By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette — Joe Mihalich wore several emotions on his camel hair coat Thursday night after learning he had been voted the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Coach of the Year by his peers.
“This is a league of coaches,” Mihalich said by phone from Springfield, Mass., site of this weekeend’s MAAC tournament. “I have such enormous respect for the other coaches in the league and when you get recognized by your peers, it’s humbling. “
“I’ve got an incredible staff,” Mihalich said. “It’s a young staff and they are rising beyond their years. They are rising stars, all of them. These guys work like crazy. They are really good at what they do, they have incredible aptitude for the game.”
“This is not an individual award,” Mihalich went on. “Mike Farrelly, Kyle Neptune, Shane Nichols and Colin Curtin — it didn’t feel right being up there without those guys. It should be five people.
“And if you don’t have players, who want to be good and want to be coached and our talented, it doesn’t matter how good of a coach you are, you won’t win.”
“I’m not going to say anything about any other players,” Mihalich said. “But for what Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason and T.J. Cline did for us to win this year, I wouldn’t trade them for anyone else in the league.”
No MAAC team won more games than the Niagara Purple Eagles this year. With the youngest lineup in the league, they far out-performed the coaches’ preseason prediction for a fifth-place finish. That won Mihalich his third career Coach of the Year award.
But sophomore guards Green and Mason will have to wait to receive Player of the Year recognition, which went to Lamont Jones, the nation’s second-leading scorer, a senior for Iona, the fourth-place finisher.
And freshman forward T.J. Cline led his class in scoring and weekly merits, but rival coaches regarded him as no better than a third option on the all-rookie team after co-Rookie of the Year winners Amadou Sidibe from seventh-place Fairfield and Shane Richards from sixth-place Manhattan.
So Mihalich will take his award back to the team hotel, and share it with the snubbed and the overlooked.
“You can only really accept it if you accept it on behalf of all of your coaches and your players,” Mihalich said.