ENCINITAS — The most important things needed to build an athletic department from scratch are coaches, teams and a place for those teams to play.Saint Katherine College is doing just that and they now have all of the pieces in place as they undertake adding six new sports to the school.
They already have a baseball team, which under Head Coach and Athletic Department Director Mike Scolinos, finished the season with a very successful 22-8 record.
Adding softball, women’s volleyball, and men’s and women’s soccer, the school is poised to add another dimension to campus life.
This fall, the college will begin their inaugural men’s and women’s basketball seasons under newly hired head coaches Scott Mitchell and Nathan Coromelas, respectively.
“Our goal is we want to become a Division I university someday,” said Scolinos. “So, that is our goal and we’ve put a timeline of 12 years,” he said.
And is that an ambitious timeline? “Insane,” Scolinos said. “But you know what? If you don’t set the goal and don’t dream it, you’re never going to do it.”
The school has applied to enter the NAIA division, a division that includes Cal State San Marcos, a school they hope to form a natural rivalry with.
The Fighting Firebirds men’s basketball team will play a number of top tier teams in their first season, including against CSUSM, UCSD, Weber State and the University of Utah, along with other Christian colleges.
For Scott Mitchell, his expectations for the season are to compete and “not get run off the floor,” he said.
Taking the job as a labor of love, Mitchell, who played and coached professionally in leagues around the world, said he still had some basketball left in him to help get the program started.
Having to recruit his entire team this season certainly was a challenge, but the biggest challenge, he said, was not having a history.
He wasn’t able to point out to recruits how the team did last year to help convince them to come and play for Saint Katherine.
Though buoyed by some local talent, including Alex Perez, a graduate of La Jolla Country Day, Travis Mitchell, a Torrey Pines grad and Jon Viles of San Dieguito Academy, most of his players have come from around the country.
Last Friday, Mitchell and his assistant coaches were able to recruit Jimmy Roethler a 7 foot, 280-pounder from Indio High School.
In the ‘70s Mitchell was drafted by the Golden State Warriors where he spent time under Head Coach Al Attles, an offense-minded coach that would eventually take the team to an NBA Championship in 1975.
Mitchell said he learned from NBA coach Dick Motta that in order to have a good offensive program, you’ve got to have a really good defensive program.
But being a self-described “old guy,” and having played for so many different coaches, it was hard to pin down a single influence that helped shaped the way he played and coached.
The coaching philosophy he’s bringing to the court: “We’re going to score 100 points every single game. We’re going to press, press, press; we’re going to shoot a lot of threes; we’re going look to score a hundred points a game and we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
The Firebirds open the season Nov. 2 against Chapman University.
They’ll play all of their home games at the Solana Beach Boys & Girls Club; their first home game is against Point Loma Nazarene University Dec. 10.