By Anders Jorstad - STAFF WRITER
College basketball season has started at Hofstra and excitement is in the air. “[Hofstra students] are passionate about their school,” said men’s basketball assistant coach Akbar Waheed. “That’s the one thing that I feel every day.”
Waheed is a new addition to the Hofstra Pride coaching staff this season, replacing former Assistant Coach Shane Nichols who has taken up a similar job at Murray State. Waheed brings a lot of experience to the coaching staff as he has not only been an assistant coach at multiple college programs, but he was also most recently an NBA scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
When asked what he learned along the way, Waheed said, “From Coach Mihalich, I would say just being genuine. Being genuine with the guys and being honest. We had a lot of good players, we challenged them daily to achieve their goals and dreams.” Waheed worked under Pride head coach Joe Mihalich for 11 seasons at Niagara, so the two have a history together. Although Waheed is a new face for Hofstra fans, there is familiarity between the two coaches.
“I’m big into loyalty,” Coach Waheed said, explaining his decision to join the staff at Hofstra. “Coach Mihalich gave me my start as a college coach. It was an opportunity for me to get back into the game that I love. I love impacting young players’ lives, helping them achieve their goals and dreams and it was just a win-win for me and my family.”
Coach Waheed has various responsibilities here at Hofstra, including helping out in player development, recruiting and coaching players on the court as well. “It’s all hands on deck and [everyone on the staff] has a voice,” said Coach Waheed about the communication between the coaches. “That’s one of the things that I really admire about coach Mihalich, that is he really cares about your input. We sit in our meetings almost daily and we’re expected to be creative, to be energized and to bring that passion to basketball every day.”
That smooth communication between the coaches has surely helped lead the Pride to a 5-2 start to the season that includes a win over Florida State, one of the premier programs in college basketball. But even with the hot start, coach thinks that there’s always room to improve. “Well we can always get better and that’s our goal daily,” said Coach Waheed. “You never stay the same, you get better, you get worse. And we challenge the guys every day. I would say currently our team is in a good position. We’re ranked pretty high in the preseason polls and it’s something that we’ve embraced for a long time.
Nobody is going to put more pressure on ourselves than us. We understand where we are, we embrace it and our goal is to go out there and prove it every night. Just to have someone say ‘oh well you have a good team’ or ‘you guys should be number one.’ No, we want to be number one every night we step on the court.”
Coach Waheed said the team has been very receptive to the advice from the coaching staff this season. “I’ll start by saying this, we have a team full of great kids,” he said. “They want to learn, they want to get better. As a coach, that’s all you can ask. It makes your job a lot easier when you go to practice every day and you’ve got 12-13 guys staring at you, just all eyes and ears and ready to get better. There’s not a better environment to be in as a coach when you have players who are driven, have goals, have dreams and want to do big things.”
With plenty of games left in the non-conference season, there is still a lot of time to improve before conference play begins. The Pride has several difficult matchups in the non-conference including a match against Stony Brook after a thrilling victory over the Seawolves last season.
Coach Waheed will be a major contributor to the coaching staff as the team attempts to build on their strong start.