|College:||Central Washington, 1986|
Under fifth-year head coach Joe Callero, Cal Poly has established itself as both a Big West Conference championship contender and as one of the top defensive programs in NCAA Division I basketball. During the 2012-13 season alone, the Mustangs set program records for Big West victories (12) and Big West winning percentage (.667) while Cal Poly’s 18 overall wins ranked as the second-highest total in 19 Division I seasons. Cal Poly finished 13-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center last season to also set Division I program records for home victories, fewest home losses and home winning percentage (.929). A Big West Tournament semifinalist for the second successive season, the 2012-13 Mustangs played the program’s first postseason game in 27 years (CollegeInsider.com Tournament), produced the program’s first win against a ranked opponent with a 70-68 triumph at No. 11 UCLA and, among 345 NCAA Division I programs, finished second in fewest turnovers per game (9.4) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46-to-1).
Overall under Callero, Cal Poly has matched or exceeded its win total from the previous season each year – a four-year stretch not experienced at Cal Poly for 41 years. The Mustangs have also exceeded or matched their predicted Big West preseason poll ranking each year under Callero. Only one Big West program – three-time defending regular season champion Long Beach State – owns a better conference record during the previous three seasons than Cal Poly.
With a reputation for refining talent, Callero – who coached NBA champion Brian Scalabrine at USC (1998-99) – has produced five professional players during four previous seasons at Cal Poly. Most recently, former Mustang point guard Amaurys Fermin was named 2013 Rookie of the Year in the Dominican Republic national league.
In support of Cal Poly’s talent, winning ways and nationally recognized style of play, the Mustang program has experienced a 31.4 percent increase in attendance between the 2008-09 campaign (the final season prior to Callero’s arrival) and last season’s average of 2,066 fans per home contest. Under Callero, Cal Poly is 36-16 inside the Mott Athletics Center, 25-9 versus Big West opponents at home and enters the 2013-14 season having won 14 straight conference home games.
Cal Poly finished the 2011-12 season ranked among Division I basketball’s top-25 defensive programs for a second successive year. Along the way, Cal Poly produced an 18-win season, reached the Big West Tournament semifinals for the first time in five years and, during a 100-54 victory against Cal State Northridge, the Mustangs sank their first 11 three-point attempts to match a 25-year-old NCAA record.
Selected to finish fifth in the Big West standings during the 2010-11 season, Cal Poly instead matched single-season program records for highest showing in the Big West (second) and highest seeding for the conference tournament (second). The Mustangs also cemented their status as a defensive powerhouse by finishing third among NCAA Division I programs in opponent three-point percentage and sixth in opponent points per game.
Callero’s initial 2009-10 season at Cal Poly yielded one of the top single-year turnarounds in program history. In orchestrating a five-win improvement from the previous year, Callero also directed the Mustangs to their best start to any Big West season (5-2). Predicted to finish last in the standings, Cal Poly clinched the No. 6 seed for the Big West Tournament and capped the year by winning the program’s first conference tournament game in three seasons.
Individually, Cal Poly has produced seven All-Big West selections under Callero, including all-conference first team awards for Lorenzo Keeler (2009-10), Shawn Lewis (2010-11) and Chris Eversley (2012-13). Additionally, guard Kyle Odister was selected to the Big West All-Freshmen Team for the 2009-10 season while Maliik Love earned Big West Freshman of the Year praise for the 2010-11 season.
Cal Poly has also performed exceptionally in the classroom under Callero’s guidance with all nine senior players during the previous two seasons earning degrees. Highlighted by 13-time Dean’s List selection Matt Titchenal, the 2010-11 Mustang squad finished the spring quarter with a 3.0 team GPA.
Named head coach of Cal Poly on April 3, 2009, Callero has developed a reputation for revitalizing programs. As head coach at Seattle (2001-09), Callero directed the Redhawks to 75 victories during his final four seasons and successfully guided the program through its Division I transition. Callero’s final 2008-09 season with the Redhawks produced a 21-8 campaign and the program’s highest winning percentage in 45 seasons. Additionally, the 2008-09 Seattle squad – as an independent program – finished No. 131 out of 347 Division I programs in the final Sagarin Ratings.
Under Callero, Seattle finished the 2006-07 season with a 20-9 record, a Great Northwest Athletic Conference title and the program’s first berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament in 38 years. During just his second season at Seattle (2002-03), Callero directed the Redhawks to a 16-11 finish that was the program’s first winning campaign in nine seasons and a 10-victory improvement upon the previous year.
Prior to his success at Seattle, Callero guided Division III University of Puget Sound to a combined 22-25 record during the 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons. The Loggers finished 14-10 during his final season to secure the program’s first winning campaign in nine years.
Before pointing Puget Sound in a winning direction, Callero served the 1998-99 season as an assistant coach at USC. During his one season in Los Angeles, Callero assisted the Trojans to the NIT.
A prominent figure on the northwest basketball scene for more than two decades, Callero compiled a 130-49 mark during two three-season stints at Highline Community College (1989-92, 1995-98) and, before departing for USC, helped guide the Thunderbirds to successive Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championships. Callero twice earned conference Coach of the Year praise after Highline posted a combined 63-2 mark during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 campaigns.
Between successful stints at Highline Community College, Callero served as the head coach and as a guidance counselor at Sumner HS (1992-95). Under Callero, Sumner also posted its first winning campaign in six years.
A 1986 graduate of Central Washington with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, Callero helped guide the Wildcats to consecutive NAIA National Championship appearances. The point guard and captain of Central Washington’s 1985-86 squad received his master’s degree in education from Seattle in 1991. One of 16 children, Callero is a graduate of Enumclaw HS.
Callero, his wife, Erika, and daughter, Malia, reside in nearby Arroyo Grande.