The Daily Pennsylvanian asked Penn men’s basketball coach, Joe Mihalich, 15 questions about his basketball experiences, his coaching time at Penn, and his life overall. Here's what he had to say.
1. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Joe Mihalich. I’m one of the assistant coaches here at Penn and this is my sixth year here at Penn. Before that, I was at the University of Scranton for four years, and before that, I was one of the graduate assistants at Villanova. I played [basketball] at Nazareth College in upstate New York from 2005-2009.
2. What do you enjoy most about coaching at Penn?
The people, definitely. I really enjoy coaching, and serving our student-athletes here at Penn. These are special people. It really takes a lot to be a student-athlete at Penn. It’s really special to be a student-athlete here, and the people we have are incredible. Being able to work with them and spend four years with them is really fulfilling for me personally. It’s fun, it does not feel like work.
3. What made you decide to coach at Penn?
When coach Donahue got the job, he called me and said that he would have an opening on his staff, and I thought it was an incredible opportunity. At the time I was coaching at University of Scranton, a Division III school. I’m originally from Philadelphia. My dad is a basketball coach, and he’s been a college basketball coach for his whole life, so I grew up around coaching. Being around him my whole life, I got to see how cool of a profession this is, and how fulfilling it could be. The Big 5 is extraordinary, it’s a really cool basketball fraternity. So being a part of that, and coaching in the Palestra every single day. For a basketball junkie, there’s nothing like the Big 5 and the Palestra.
4. When did you know you wanted a career in basketball?
I knew pretty early on in college that coaching was something I wanted to do. I studied math and education in college because I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, and I wanted to teach basketball. I’ve seen parallels between the things I learned about teaching and coaching. The Palestra’s our classroom and basketball’s our subject. I also really enjoyed my four years at Nazareth College and felt coaching would be a cool way to be a part of somebody else’s best four years of their life.
5. What has been your favorite basketball memory?
I’ve been so lucky to cut down the net multiple times. My favorite basketball memory was when we won the Ivy League, we did it here at Penn, in the Palestra. It was an incredible crowd. To win that game, to seal your ticket, and then we turned right around and walked up campus to the selection show, and had a big party. It was really awesome, we had the big selection show, and the band and the cheerleaders were there. And then we found out we were going to play Kansas, it was really cool.
6. What has been your most memorable game coaching at Penn?
Winning the Big 5 in 2019. As a Philadelphia basketball guy, there’s nothing better than winning the Big 5.
7. What has it been like to finally be able to practice again with the team in person?
It’s like a breath of fresh air. It’s like we’ve been wandering in the desert and we finally get some water. It’s been nice to be back in the gym and see our guys, it’s definitely been such an awesome morale boost for me. It’s been great to be with our guys and see them again. These guys are a big part of our lives, and we’re a big part of their lives. I certainly missed them, I missed being with our staff, I missed coming into the office everyday.
8. Who was your favorite basketball player growing up?
Let’s do a top three. Allen Iverson is up there. I love being a Philly guy, he’s the most Philly-est basketball guard ever. I wanted to be Pete Maravich, I wish I was Pete Maravich. And Michael Jordan is just incredible.
9. What are three words that people would use to describe you?
Energetic, passionate, positive, and I have a fourth, loyal.
10. Favorite professional sports team?
Definitely the Buffalo Bills. I lived in Philly until I was 11, and then we moved to Niagara Falls, when my dad got a new job out there. While we were there we fell in love with the Bills, we became huge Bills fans, my whole family did.
11. If you could only watch three movies while self-isolating what would they be?
My favorite movie of all time is "Back to the Future," it has a little bit of everything. But I do favor comedy so "Dumb and Dumber," and "Wedding Crashers".
12. Philly restaurant suggestion?
If they’re new to the city, they have to do cheesesteak, and the best cheesesteak in my opinion is Dalessandro’s.
13. What would be your ideal vacation destination?
Croatia, no doubt. My wife and I went to Croatia for our honeymoon and it was incredible.
14. Favorite television show?
I have a couple favorites. Definitely, "Seinfeld" and/or "The Office". My second tier is probably "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Veep".
15. What’s one piece of advice you would give to athletes trying to navigate life during the pandemic?
It’s okay to have no idea what’s going on because nobody knows what’s going on right now. It’s really hard and it can be frustrating, and exhausting on Zoom for six to eight hours a day. But it’s going to get better, it will get better. There are so many people working hard to get things right again and just hang in there and stay positive. Call your coaches, if you need your coaches and just want to talk. We’ll come say, “hi” from six feet away if you need us. Your coaches are always here for you. Any student-athlete looking for advice, call your coaches, we got you.