40 years serving as ‘coach’

William Reed
Guest Contributor

COURTESY OF ATHLETICS.HVCC.EDU

Men’s basketball coach, Mike Long.

With more than 40 years of coaching experience under his belt, Mike Long still loves basketball as much as he did on day one.

Long was born and raised right here in the capital region. After changing schools as a second grader, he found roots in the sport that would later become the basis for his career.

“They had this sport called basketball, which I had no idea about,” he said. He started playing basketball on a regular basis and quickly found a passion for the game.

Long attributes his initial love of sports to one of his childhood physical education teachers. “His whole outlook on sports, in general, I thought was really good, and that kind of influenced me in terms of my love of sports,” Long said. From there, he continued to play basketball throughout elementary and middle school.

He got his first real taste of organized basketball playing for a Catholic Youth Organization team in eighth grade. He was motivated by the drive of his fellow players and began to carefully hone his own skills to match theirs.

His practice paid off when he made the freshman team. He continued to work hard and eventually made Varsity during his junior year of high school, becoming a starting player the following year.

After graduating, he joined the freshman team at Siena College, where he earned a starting spot on the varsity team and was appointed as co-captain his senior year.

A couple years later, a familiar coach offered him his first chance to be a head coach. “The guy who had been my freshman coach at Siena had been appointed the varsity coach, and he called me and asked me if I’d be interesting in coaching the JV team,” Long said. He accepted the job, just like that, a coach was born.

After two years at Siena, Long was approached with yet another new opportunity, this time at the College of Saint Rose. He was reluctant at first because he knew it was a developing program was just developing and would require a lot of time and effort. More importantly, though, he knew he wanted to coach, so he accepted the job.

“When I started, I look back on it now, I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “[I had to] try to build a program where there wasn’t anything. [I] was trying to establish a good reputation,” he added.

At first, this new position was very taxing and Long found himself handling any and all basketball-related issues. However, with time and experience, he found success and grew right alongside the Saint Rose program.

After winning multiple regional championships, the program was accepted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Coach Long ended his tenure after thirteen years, remembered as “the father of Saint Rose basketball.”

Long’s next step was at the Junior College of Albany, now Sage College. He began as an assistant coach and became head coach in 1990. As usual, Long thrived in a basketball setting, ultimately spending thirteen years there, going 220-143 and being named NJCAA Region III Division II Coach of the Year at the end of the 2001-2002 season.

From the end of the athletic program at Junior College in 2003, until 2013, he continued to coach at an assistant level, with stints at the Christian Brothers Academy and Saint Rose.
In 2013, he was approached by Hudson Valley Community College to be the new men’s basketball head coach. At 66, he was more than happy to accept the job and was very grateful for one more shot at being head coach.

Throughout Mike Long’s accomplished career, he has achieved impressive milestones, but one thing still remains. “I’d love to win a championship,” he says, adding that a chance to go to the national championship is the one great achievement left on his to-do list.

Regardless, he feels that his championship dreams are fulfilled through his individual players.
“I always feel that my ‘championships’ are the individual players that I coached over the years who I’ve maintained relationships with over all this time. [When they] come back and look me up or ask me how I’m doing, I find out how they’re doing, and that they’re married, they’ve got a good job, they’ve got a couple of kids and they’re doing well. Those are always what I call my championships.”

When you take into account each of these individual championships, his success rate speaks volumes about his impact, both on and off the court. As far as Mike Long is concerned, that’s what matters most.

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