PROVIDENCE — How did Steve Napolillo begin his first day on the job as Providence College’s athletic director earlier this month? He dropped off his son Drew for the final day of the weeklong Ed Cooley Basketball Camp.

From there, it was about conveying his mission statement as the gong sounded for a new era for PC athletics.

“I don’t care if you’re an administrator, a coach or a student-athlete. It’s purpose with passion,” Napolillo said during a walk around a campus whose enhancement of the athletic facilities is part of the 21-year legacy authored by Napolillo’s predecessor, Bob Driscoll.

“Know what your purpose is for that day and do it with passion,” Napolillo continued. “If you know your goals and know what you want to accomplish, it gives you that purpose every day.”

PC announced the hiring of Napolillo as the school’s next athletic director back in late January. The next five months weren't  about learning the ins and outs of what makes Friar sports tick. A Cranston native who graduated from PC, Napolillo has been an employee mainstay on the school grounds located off the corner of Eaton Street and River Avenue since 2004.

There’s an element of striking while the iron is hot as Napolillo now leads a department whose men’s basketball program is coming off a historic season — the school’s first Big East regular-season championship and the deepest NCAA Tournament run in 25 years. There’s also peace of mind in the unwavering support offered by Providence President the Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard and the school’s Chief Financial Offer, John Sweeney.

Having such backing from high-end administrators is crucial in this modern era of college sports, where the landscape seems to change every time you turn your back. For that, Napolillo is thankful for said support from multiple walks of life that are essential in keeping the train moving forward — from donors to season-ticket holders.

“Our goal as a college is to be a national brand. We’ve made great strides, and athletics is a huge part of that,” said Napolillo, who’s fully aware that it’s not always going to be about net-cutting moments at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and Sweet 16 appearances. He’s been around the block enough times with the Friars to know that the wave of good times can get wiped out with the snap of a finger.

“I have my eyes wide open to how thin the line is between success and failure,” Napolillo said, “but the one thing I truly believe is that we’re blessed to have so many talented people. I might be the athletic director, but it’s about so many people who are involved in this.”

Napolillo’s first day on the job coincided with the first anniversary of college athletes being able to profit off of their name, image and likeness (NIL). For those wondering how the Friars fit into this seismic game-changer, the new AD promised that important news on the NIL front is on the horizon.

“We’re doing our due diligence to make sure we do it at the top level,” said Napolillo, noting that a third party that’s not affiliated with the school will be announcing a Friar NIL collective in September. “That will help our student-athletes navigate the next phase of name, image and likeness. We’re also working with the business school to build a strong academic program so our students and student-athletes can work on promoting their own personal brands … know how to maximize social media and different areas as they look towards the next phase of their careers.”

Is Napolillo nervous? That was the most common question he fielded in advance of Day 1 on the job.

“To me, I’m excited and grateful. You can’t get high; you can’t get low. You’ve got to stay even-keeled,” he said. “From the alumni to our faculty and staff, everybody is able to enjoy, appreciate and maximize what Providence College brings to the community.”

As Napolillo made his way back to his office in Alumni Hall, he shared conversations that have been taking place that would enable Driscoll to maintain firm ties to PC.

Napolillo has shared a breakfast with URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn.

“We had an awesome conversation about name, image and likeness and how we can help each other … navigating through this world,” Napolillo said. “We’re all in this together. We’re all fighting the fight.”

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