Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mihalich Leaves Niagara To Take Over At Hofstra

Joe Mihalich is leaving Niagara after 15 years with Purple Eagles to succeed Mo Cassara at Hofstra.  (Photo courtesy of the Buffalo News)

The winningest coach in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference history is leaving his home of the last decade and a half for a greater challenge.

Joe Mihalich, who built Niagara into one of the perennial contenders in the MAAC over his fifteen years on Monteagle Ridge, has accepted an offer to fill the head coaching vacancy at Hofstra University.  He will be introduced this afternoon at a press conference held in the school's University Club on the Hempstead campus.

The 56-year-old Mihalich went 265-203 in his tenure at Niagara, which had been the only stop in his head coaching career until today, and becomes the twelfth coach in Hofstra history after his Purple Eagles team won the MAAC regular season championship and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament, in which they lost their opening-round game against the University of Maryland. While at Niagara, Mihalich made five postseason appearances, with two NCAA Tournament berths resulting from conference championships in 2005 and 2007, and made three trips to the NIT.

Born in Washington, D.C., Mihalich played for legendary high school coach Morgan Wootten at DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, where he later served as an assistant coach for three years after a four-year collegiate playing career at La Salle.  He returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 1981, remaining with the Explorers for the next seventeen years as the top assistant to coach Speedy Morris before his hiring by Niagara in 1998.

In Mihalich, Hofstra essentially gets an older, more experienced version of Cassara, as both men are similar in terms of style and personality.  In my coverage of the MAAC over the years, Mihalich has been near the top of the list of media-friendly coaches, and his mix of refreshing honesty with witty one-liners should be an instant hit with the New York media.  In addition, he is a very strong recruiter with even stronger ties to the talent-rich Philadelphia area, where five of the players on this past season's Niagara team; including first team all-MAAC guard Juan'ya Green, hail from.  His player development also ranks near the top of the MAAC in recent years, with former national leading scorers Juan Mendez and Charron Fisher among the many professional-caliber talents he has coached up to become some of the best players in the country, even at a mid-major level.

Terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but Steven Marcus of Newsday reports that Mihalich will receive a six-year contract at Hofstra, which has just hired only its fourth coach in the last twenty years; with Cassara being preceded by Jay Wright and Tom Pecora, now the head coaches at Villanova and Fordham, respectively.

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