Mitch Reaves felt just fine waking up Sunday morning in spite being heavily sleep-deprived. That’s because he and the rest of the Cal Poly Mustangs – with their 13-19 record – are in the Big Dance.
“I woke up after my hour-and-a-half sleep and thought, ‘Wow, we’re Big West champions,” Reaves said. “It’s crazy that we’re here.”
Reaves, a 2004 River Ridge High School graduate, is in his fifth year with the Cal Poly program and first as an assistant coach. The Mustangs earned the Big West’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament and face Texas Southern (19-13) in Wednesday’s First Four play-in game in Dayton, Ohio, at 3:40 p.m. PST on truTV. The winner gets undefeated Wichita State (34-0) Friday in St. Louis, Mo., in the round of 64. This is Cal Poly's first appearance in the NCAA appearance as a Division I program.
As a student at Washington State – he admits he failed to attract any basketball scholarship offers in high school – is where he got the niche for coaching since he knew his playing career was done after high school graduation.
At River Ridge, Reaves was a three-year starter at point guard for coaches Chris Spivey and Dennis Johnson. His stats weren't jaw-dropping; he labeled himself as a “glue-guy.”
“I helped guys understand their roles, and play mine," Reaves said Monday from the team hotel in Dayton, Ohio.
Once at WSU, he emailed then-head coach Dick Bennett about becoming involved with the men's basketball program. Reaves was a student-manager for three seasons, including 2007 and '08 during the Cougars' back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances.
He jumped on board with Joe Callero – older brother of former SPSCC men’s head coach Marc Callero – at Seattle University as director of basketball operations after graduating with a degree in sports management, then followed Callero to Cal Poly in San Louis Obispo, Calif.
After four years as Cal Poly’s director of operations, Callero promoted Reaves to assistant coach this season, where the 27-year-old is now in charge of player development for wings and the defense.
Cal Poly entered last week’s Big West tournament dropping seven of its final nine games to end the regular-season, including a 71-55 loss to UC Santa Barbara in its regular-season finale. Five days later, it trounced UCSB, 69-38, then defeated top-seeded UC Irvine, and finally, Cal State Northridge in the tournament title game.
Senior forward Chris Eversley was tournament MVP, and Reaves commended him and the two other seniors’ play for helping the Mustangs to get to the ultimate stage.
“They’re leadership skills and endurance – mentally and emotionally -- is how we got to where we are,” Reaves said. “The good part is we peaked at the right time and hope to continue playing good basketball this week.”