FilAm tapped as head coach of UC Riverside Highlanders basketball team

by Ricky Rillera

Coach Mike Magpayo giving instructions to one of the key players during a game of the UC Riverside Highlanders. | Photo UC Riverside Highlanders

NEW YORK – FilAm Mike Magpayo of Riverside, California has been named head coach of the University of California (UC) Riverside’s Highlanders, a Division I school in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on July 1. He is the first Asian and Filipino American head coach in the NCAA.

Mike Magpayo | Photo Courtesy of SportsCamps

The 40-year-old Magpayo succeeds David Patrick who left UC Riverside to become an assistant head coach of the University of Arkansas’ Razorbacks. He joins head coach Eric Musselman who Patrick previously worked with at the Louisiana State University.

Magpayo joined UC Riverside Highlanders in 2018. After a 2019-20 season when he helped lead the men’s program to a record-tying 17 wins that year, Magpayo was promoted in June 2019 to associate head coach. As defensive coordinator, he pushed the Highlanders to the top 10 of many national rankings defensively in the areas of scoring defense, 2-point field goal percentage defense, and defensive rebounding.

He has had a record of success prior to his appointment. At the University of San Francisco’s (USF) Dons team, Magpayo spent a year as its men’s basketball director of operations under his coaching mentor Kyle Smith. The Dons finished with 22 wins, 4th in the West Coast Conference (WCC). Also, the Dons made it to the Championship Finals of the College Basketball Invitation (CBI) Championship Postseason Tournament.

Mike Magpayo (standing) in one of the UC Riverside Highlanders games. | Photo UC Highlanders

Before his stint at San Francisco, Magpayo spent three seasons as defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at the Campbell University’s Fighting Camels in Buies Creek, North Carolina in the Big South Conference. During the 2016-17 season, he helped the team achieve one of the best seasons in the school’s history. The Fighting Camels advanced to the conference championship game as well as the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament’s (CIT) quarterfinals in its first postseason appearance since 1992. He is also credited with the recruitment and development of point guard Chris Clemons, who is now with the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Houston Rockets.

Magpayo was named one of the 50 Impactful Low Major Coaches in Division 1 Men’s Basketball by the Silver Waves Media this year.

He also served in multi-roles (director of operations, assistant coach, scheduler, and recruiting coordinator) during a four-year (2010-2014) successful run of Columbia University’s Ivy League Roaring Lion’s history. They won 21 games in 2014. As recruiter, he helped the Lions secure New Yorker Luke Petrasek, and Germany’s and EuroLeague’s Maodo Lo to its team. Magpayo was also a Southern California High School Coach from 2001-2010 before starting his college coaching career.

Coach Mike Magpayo in a practice session with his UC-R Highlanders players.
| Photo UC-R Highlanders

Off the court, he was both the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a multi-million-dollar real estate firm for seven years and founder and president of the Asian Coaches Association. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in business economics in 2001. His wife, Caroline, is UC Riverside alumna, class of 2011.

Magpayo’s favorite coaches are fellow Filipino American Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, who he would like to follow in his footsteps and Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers according to a recent episode of Tiebreaker Vods’ Coaches Unfiltered.

Magpayo’s parents, Lito and Nenet, were born and raised in the Philippines. The elder Magpayo used to work at ABS-CBN. He won an Emmy Award for CBS TV Network for editing the closing segment of the 1983 Final Four NCAA Championship in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In an interview with Coaches Unfiltered, he said that in 2015, he went home to the Philippines at the prodding of his parents to stay there and look for job opportunities to coach. He met with Josh Reyes of Gilas Philippines and told him he was available in case Reyes needed help.

“My dad and mom, they love for me to go there and they’re always trying to talk me into it and they’re still trying to talk me to moving back home. They would love for me to coach out there and they would love it. They have a condo right in the middle of Makati and they’d love me out there and I would definitely be open,” he said.

That is a Plan B for him which he said he would consider.

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