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A new era for Hofstra basketball

Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich and guard Dion Nesmith talk about the 2013-14 basketball season. Videojournalist: Casey Musarra (Oct. 17, 2013)

After a year as Hofstra athletic director, Jeff Hathaway effectively launched a new era of Pride basketball Thursday as he introduced new men's coach Joe Mihalich on media day, announced a multiyear contract extension for women's coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey and revealed plans for construction of a dedicated practice facility for both programs.

"This practice facility is a monumental development in the enhancement of our basketball programs," Hathaway said. "I think it shows the renewed and enhanced commitment we have for our men's and women's basketball."

Hathaway's moves reflect the school's determination to support and build both programs in the aftermath of a scandal last November, when four members of the men's team -- Shaquille Stokes, Jimmy Hall, Dallas Anglin and Kentrell Washington -- were arrested and charged with burglary. Nassau police said they admitted to stealing more than $10,000 worth of laptop computers, iPads and other items from fellow students.

The makeover began in April when Hathaway lured Mihalich, who had a successful 15-year career at Niagara, as the successor to former coach Mo Cassara.

Citing the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award won last spring by Mihalich for his combination of success and moral integrity and his five tournament teams at Niagara (two NCAA, three NIT), Hathaway said, "Joe is the right person to do this . . . I was looking for a steady rudder, a person with a plan to get us back on track and a person who was not going to get rattled inheriting a roster of four scholarship players."

Mihalich said he wouldn't have left Niagara if he didn't believe Hofstra "could be a special place. I'm pinching myself every day."

But with only forwards Jordan Allen, Moussa Kone, Stephen Nwaukoni and Darren Payen returning, the task he faces is formidable. Mihalich recruited eight guards, but three are transfers who must sit out this season, including Brian Bernardi from SMU and Juan'ya Green and Ameen Tanksley, who excelled under Mihalich at Niagara.

The fact that two key Niagara players chose to follow Mihalich reinforced Hathaway's belief in his new coach. "That was the cherry on the sundae to have those guys end up here and be able to share how Coach does it," Hathaway said. "It's good stuff."

Junior forward Allen stayed, in part, because he is from Bay Shore, but he liked Mihalich's approach immediately. "When Coach came here, he didn't promise the four guys who could return anything," Allen said. "There was no pitch. He was just honest from day one. I felt there was a genuine respect between us and him. I decided to stay and play for him, and I love it so far."

Kilburn-Steveskey also is undergoing a rebuilding process after the loss of Hofstra career scoring leader Shante Evans. The new training facility will be a major asset.

"Now you are making a statement," she said. " 'Here's your facility, let's go.' There's no excuses. It's good pressure."

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