Transition time for Cal Poly men’s basketball

Posted at 5:55 PM, Mar 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 21:37:43-04

When one door closes, another one opens.

It’s transition time for the Cal Poly men’s basketball program as the search for its next head coach has begun. Cal Poly athletic director Don Oberhelman spoke openly for the first time on Sunday about firing Joe Callero and what the future holds for the Mustangs.

“We need to be in the hunt for titles,” Oberhelman said. “I’m not saying we need to win a Big West title every single year, I want to get us back into the hunt. This is one more year where we weren’t.”

Cal Poly rounded out its sixth straight losing season under Joe Callero with a 92-82 loss to rival UC Santa Barbara on Saturday night. The Mustangs finished 6-24 overall, 2-14 in the Big West, and missed the Conference Tournament for the first time since 2009.

“We’ve had several years of not improving. I think we’ve proven ourselves as very patient in terms of what our win-loss record was,” Oberhelman explained.

Callero, who ends his 10 years at Cal Poly with a 126-184 record, had one year left on his contract and will now receive a $137,000 buyout, which is essentially half his base salary. It will be absorbed by the athletic department’s budget.

Callero was able to finish out the last two games of the 2018-2019 season.

“I felt like I owed him that he should know when I know,” Oberhelman said. “I gave Joe a lot of flexibility to be able to handle this the way he wanted, and he certainly did. He handled this exactly the way he wanted.”

But now the question is, who’s next?

Oberhelman says he’ll be meeting with 18-25 candidates over the next week. He’s looking for someone who can embrace the Cal Poly way and meet the challenge of high academic priority from the student-athletes.

“It’s really, really hard to find somebody that’s been at a place like this. Are they out there? There’s a few, of course. The kind of coach we want wants this job badly.”

Cal Poly’s academic standard is tough, actually, it’s the toughest in the Big West Conference, but even so, Oberhelman wants the next head coach to recruit players that are as athletic on the court as they are smart off of it.

“As much as I love our guys, when we play UC Irvine, you can see a distinct difference in the size and speed of those athletes that they have on their roster versus us,” Oberhelman explained.

He then joked, “I’ll take them on in a spelling bee any day.”

There are no promises what the team will look like next season, but as far as the current players are concerned, Oberhelman assured them they still have a home at Cal Poly during the change.

He added there’s no real timetable for a coaching hire, but it could come as soon as the next couple of weeks.