JONESBORO, Ark. (3/20/17) – Arkansas State University has hired Mike Balado as the head coach of the men’s basketball program, Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir announced Monday.
Below is a transcript of the comments by Arkansas State Chancellor Dr. Doug Whitlock, Arkansas State University System President Dr. Chuck Welch, A-State Director of Athletics and head coach Mike Balado.
Arkansas State Chancellor Dr. Doug Whitlock
I’m very happy to see such a large turnout. I think that shows to our new coach how much of an interest there is about Arkansas State basketball. It was a pleasure for me to have an opportunity to participate in this process. All of us owe a debt of thanks to Terry Mohajir for running an expeditious, professional and thorough search that has brought us to this point.
When you get a chance to hear from Coach Balado, I’m sure that you will be impressed by the same things that got our attention. Here’s a young man with a fire in his belly and he wants to win. He’s said he’s won before in the Convocation Center and I think we can look forward to seeing him win many more times. With that, we want to get to the business at hand.
Arkansas State University System President Dr. Chuck Welch
We were standing just off the court in the arena at Indianapolis on Saturday afternoon and practice had just ended for Louisville and Coach Balado came running over and Terry offered him the job. Coach Balado said eight words, ‘I want it, let’s go win some championships!’ I think that is exactly what is going to happen. From the minute we sat down and talked with him, I don’t think there was any question that he was the guy to be our new head basketball coach.
Coach (Rick) Pitino actually told us that he had sent 29 coaches on to be head coaches. I guess Coach Balado is No. 30. He said he would rank this guy right here up there with any of them. Coach Pitino had some great things to say about him, but when we got to see Coach Balado at work in practice, it was very clear that he was very disciplined, a motivator, very energetic, he’s enthusiastic and he knows how to win. That’s what we are most concerned about and what we are expecting at a very high level.
I want to thank Dr. Whitlock and I have to tell this story. While we were interviewing Coach Balado, I asked him to act like we are recruits now, even though that’s a little bit of a tough sell there. I told him to act like we are and tell us why we need to come to Arkansas State. He just launches into this recruiting spiel and when he finished, Dr. Whitlock was like, ‘I got four years of eligibility left!’ I don’t think there was any doubt though, if there was a young man sitting across from him a room, there’s a good chance he will end up being a Red Wolf.
Terry (Mohajir) has once again hit a home run. Terry once again did his work very well. Mike Balado was one of the first names out of his mouth when he called me to start talking about this search. After you spend a few minutes with Coach Balado, you’ll understand why. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Terry is the best athletic director in the country and he’s the reason we are able to attract coaches like Mike Balado. Terry is the reason we have had the success we’ve had and the reason these young men and women that play in our program have a chance at a better life after sports. This is the reason all these good things are happening at Arkansas State.
Arkansas State Director of Athletics Terry Mohajir
First of all, I want to welcome you all here and thank you for coming. I know a lot of things are going on in Jonesboro, but the fact that you made the effort and emphasis to be here to come support our new coach really means a lot.
I cannot tell you, I think I’ve counted up 10 Chancellors or CEO’s I’ve worked for and these guys (Dr. Chuck Welch and Dr. Doug Whitlock) are the best I’ve ever been around. I’ve also got to thank (Senior Associate AD) Rich Zvosec for all his help with this process.
I also want to thank Coach Grant McCasland and his staff for the great momentum that they created and started. It’s not only challenging for the head coach, but it’s challenging for the staff when you move and the fans did a great job embracing that staff like I know you will with this new coaching staff.
It’s another exciting day to be a Red Wolf. I’ve said that many times, but this time it gives us an opportunity to get better. That word, that affirmation we had on a billboard of ‘Always Rising’ rings true. The achievements of today become our expectations of tomorrow. Once we hit those thresholds, we want to go higher and we have too. If we are staying the same or going lower, we’re not getting better so we’ve got to constantly talk about ‘Always Rising’. So you win 20 games and you know what, Coach Balado is ready for it.
The momentum we have is awesome. We’ve created some good momentum and we’ve got good fan support. When we were looking for a new coach, we were asking how we could continue the momentum and even take it higher and I think we did that.
We’ve talked about the core profile of people we want and we have boxes that we check. Let me just tell you some things we were looking for. Do you want to be a Red Wolf? First and foremost do you have the insane energy to be a head coach at Arkansas State? Check. Do you love your players and can’t wait to coach them every single day and love the people that you work with? Check. Do you believe in the core principles of the athletic department? The core principles of the athletic department are developing young people in their academic, athletic and professional pursuits. Check. Will you challenge yourself every single day with our athletic department core principles so they remain relevant? Check. Can you evaluate talent and develop it? Check. Have you had to grind at multiple levels and sometimes take a road less traveled to improve your craft, but still have success? Check. Have you worked at an autonomous five school, let alone an elite program? Check. Are you part of the major strategic gameplan on a daily basis at your current institution? Check. Have you ever, or will you have community engagement? Check. Those are just a few of the profiles we had as we pursued a coach and Coach Balado checked all those boxes.
