Peninsula College has named Cal Poly’s Mitch Freeman to take the helm of the Pirate men’s basketball program, following the departure of Lance Von Vogt, who starts his new job as head coach at William Jessup University in California next week.
Freeman will become the fifth head men’s basketball coach in the college’s modern history.
“I am fortunate for this incredible opportunity to serve as head coach at Peninsula College!” Freeman said. “I want to personally thank President Dr. Luke Robins, Jack Huls, Rick Ross and the entire search committee for placing their confidence in me to head the Peninsula College basketball program. This will be a great move for my family and I look forward to working and living in the beautiful city of Port Angeles.”
The former Northwest native is in his eighth year as a member of head coach Joe Callero’s staff. He worked under Callero at Seattle University from 2005-2009 and then followed his mentor to California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he has served as the lead scout in charge of game preparation and defense. He also was part of a recruiting staff with his primary region Washington, Oregon and California.
“We are thrilled to welcome Mitch to Peninsula,” said Huls, Peninsula’s vice president of Student Services who chaired the hiring committee. “Mitch rose to the top in a very competitive pool and we are fortunate to land a coach who will continue the established tradition at Peninsula College of developing student-athletes that will be good students, good citizens and compete for NWAACC championships.”
Freeman not only worked under Callero, a former NWAACC championship coach at Highline Community College, but he also was on staff with Mark Amaral for two years before Amaral took the associate head coaching job at Pepperdine. Amaral was Peninsula’s head men’s basketball coach in 1997 when the college resurrected the program that had been dropped in 1981. He coached the Pirates for three seasons prior to taking an assistant coaching position at UC Santa Barbara. He continues to be an influential Pirate supporter.
“Mitch has been on staff with, and mentored by, some outstanding coaches including former P.C. coach Mark Amaral and current head coach Joe Callero,” Huls said. “Joe was the head coach at Highline Community College where I was also on staff in 1997-1998 when we won back-to-back NWAACC championships and went 62-3 over that two-year period. Mitch has learned from some of the very best and we can’t wait to get up and running in the next few weeks.”
Freeman said he will first attempt to recruit the players who were on the roster as freshmen last year, as well as those recruited by coach Von Vogt. He also is involved with student athletes he was following in his recruiting efforts at Cal Poly.
“I am eager to connect with each player this week while getting to know them on a more personal level,” Freeman said.
“I can’t express how excited I am to get started and help build on the success that is Pirate basketball.”
Freeman brings a strong work ethic, strong values and a resumé of success, working on outstanding coaching staffs at Cal Poly and Seattle University.
“Mitch is a great fit for us,” Director of Athletics Rick Ross said.
“His roots are in the Northwest, he has the preparation and experience to win NWAACC championships, he has the values and ethics to do it the right way, and to produce a quality product that this college and this community can be proud of, and more than all of that, he’s an outstanding human being and one we are excited to bring into our Pirate family.”
In addition to his role as head men’s basketball coach, Freeman will serve as the college’s Athletic Development coordinator, spearheading fundraising efforts for athletic scholarships and managing the Pirate Athletic Association.
Freeman admitted it will be bittersweet, leaving behind a Cal Poly team he has become very attached to. He met with his players on Tuesday afternoon to share the news.
“I am humbled and blessed to have worked for Coach Callero over the past eight years,” Freeman said.
“Under his guidance, he has prepared me for this opportunity and I am forever grateful.
“I also want to thank the current and former players here at Cal Poly,” Freeman continued. “They are the reason for the continued success of the program. A piece of my heart will always be with Cal Poly and the city of San Luis Obispo.”
During his stint at Cal Poly, Freeman helped construct one of the top defenses in NCAA Division I basketball. Under Freeman’s guidance during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons, Cal Poly twice ranked among the top 25 defensive programs in the nation. The Mustangs also have led the Big West Conference in each of the previous three seasons in points allowed per game.
With Freeman on the bench, Cal Poly has matched or exceeded its win total from the previous season each year – a feat not accomplished at Cal Poly for 41 years.
Callero called Freeman “the heart and soul of the Mustang defense.”
“His understanding of our philosophy has been key to our program’s improvement during the last four years,” he said. “He’s one of the brightest young coaches in the profession.”
During his four-year tenure at Seattle, Freeman helped the Redhawks to 75 victories and the program to a successful transition to the Division I level. During Freeman’s final 2008-2009 campaign, the Redhawks posted a 21-8 record that translated to the program’s highest single-season winning percentage in 45 seasons.
Freeman began his coaching career during the 2004-2005 season as the varsity boys assistant at Marysville-Pilchuck High School (Marysville). During his one season, Freeman helped the program reach the Washington state district playoffs.