HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Joe Mihalich is leaving behind 15 successful seasons at Niagara to take over Hofstra’s troubled men’s basketball program.

The 56-year-old was announced by the school as its 12th basketball coach on Wednesday.

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Mihalich replaces Mo Cassara, who was fired March 22 following a 7-25 season. Four Pride players were arrested in November on burglary charges stemming from dormitory room break-ins.

Hofstra lands an established coach and respected recruiter in Mihalich, who played a big role in reviving the Purple Eagles’ proud basketball tradition. He finished his tenure at Niagara with a 265-203 record and five postseason berths, including two NCAA tournament appearances in 2005 and ’07.

“I’m optimistic and realistic. That’s the way you have to be,” Mihalich said Wednesday, according to CBSSports.com. “I know what the challenges are. It’s going to be a lot of work, and no one is going to put a timetable on it. … We have to build it one brick at time.”

Before Mihalich, the Purple Eagles had reached the NCAA tournament only once, in 1970, when the team was led by Calvin Murphy and coached by Frank Layden.

Niagara also earned three NIT berths, including this year, when the Purple Eagles (19-14) won their third Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season championship under Mihalich.

He’s a three-time MAAC coach of the year, and won 20 or more games four times while experiencing only three losing seasons at Niagara.

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Last week, he was selected the Skip Prosser Man of the Year, which has been award annually since 2008 to honor the nation’s Division I men’s basketball coach who exhibits strong moral character.

At Hofstra, he takes over a Colonial Athletic Association program that has stumbled on and off the court over the past two seasons. The Pride have gone 17-47 in their past two years after a 21-12 finish in Cassara’s first season in 2010-11.

Hofstra hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since consecutive appearances in 2000 and ’01. The Pride also earned three consecutive NIT berths from 2005-07.

The Pride’s season didn’t get off to a good start last year after Taran Buie and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel were suspended by Cassara for two preseason events and two regular-season games for violating team rules.

In late November, sophomore Shaquille Stokes and freshmen Kentrell Washington, Jimmy Hall and Dallas Anglin were charged in six burglaries that occurred Oct. 4-5.

Great hire by Hofstra? Be heard in the comments…

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