Hofstra men’s basketball head coach Joe Mihalich knew when he was in high school that he wanted to coach the sport he loves.
He is now in his 39th year of that dream come true and his fourth season at the helm of the Hofstra Pride.
Mihalich began his coaching career as the assistant coach of DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Maryland but quickly moved his way up to the college level.
He spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach at La Salle University in Philadelphia, where he studied and played basketball from 1974-78.
He got his first head coaching gig at Niagara University in New York, where he coached for 15 seasons before coming to Hofstra in 2013.
After that long, many people would grow tired of doing the same job; coach Mihalich is not one of those people.
“What keeps you going is the people you work with … and I’m lucky because I get to work with younger people,” Mihalich said.
Coach Mihalich goes into practice every day hoping to guide his players to “not just become a better shooter, better dribble or better passer, but just better prepared to play the game they love.”
He believes that every coach should feel a responsibility to take care of their players off the court as well.
The Hofstra fans and players can see their coach’s passion for the game on full display along the sidelines at every game.
Mihalich said that if he “shows the love he has for the game, for the profession and being with the guys every day, they will know that and see that.”
Seeing that a coach truly loves what they are doing can inspire a team to achieve great things, and that has certainly been the case for Mihalich.
In his 18 seasons being a head coach at the college level, he has been to the NCAA Tournament twice and the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) four times.
Mihalich’s winning culture has already taken hold at Hofstra after only three seasons.
He took over a team that had won just seven games in the 2012-13 season and has now won 20 games in two consecutive years.
Last season’s Pride team was the regular season CAA champions and went to the NIT for the first time since 2007.
The veteran coach said he is “lucky to be here” at Hofstra, saying that it is a “beautiful school with a lot of great people.”
He has loved the players and coaches he has gotten to work with so far and is excited for this season’s new pieces.
Getting back to the NIT was a great feeling, but Mihalich and his team are not satisfied.
The ultimate goal is the more elusive NCAA tournament that Hofstra has not been to since 2001.
Taking a look at his 2016-17 Pride squad, Mihalich said “I love this team, I think we have all the right pieces … [but] there’s a lot we have to do to get better.”
He is figuring out how to fit new pieces such as freshman Eli Pemberton and senior Deron Powers, who have both taken starring roles on this year’s team.
Coach Mihalich compared his job of finding the right balance of players to baking a cake. “You have to take these ingredients and find the right amount to put them all together and see if you can’t get something that looks good, tastes good.”
Hofstra has started to figure out its roster, having won four in a row to bring its record to 6-3 thus far. Mihalich has just over three weeks to get all the kinks worked out when CAA play begins against the University of Delaware on New Year’s Eve.
To become CAA champions, the Pride will face an uphill battle after being picked to finish sixth in the conference before the season started.
Despite the odds, coach Mihalich remains positive and prepared.
“[I] cannot wait to help Hofstra get to the NCAA Tournament, because Hofstra deserves to be there.”