Joe Mihalich, whose Niagara University men’s basketball teams produced winning records in 13 of his 14 seasons as head coach, leads the Purple Eagles’ Athletics Hall of Fame class for 2021 announced on Tuesday. Also to be enshrined will be women’s soccer standout Brittany (Bisnott) DeWire, Kathryn Rafter, who helped to get women’s athletics sanctioned at the college, and the 2001-02 women’s ice hockey team.
Mihalich’s teams at Niagara won 265 games, more than other head coach at the school, achieved two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament championships to earn two of the three NCAA tournament bids in NU’s men’s basketball history and went to three NIT tournaments. Besides winning MAAC titles in 2005 and 2007, Mihalich led NU to two other trips to the conference tournament championship game. His 2009 team went 26-9. The La Salle University graduate was MAAC Coach of the Year three times and District 1 Coach of the Year twice, as well as Skip Prosser Man of the Year in 2012-13.
He left after the 2014 season to become the head coach at Hofstra and retired from that position last year.
DeWire was MAAC Rookie of the Year in 2004 and Offensive Player of the Year in 2007. She had 60 career goals and 136 points, both third in Niagara history, and was a first-team Academic All-American.
Rafter was a pioneer for women’s sports at Niagara and helped lead the initiative to have women’s sports officially sanctioned at the college. She was a member of the women’s basketball program from 1971-75 and in 1974 became the first female elected to the university’s athletics advisory council, which helped implement Title IX.
The 2001-02 women’s hockey team was the most successful in the brief history of the sport at Niagara. The Purple Eagles went 26-8-2 overall and 19-2-0 to win the ECAC championship. Niagara advanced to the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four and tied Minnesota 2-2 in the third-place game.
Ticket information and other details about the Hall of Fame festivities will be announced at a later date.