Jonesboro, AR - This time last Monday, A-State Men's Basketball was without a coach, but it didn't take long for the University to find a replacement.
Mike Balado officially introduced as the head coach of the A-State Men's Basketball program on Monday, becoming the 16th head coach in A-State history.
Balado comes to A-State from Louisville, where he spent the last four years as an assistant under head coach Rick Pitino, who helped play a role in Balado accepting the offer from Arkansas State.
"[Pitino] says, opportunities like this do not come around all the time and this is a great place, so you probably should do it," Balado said. "Then he spoke to Terry, and then he spoke to me and I accepted the position."
This wasn't the first time Balado had been considered for the head coaching position.
According to A-State Athletic Director Terry Mohajir, Balado was a front runner to replace John Brady last year, but due to an NCAA investigation, Mohajir chose not to pursue him at that time.
"We interviewed him last year, and we just didn't go that direction because there was some pending stuff out there from a Louisville standpoint," Mohajir said. "We just waited to see how that turned out. He was my first call last year."
The NCAA investigation stemmed from an accusation from a former escort that Louisville basketball hired her to throw parties with strippers and prostitutes for current players and prospects.
The NCAA charged Louisville with four level one violations, but Balado wasn't found to be involved in the scandal by the NCAA.
"Unfortunately most of the stuff that went on was before I got there and it was disturbing but there's documentation out there and there was a thorough investigation," Balado said. "Obviously I'm clear of anything. But we spoke about that, and it wasn't much for [Mohajir] because he knows me as a person. He knows what type of guy I am, what type of character I have so it wasn't an issue."
A-State will pay Balado an annual salary of $375,000 for five years.
The buyout on Balado's contract before one year is set at one million dollars—double from Grant McCasland's last buyout.
Mohajir cited the increase was to prevent another Group of Five school from hiring Balado, but according to Balado, he has no plans on leaving anytime soon.
"If you believe in something and you want to help build something, you are going to stay there at length," Balado said. "You can't do it overnight. So I'm excited to be here for a long period of time because as a first year head coach, one thing coach [Pitino] said to me was, if you go somewhere, you have to be there to make sure it's successful. You can't just show up there, win one year and get out because that's fool's gold. You're not going to be successful. You have to go there and build a program, however long that takes."
Balado now inherits a roster that won 20 games under McCasland last season, with the exceptions of seniors Devin Carter and Donte Thomas, and is excited for the potential of the team.
"The system we are going to implement fits these guys to a tee," Balado said. "So scary, they just don't know it yet. But if they give me time to show them, and put them on the court, they are going to be the happiest group of guys on the court you will ever see."
The next step for Balado is to complete the hire of his staff, which he hopes to fill out by next week.
Balado has also contacted each player on the phone and looks forward to meeting most of them in person after Spring Break.