Tonawanda News — “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” — Jim Valvano
Joe Mihalich did Jim Valvano proud on Wednesday.
Upon being introduced as the new men’s basketball coach at Hofstra University, Mihalich made jokes about his wife’s spending habits and the Buffalo weather.
When questioned by reporters about the challenges he faces at Hofstra and what he was leaving behind at Niagara, Mihalich gave thoughtful answers
And on the phone with the Niagara Gazette later in the day, Mihalich broke down in tears.
“I’m sorry,” Mihalich said after a few seconds of silence, “it’s hard to talk about leaving that place.”
Fifteen years after Niagara gave him his first head coaching opportunity, Mihalich made the difficult decision to move on to greener pastures.
“It was the best 15 years of my life,” Mihalich said, still choked up. “I was lucky to be there. You pinch yourself every day for being able to be there with great, great people. It’s a really hard place to leave.”
Having won 265 games, the most in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference history and second-most at Niagara, and played in two NCAA tournaments and three NITs, Mihalich has had opportunities to leave before. Among the schools he turned down in the past was his alma mater, LaSalle.
So what changed this time around?
“It’s hard to put a quantifier on it,” Mihalich said. “It’s more about a gut feeling. It’s a time in my life where this challenge presents itself. It was the right time for me.
“It’s like I told the kids last night. They should have dreams and goals and for me, this is place where maybe we can reach our dreams and goals. It’s a challenge that excites me. I’m leaving a team that finished first and coming to a team that finished last.”