Skip to Content

Cal Poly introduces Mike DeGeorge as new men’s basketball head coach

Mike DeGeorge
Mike DeGeorge (center) is introduced as new Cal Poly men's basketball head coach by university president Jeffrey Armstrong (right) and athletic director Don Oberhelman (left) on April 4, 2024. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. – Cal Poly officially introduced Mike DeGeorge as the new men's basketball head coach Thursday morning.

During a press conference inside the university's Performing Arts Center, DeGeorge was introduced by Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong and Athletic Director Don Oberhelman.

The event made his first formal appearance since being named head coach by Cal Poly last week.

"It's a great day to be a Mustang!" exclaimed Armstrong, to begin the press conference, which was attended by Cal Poly coaches, as well as Cal Poly staff, student-athletes, alumni, supporters, and members of the public. "Cal Poly is committed to Mustang athletics and fielding outstanding programs. This is about diplomas and championships. We all believe men's basketball can and will rise to the level of success that so many of our programs are currently enjoying, so to be sure, we're in it to win it, and we're in it for the long haul."

DeGeorge arrives at Cal Poly after serving as head coach at Colorado Mesa the previous six seasons.

While at the Division II school, DeGeorge led the Mavericks to five NCAA Tournament appearances and averaged 23 wins per season. 

He now takes over a Cal Poly program that is coming off a disappointing five-year stretch under previous coach John Smith, who compiled an overall record of 30-114, to go along with a Big West Conference record of 9-74.

In addition, Cal Poly has lost 35 consecutive Big West regular season games, which is an all-time conference record.

"I do love the building process," said DeGeorge. "I'm not going to back down from challenges and I'm excited about the building process and being able to build a program and help try to create a really positive environment here for men's basketball."

To turn the program around, the university has hired someone who has never coached at the Division I level, but has a track record of turning around struggling programs, including Colorado Mesa, Rhodes College, Eureka College and Cornell College.

Oberhelman pointed out that DeGeorge emerged as the favorite for the position from a deep pool that included about 50 candidates, across the spectrum of NCAA divisions.

"It was really all over the map," said Oberhelman. "We had Division II candidates, Division I candidates, we had a few Division III candidates, a lot of Division I assistants," said Oberhelman. "I was really impressed with what Coach DeGeorge brought. I had a lot of other impressive people on the list. I was very pleased with our candidate pool, but I'm very confident that he's the guy for us, and to me it's about fit. There were some great candidates. The question is, do they fit? And every time he and I spoke, it became more evident that our values are very, very much aligned."

Oberhelman added DeGeorge's emphasis on academics, particularly since he coached and succeeded at mostly academically oriented universities was a key selling point.

"I want to be in an academic environment," said DeGeorge. "I really value and appreciate that we're here to give to help kids get a great education, and when they can come and get one of the best educations in the country, that's really exciting to me. It's something I truly believe in. It's a life changer for our student athletes, and so to be a part of that process is really exciting."

The DeGeorge hiring marks the second consecutive time Oberhelman has dipped into the Division II ranks to find a new basketball coach.

Two years ago, Shanele Stires took over the women's program after a six-year run at Cal State East Bay.

After inheriting a program that won just three games the season before she was hired, Stires this season led the Mustangs to 17 wins, plus a trip to the WNIT.

"Yeah, I think I think what Shanele Stires did was gave us a little more confidence that (Division II) could be an outlet for us to take a look," said Oberhelman. "Shanele got the job two years ago to be our head coach from the Division II program and has had pretty good success in year two, and I think we're going to see a huge step forward in year three, o we're really going into men's program, we started doing a deep dive on three or four Division II head coaches out west that we really were having great success and we really liked what they were doing, so we weren't scared to do that. There may be a little bit outside the box, I've been told, but I really like the approach to it because you're getting somebody with deep experience that we know what he's capable of.  Right? So we hired a Division I assistant, there's a little bit of question mark. Can you run a program? Do you actually know how to do this? You've never done it. He's done it. He's done it for 24 years. So to me, that was a made it an easier hire."

When DeGeorge takes the floor next season starting in November, Cal Poly fans will see a new look team, both with the roster, and style of play.

Several of the players from this past season have indicated they will not return, including top scorer Kobe Sanders, who announced recently he is joining Nevada for his final season of eligibility.

As for the student-athletes who will be on the team next season, they will play a style very much different than the one have been accustomed to watching inside Mott Athletics Center.

DeGeorge pointed out that while a lot gets talked about the offense his teams play, he places a particular emphasis on the defensive side of the ball.

"At each of the four schools where I've been a head coach, statistically at least one of those teams is the best defensive team in the history of the institution," said DeGeorge. "So it's at the core of what we believe, is you got to be able to defend and we are a pack line team, so that means that we're going to keep the ball out of the paint defensively. We're doing everything we can to do that, but we've also understand athletics and we've really embraced how the game has changed. As math has gotten involved with basketball has really changed the game and so we do would be kind of a hybrid system because we really now do a great job of taking away the threes and taking away layups."

As for offense, DeGeorge went on to explain in detail on what type of action the new-look Mustangs will feature beginning next season

"On offense, we're only shooting layups, dunks and threes for the most part," said DeGeorge. "When you look at our shot chart, there's a huge arc around the three-point line. There's a giant cluster right at the rim, and it should be very few shots elsewhere, and that's the goal and it's been very effective for us. To understand the offense, all the analytics indicate that if you're playing fast, the best shots available in a 30 second shot come in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, and that's at every level that you're at is pretty much runs across the board. Last year we shot 47% of our shots in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, but we're committed to getting the ball to the paint, so whoever wins the paint wins basketball, like running in the trenches in football, and so defensively we keep it out of the paint. Offensively, we're going to find our way there and if the defense rotates, we're going to spread it out for three. If the defense doesn't rotate, we're going to finish with layups. We led the nation in two-point field goal percentage last year, but we shot the least amount of twos in the country. We were kind of an average shooting three point team, but if you factor in the fact you shoot 36% on threes, but the volume that we shoot, we end up being one of the top offensive teams in the nation and I do think that translates well. I think the three-point shot can be a great equalizer and you can get great shooting and we can free guys up to be comfortable and free to shoot."

In addition to trying to build a winning program, DeGeorge also said he is hoping to build a greater connection to the Mustangs fan base, both on campus and beyond.

"The community does want to support a winner," said DeGeorge. "We get to do that, so we're going to be engaged with the students and with with the greater community to get them engaged and be a part of it. We're excited to get the students engaged here and let them feel part of it and feel pride in terms of how the team plays."

After earning just six winning seasons over 30 years at the Division I level, Cal Poly has proven to be a challenging place to build a winning program.

When asked if the university has what it takes to finally build a consistently winning men's basketball program, and one that can compete for Big West Conference championships, Oberhelman feels the necessary building blocks are now in place to make it happen.

"I'm very confident because our community is going to demand it," said Oberhelman. "Our university is going to demand it. They've demanded that of us. Many of our other programs are having tremendous success right now. We are in first place in the (Big West Conference) Commissioner's Cup, so I think we're demonstrating that success right now across the board. Men's basketball can match that success. It may take us a year or two and I know our fans don't want to hear that, but this is going to be a process. I love the fact that Coach DeGeorge is so process oriented. We are going to trust the system that he's bringing to us and we're going to trust that it is going to work."

Oberhelman said DeGeorge received a five-year contract. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Article Topic Follows: College Sports
Cal Poly
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.


News Channel 3-12 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content