Over 10 years ago, I was a young development officer as Associate AD for Development at Florida Atlantic University. Mike was a young coach working for Matt Doherty, which was AP Coach of the Year at one time, and I got the chance to work with Mike for just a brief period of time. In that time, I saw him and how he interacted with the community, interacted with players and how he coached on the sideline. I’m a gym rat and I love watching coaches. I said to Mike over 10 years ago that I don’t know where I am going to be or where you are going to be, but you will be a big time head coach somewhere. I never in a million years would have thought that after he took the job at Louisville that I would have a chance to be a part of hiring Coach Balado.
It’s a great testament to the reputation of our athletic department and this program that we can hire the lead assistant from and elite program. That says a lot about what you guys (fans) have done and how you have supported this program. It’s a brand we will continue to build and continue to emerge.
Arkansas State Head Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Balado
First of all, I want to thank you for allowing me to come in. I’m very humbled and excited to be your head coach. You have no idea the vision and the love that Terry Mohajir, Dr. Whitlock and Dr. Welch have for this university. Usually, when you try to get a job or want a job so bad, you are doing the recruiting pitch, but they gave a great recruiting pitch about this university and community that anybody could ever give. When I left there, because I know Terry and had met Dr. Welch and Dr. Whitlock, I knew this was one of the nicest, most beautiful campuses I’ve been on. The Convocation Center is amazing and I’d love to get that place rocking and make sure we get a lot of fans out there supporting these young men. I’m really excited to be here and become a part of the Red Wolves family.
Before I get started, I want to thank several people. First and foremost, like I said, I’ve got to thank Terry Mohajir, Dr. Doug Whitlock and Dr. Chuck Welch. I’ve got to thank all the administrators, faculty and coaches I worked with at Louisville. There’s no better place that I’ve been at because those are top notch people with friendships that will last forever. I’ve got to think all the coaches I’ve ever worked for because they put me through the grinder and I’ve learned a lot of things to do well because of their tutelage.
Coach (Rick) Pitino is like a father to me. He taught me the last four years of how to be a man, how to coach and run your own program, how to get the individuals you deal with on a daily basis to believe in who you are and how to get everyone surrounded in a brand to get excited about when is the next game. When do they play again, who are they playing and how are they playing. That’s what I want every time you guys walk through your door at home.
My plan for this program is very simple. The only word I want to hear out of my player’s mouth is championship. That’s what we want to do here. When you sit in the home and are recruiting a young man not one time, maybe not yet, but in the next year or next month, there hasn’t been one young man that I’m going to recruit that grew up wanting to come to Arkansas State. But, after I get done talking to them and they meet everyone that surrounds the program and see the university and fanbase, we’re going to get young men to say, ‘Coach, I’ve always wanted to play at Arkansas State.’ That’s the kind of players we want.
The vision of this program is going to be very simple and I’m glad they gave me a jersey with my name on it. That is very important as I go into what I’m going to tell these guys every single day. If you play for the name on the front, the name on the back will prosper. You can’t come in and want to play for the name on the back, because if you do that it’s going to crumble. You play for Arkansas State first. You play for the Red Wolf family first and then the name on the back will prosper.
All of you in the community will help us win championships and play in the NCAA Tournament and play in the later rounds because that’s what we want to do by winning big games. When they are done playing basketball, whenever that may be, they can go into your home and you say I have a friend that has a job for one of our players. Those are the types of players I want in this program. I want our players to stay entrenched in this community. There is no greater feeling than seeing a graduated player return and sitting down with a freshman having a tough time and saying, ‘Believe in Coach B, he will get you where you want to go.’ Those are the best recruiters, not me. That’s what we want in our program. Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not and there are no promises I’m up here giving you. I lead by example, not by words, because that’s the only way to do it.
We are going to practice every day extremely hard. We are going to be the best conditioned team in the country and we are going to be the best defensive team in the country. We’re going to have these guys playing for each other. It’s going to be a hard road, but no successful person has ever had an easy road. They always say, ‘I don’t want to take the elevator, I want to take the stairs.’ Well, tie up a rope and forget the stairs.
Let’s do it. Let’s look forward to the bright future this program has. I’ll be around the community more than you know, because there is nothing better to do than have coffee with fans in the morning. I have an open door policy because I want you to know who I am and who my family is. I want you to know what we are all about. I promise you, if you sit in those seats and watch these young men play, you will be proud to be a Red Wolf.