09 December 2015: Chris Clemons scored 26 points and Campbell never trailed Wednesday in a 76-70 win over Charlotte at Halton Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit - Jeff Sochko - Tim Cowie Photography

Interview with Michael Magpayo, Assistant Coach Campbell Men’s Basketball

Too often, outsiders looking in think landing a coaching job at the division one level is easy. One gets a job because he or she is a former player or is best friends with a guy who knows a guy. These things help, however, no one is entrusting you with their team and writing you a check if you aren’t ready to help their team win. The process of becoming ready to help an elite program win games takes perseverance, relationships, a commitment to learning and sometimes some cold letter sending. 

We had the privilege of sitting down with Michael Magpayo, Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach at Campbell University, to hear his story and better understand his journey into coaching.  We quickly realized there is a big price to pay if you’re going to commit to the process of being ready to help a team win.

When did you first start coaching?

When I was in high school, I started helping my Dad coach my brother’s and sister’s 8th grade junior high teams.  I was always a pretty good basketball player, saw the game, and had good instincts (minus any athleticism).  I really enjoyed helping and admired my Dad’s ability to coach and influence the players to get the best out of them and the team. A few years later, while I was a sophomore in college at UCSB, the basketball Intramural Director asked if I wanted to coach a local 8th grade team. Even though I didn’t really have any experience, I loved it. I loved it so much that no matter where I was living or where I was working after graduating from college, I would always coach a high school basketball team during the season.  

What did you do after college?

I was also in the business world during that time, starting in banking and then real estate, and was CEO of a successful real estate company in Southern California from 2004-2010. A company I started with my best friend and college roommate, Gil Manzuri, who still runs the company today. I enjoyed running the company for the same reason I loved coaching and I ran the company much in the same way a coach runs a team.  Needless to say, my company would suffer a bit during basketball season because I would be so entrenched in my teams from November to March!

After surviving the real estate crash in 07-08 and coming out the other side, I decided I needed to expand my real estate knowledge if I ever wanted to grow the company. I planned to attend NYU in 2010 to get my Masters in Real Estate.

As I would often do, I wrote letters to all the NY City basketball coaches looking for the opportunity to volunteer because I believed that I could coach at that level.

Someone finally responded!! Recently hired at Columbia, Head Coach Kyle Smith responded and told me to meet him at an Upper West Side Diner near campus. He forgot to show and he told me to find him in Dodge Fitness Center on campus, that would be my first test.

When was your first opportunity into college coaching?

One thing led to the next, and I started volunteering at Columbia Elite Camps. A few months later, right before I was about to start my first class at NYU, Coach Smith asked if I would be interested in the Director of Operations position at Columbia, but on one condition, I had to give everything else up, my Masters, my company, etc. After a lot of thought, I just couldn’t turn down my dream of coaching in Division 1 College Basketball.

I was extremely fortunate that Coach Smith saw something in me and he would also give me an opportunity as an Assistant Coach at Columbia. I learned a ton in my 4 years under him about building a successful winning program from the ground up. I learned that everything matters.

How have relationships impacted your coaching career?

During my time at Columbia, I was fortunate to meet Associate Head Coach of Richmond Kevin McGeehan in Atlanta at the Final Four and also on the recruiting road. That led to an opportunity to Coach at Campbell University in the Big South Conference in 2014. I have been there for 2 years and I think we are really close to popping and having a great season. It has been a great experience using my past experience in building a program and its culture again.

BUIES CREEK, NC - February 6th, 2016 - Campbell Camels and UNC Asheville at Gilbert Craig Gore Arena in Buies Creek, NC. Photo By Bennett Scarborough
BUIES CREEK, NC – February 6th, 2016 – Campbell Camels and UNC Asheville at Gilbert Craig Gore Arena in Buies Creek, NC. Photo By Bennett Scarborough

What is your vision for Asian Coaches Association?

Coach Smith and I talked about starting the Asian Coaches Association one day in the office. We talked about the success of the Jewish Coaches Association and the Black Coaches Association and that there was no Asian Coaches group.

He told me to start the Filipino Association but that was just me and Erik Spoelstra. I went hunting for Asian Coaches and found a good amount of interested coaches on both the Men’s side and Women’s side. Particularly Steve Yang, our Vice President who runs the women’s side and Director of Operations at George Mason.

Our first event at the 2012 Final Four we had about 13 people show up on the Men’s side and 35 on the Women’s, had one of the most respected coaches in basketball Coach Jeff Hironaka speak as well. This year in 2016, we had about 80 people come through on the Men’s side and had a big time sponsor in TeamSynced!

There are probably by my estimation about 30-40 Asian Coaches in Div 1 Basketball. The original idea was to have a group that cultivated relationships with each other, shared basketball ideas/thoughts, and also to start creating a growing powerful network of coaches in college basketball.

I believe that our Association has some of the most innovative, enthusiastic, and most energetic young coaches in the business. We allow all types of coaches(Asian, White, Black, Anyone) which I believe helps our group network and branch out.

What are the top three lessons you’ve learned thus far in your journey?

1. Never quit on what matters, no matter what.

Anything is possible with a little determination and a certain stamina of that determination. This is otherwise known as HUSTLE! Just like in the games, a little HUSTLE can lead to Wins.

2. Relationships matter.

Family, friends, and the other coaches and people you meet along the way in your journey towards success. You can’t have that determination and stamina in number 1 above without the support and advice of others. These people’s support and relationships are also the burden you carry to be successful. There has to be something that drives you internally. Many times it can be the recognition of others and the determination not to let those people down.

3. Learn, make adjustments, set goals, grow, learn more.

There are going to be times where you’re a little behind someone else or you have a little less experience. HUSTLE! Learn as quick and as much as you can, study it, make adjustments and always push forward so that your growth never stops.


  1. Noel Motus

    Excellent down to earth points Coach Mike. If I may add a 4th “lesson” which we briefly discussed over dinner at Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles: recruit only the best and train them for success. Go Camels!!!

  2. CJQ

    Mike has always been a listener, which allows him to understand his players and the game on a whole different level. His committment to his players, stems from his lifelong committment to his family and friends. I am proud to say that I have known Mike since college and I know he will continue to climb the ranks. Congrats and continued success!

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