I started the interview off by asking Mike about his previous coaching experience and the differences between coaching at a junior college compared to a four-year university like Rowan.
Question: Is there a huge discrepancy between being a junior-college coach and a four year school coach?
Answer: I think the biggest discrepancy is the length of time you have with the players. You only have two years with players from over there (at Rowan at Gloucester County College) and here you have four years with players. And you may be coaching a different type of player. A lot of players over there (at Rowan at Gloucester County College) were working-to-be-drafted type players.
For different reasons, they ended up at junior college, where over here it’s a little different.
Question: But it’s the same type of preparation, right?
Answer: Absolutely. You’re preparing for a championship win no matter where you are, whether it’s at Rowan (at Gloucester County) College or Rowan University.
Question: I know you were an assistant coach for awhile before being hired as head coach. Is there a huge difference from being an assistant coach to a head coach now?
Answer: Well, there’s a lot more paperwork as a head coach (laughs). I get to do a lot less coaching as an assistant, it’s more focused on recruiting and practice coaching, whereas as a head coach you’re doing more preparation and focusing on off-the-field situations. At that time (as an assistant coach), I recruited every player in that program that went to back-to-back college World Series.
Going from an assistant coach at Rowan to a head coach at Rowan at Gloucester County College, I coached Ryan Buchter, who’s now a starting pitcher for the Padres. He had a great year last year, he was lucky enough that he had an organization that finally believed in him, to give him an opportunity in the big leagues.
I was excited for him last year and spoke to him throughout the season.
Question: He felt good about it? He was confident?
Answer: Yeah. He’s always been confident, he was never the type of player to not be confident. Mechanics wise, it was always a matter of him getting his WHIP (which is calculated by adding his walks and his hits allowed, and dividing that number by his amount of innings pitched) down to one.
As an eighth-inning reliever, managers don’t like pitchers walking leadoff hitters. That was always his issue. He would get a ton of strikeouts, but he’d tend to walk a guy a fair amount, too.
In my career as an assistant, i’ve been lucky so far, 17 or 18 pitchers have made it to the big leagues.
Question: When you were hired as head coach in June of 2014, within the press release you were quoted as saying: “my goal is to continue the tradition of excellence set forth by former coaches John Cole and Juan Ranero.”
You referred your former coach (Cole). What was he like?
Answer: He was intense. Me and him were cut from the same cloth, we’re very competitive. We’re also very detail oriented and we understand that the preparation that you put in leads to your success. I coached with John from 2001 till 2004.
I got the opportunity to transition as a player underneath him to a coach underneath him.
Question: Did you see a different side of him from when you were a player than when you were an assistant?
Answer: Sure, as you get older and mature, you get a different relationship with your college coach than when you’re 18 or 19 years old. That relationship, what he allowed me to then do, he taught me how to be a head coach.
As a player here, he’d teach me how to be a good player, then when I finished school, he taught me how to coach. There’s a huge transition there, from being a player to a coach, and understanding how to develop players versus being the player that’s being developed.
Question: Is your coaching philosophy the same as coach Cole?
Answer: It’s very similar. I was fortunate enough to play on a high school baseball team (Gloucester Catholic High School) that was ranked number one in New Jersey and third overall in the country the year I graduated (2002).
Question: As a coach, what do you want to accomplish over the next 4-5 years?
Answer: Ultimately as a competitor, you want to put the best product out on the field and be successful year in and year out. The ball isn’t always going to bounce in the right direction, you have to have a little luck on your side. But obviously that’s the goal each and every year, to get the chance to get to play in Appleton, Wisconsin (the site of the Division III championship series).”
“That should be your goal every year.”