasons. He learned about video exchange, film breakdown, practice and game planning. Boisvert majored in English.

“From day one, you could tell Zak was going to be a coach,” said Dan LeGage, who just stepped down as Deering’s basketball coach.

“It was just the way he thought about the game and the mature discussions we had. He saw the game through a coach’s eyes. He has a passion for the game and a tireless work ethic.

“Zak played long enough to have a sense of what a player’s background is. He understands the type of work ethic a player has to have.

“We’ve stayed close since he left Deering. I’ve had Zak speak at our summer basketball camps. His message: If you want something bad enough, you can accomplish it. Zak is the epitome of that.”

Boisvert’s goal is to become a Division I head coach.

“I’m working toward it. I’m in no rush. I have plenty of time.”

If you like uptempo basketball, Boisvert said, Iona is the team to watch. The Gaels average 83 points a game.

“Watch us and root for us,” he said.

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH