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Mihalich ends Niagara run, heads for Hofstra

Joe Mihalich, who in 15 seasons led Niagara University to its most successful run since the Calvin Murphy era, will be named the next coach at Hofstra University, according to multiple sources.

Hofstra has scheduled a news conference for noon today to announce the hiring.

It was reported by SNY.TV’s Adam Zagoria on March 27 that Mihalich was interviewing for the position, but the coach sent a text message to The Buffalo News saying he was on the road recruiting and didn’t know where the talk about an interview with Hofstra was coming from.

The opening at Hofstra was created when the school announced that Mo Cassara would not be returning after finishing 7-25. According to sources, Hofstra Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway immediately homed in on Iona’s Tim Cluess, a Hofstra alumnus who led the Gaels to back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths in 2012 and 2013. But on Sunday, Iona announced he was remaining at the school, and Hathaway made a play for Mihalich.

Mihalich was an assistant coach at La Salle from 1981 to 1998 and was part of eight postseason teams, including five NCAA Tournament teams. Mihalich got his coaching career started under Morgan Wooten at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., which is also the alma mater of Hathaway.

A call seeking comment from Mihalich was not immediately returned.

Mihalich, 56, a three-time Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, is coming off a season in which he led the Purple Eagles to a 19-14 record and the MAAC regular season title. Mihalich has been the coach at Niagara since 1998, leading the team to three MAAC regular-season titles, two league tournament championships and a pair of berths in the NCAA Tournament, in 2005 and 2007. Mihalich brought an exciting, fast-break style he learned from his early days in Philadelphia when he coached at LaSalle under the legendary Speedy Morris.

With the return of sophomores Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason and Ameen Tanksley, Mihalich positioned the Niagara program for MAAC championship runs for at least the next two seasons and whoever takes over the program will inherit a roster stacked with talent. In amassing a 265-203 record over 15 seasons, Mihalich generally had teams capable of contending for league championships.

Last season, Mihalich guided the youngest team in the MAAC with a starting lineup consisting of three sophomores, one freshman and a senior transfer to its first regular-season title since 2004-05. That crown clinched Niagara a bid to the National Invitation Tournament, the fifth postseason berth in Mihalich’s tenure.

His best season was in the 2008-09, led by guard Tyrone Lewis and swingman Bilal Benn. Niagara won the second-most games in school history, compiling a 26-9 record and hosting an NIT game at the Gallagher Center for the first time in school history.

Mihalich also guided the team to the MAAC Tournament championship game for the fifth time since 2002; the Purple Eagles lost to Siena.

He leaves a legacy that will be hard to duplicate but it is a position that will draw many coaching candidates for Niagara AD Tom Crowley to consider.

Among those with local ties are Columbia associate coach Carlin Hartman, a former Grand Island standout, former Niagara assistant Desmond Oliver, who recruited Alvin Young and is now at Charlotte, and Dayton assistant Kevin Kuwik.

Others who have ties with Crowley include Butler assistant Brandon Miller and Northeastern associate Pat Duquette.