|Previous College:||Central Washington, 1986|
After guiding the Cal Poly men’s basketball team to its first Big West Conference championship and NCAA Division I Tournament appearance and having established the Mustang program as an annual Big West title contender, Joe Callero is in his sixth season as head coach.
Through Callero’s direction, Cal Poly’s 2013-14 finish ranked as one the most notable achievements in school history with the Mustangs sweeping aside second-seeded UC Santa Barbara, No. 1 UC Irvine and fifth-seeded Cal State Northridge to claim the program’s first Big West Tournament title. At the NCAA Tournament First Four, the Mustangs topped fellow No. 16 seed Texas Southern to record the program’s first postseason win in 32 years and the first NCAA Tournament victory by a Big West program in nine seasons. Despite falling to top-seeded Wichita State in the second round, Cal Poly finished the year ranked fifth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (8.9) and 37th in points allowed per game (63.6).
Under Callero, Cal Poly’s 43 Big West victories rank as the highest total over a five-year period in program history while the team’s 77 total wins rank as the highest five-year total in 22 seasons. The Big West’s dominant defensive program, Cal Poly has led the conference in fewest points allowed per game for the last four seasons while ranking as one of the nation’s top-40 defensive programs in three of the last four years.
Individually, Cal Poly has produced eight All-Big West selections under Callero while, last season, Chris Eversley became the first Big West Tournament Most Valuable Player selection in program history. With a reputation for refining talent, Callero – who coached NBA champion Brian Scalabrine at USC (1998-99) – has helped produce nine professional players at Cal Poly. Most recently, Eversley signed with Asian club Westports Malaysia Dragons while guard Amaurys Fermin (2009-12) was named 2013 Rookie of the Year in the Dominican Republic national league and guard Drake U’u (2009-13) helped the Perth Wildcats to the 2014 Australia National Basketball League championship.
Cal Poly annually competes against the nation’s best programs in high-profile environments. During the 2013-14 season alone, Cal Poly faced four ranked programs (Arizona, Oregon, Pitt, Wichita State), three more teams that made the NCAA Tournament (Stanford, Delaware, Texas Southern) and played a program-record 12 nationally televised games.
In the classroom, the Mustangs have performed exceptionally under Callero’s guidance with all 12 senior players during the previous three seasons earning degrees. Cal Poly’s four-year NCAA Academic Progress Rate score of 959 between 2009-10 and 2012-13 is above the national average for Division I programs.
In support of Cal Poly’s talent, winning ways and nationally recognized style of play, the Mustang program has experienced a 39 percent increase in attendance between the 2008-09 campaign (the final season prior to Callero’s arrival) and last season’s average of 2,184 fans per home game. Under Callero, Cal Poly is 42-22 inside the Mott Athletics Center, 28-14 versus Big West opponents and, between the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons, won 16 straight conference home games.
Setting the stage for Cal Poly’s 2013-14 championship season was a 2012-13 Mustang squad that set program records for Big West victories (12) and Big West winning percentage (.667) en route to a second successive Big West Tournament semifinal appearance. An overall 18-win total helped Cal Poly match or exceed its victory total from the previous year for the fourth successive season (a feat not accomplished for 41years). The 2012-13 Mustangs also finished 13-1 inside the Mott Athletics Center to set Division I program records for home victories, fewest home losses and home winning percentage (.929). In toppling No. 11 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, the Mustangs chalked up their first victory against a ranked opponent and, as part of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, Cal Poly played the program’s first postseason game in 27 years. Cal Poly also finished second nationally in fewest turnovers per game (9.4) and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.46-to-1).
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.
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 led 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 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.