The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 15, 2013

New UPJ women's basketball coach has high hopes

Eric Knopsnyder
eknopsnyder@tribdem.com

JOHNSTOWN — Mike Drahos hopes to hit the ground running in his new role as women’s basketball coach at Pitt-Johnstown, with the emphasis on running.

Drahos, whose first official day with the Lady Cats was Monday, said that he expects to bring an entertaining and energetic brand of basketball to the Richland Township campus.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a fun team to watch,” Drahos told The Tribune-Democrat a few hours after his hiring was announced. “We want to get out and run the floor, put a lot of points on the scoreboard, shoot the 3 really well and play tough, full-court defense.”

Drahos spent the past five years as the top assistant coach to Lynn Ullom at West Liberty University. His style of play sounds a bit like the system that brought national attention to the West Liberty men’s program.

“We’re not going to go to that extreme,” Drahos said with a laugh. “The West Liberty men have led the nation in scoring like five out of the past six seasons. We’re not going to be quite that extreme, but we’re going to get out and run.”

UPJ Athletic Director Pat Pecora said that Drahos impressed the search committee appointed to hire the new head coach.

“I think the search committee – I want to commend them – they did a great job,” Pecora said. “We had some top candidates and Mike, he was the one that everyone felt was the No. 1 guy for the job.”

Drahos takes over a team that went 14-12 in Sasha Palmer’s final season as coach before she left for an assistant job at Syracuse.

“Sasha had things going in the right direction,” said Drahos, whose West Liberty team beat the Lady Cats twice last season. “The cupboard’s not bare. We can look to build off the success that she’s had and go from there.”

The Lady Cats did lose their leading scorer, Kaitlynn Fratz, who Drahos said left the team before Palmer announced she was heading to Syracuse. Fratz averaged 18.2 points per game as a sophomore. Nicole Carman, the team’s second-leading scorer at 11.1 points per game and Jasmine Harper, who averaged a team-best  6.6 rebounds per game, return.

Palmer had two recruits – Cydney Green and Kierra Mitchell – signed for this season and both plan to play at UPJ, Drahos said. He might add one more recruit, but said that most of his recruiting work will be done in preparation for the 2014-15 season.

Drahos knows that he’ll likely have to get even more production out of his returning players to match last season’s winning record, as UPJ has left the now-defunct West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

“I think it’s huge,” Drahos said of the differences between the conferences. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be night and day, but I think it is that big. There are no nights off in the PSAC. It’s a great league from top to bottom. You have to show up and play basketball every night.”

Drahos understands what he’s facing.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” he said. “We want to take UPJ back to where it was in the old days.”

Pecora said that UPJ’s move to the PSAC put even more pressure on the school to get the right person for the job.

“I think any time you’re making a change, especially to a conference that’s one of the best in the nation, it makes the selection even more pivotal,” Pecora said. “I think that also attracted a lot of the top candidates for the position. The people that we had, Mike included, they wanted this type of challenge.”

Drahos said that the switch to the PSAC was the icing on the cake but that he would have been interested in the UPJ job anyway.

“Really great school, great people,” he said. “I know they have a winning basketball tradition. I really like the Johnstown area a lot. It fit with my personality and my family. It’s a great place to settle down and build a family.”

Drahos and his wife, Courtney, have a 9-month-old son, Miles.