Joe Mihalich, the new head men’s basketball coach at Hofstra University, took no time ingratiating himself to current players, alumni and university officials Wednesday during his introductory press conference, telling jokes and professing his love for the game and the Hempstead campus he’ll be calling home.
Mihalich, who spent the last 15 years coaching at Niagara University, inked a six-year deal with Hofstra after a nearly three-week search by university officials, including President Stuart Rabinowitz and Jeff Hathaway, the athletic director. The financial terms of the contract weren’t disclosed.
Mihalich replaces former head coach, Mo Cassara, who was fired last month after three seasons with Pride. The team struggled last season, going 7-25, and saw six players get arrested, including four who allegedly broke into campus dorms.
“It’s been a difficult year in the men’s basketball program,” said Rabinowitz, in front of a packed audience of alumni, current and former athletes and other university officials.
But he asserted his commitment to have a “first rate program,” and said Mihalich is the perfect man for the job. “He’s got a record of being a winner,” Rabinowitz added.
Mihalich wasted no time getting to know the players and the campus. He went on a drive around the university’s grounds Tuesday with his wife, Mary, riding with the windows down and welcoming the spring breeze—something he couldn’t normally do in Buffalo at this time of the year, he joked.
“I can’t wait to get going,” he said
Mihalich was on Hathaway’s short list of coaches he had his eye on after letting go of Cassara. He spoke with “hundreds of people” during the search and immediately knew he wanted a veteran to lead a team going through some changes.
“I wanted a steady hand on the steering wheel,” Hathaway said.
Mihalich may be the epitome of stability. He coached Niagara since 1998, compiling 265 wins over that time. That type of stability is rare in college athletics when coaches are constantly offered tantalizing deals to go elsewhere.
Mihalich noted that he was never looking to leave Niagara, but was drawn in by Rabinowitz and Hathaway.
“I would never leave [Niagara] unless if it’s for a really special place,” Mihalich said he would say to people.
Mihalich’s teams earned a pair of NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament trips during his career at Niagara and led a young team to 19 wins this past season. He was also the recipient of the 2013 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year award.
Mihalich was also named the 2013 Skip Prosser Man of the Year, which recognizes coaches with success on the court and who show moral integrity away from the arena.
Prior to joining Niagara, Mihalich was an assistant coach at La Salle University from 1981 to 1998.