Fil-Am coach Mike Magpayo intent on opening doors for other AAPI coaches

BACK in July, Filipino American coach Mike Magpayo made history by becoming the first U.S. NCAA Division 1 head coach of Asian descent.

He was named head coach of University of California (UC) Riverside, which is a feat in and of itself.

“People of Asian descent make up a disproportionately small number of professional athletes in the majority of professional leagues, as well as in the NCAA,” Sports Illustrated wrote in its feature on Magpayo published Wednesday, November 25.

“More than 18.6 million Asians live in the United States. Of the more than half a million NCAA athletes who compete every year, just 1% of them are Asian. That number gets even smaller when carried over to the professional level; in 2015, Asian players made up only 0.2% of the NBA,” it added.

Magpayo, 41, was the defensive coordinator at UC Riverside before replacing David Patrick as head coach. He also had stints at University of San Francisco, Campbell University, and Columbia University before making his way to UC Riverside in 2018.

Mike Magpayo | Photo courtesy of UC Riverside

Outside the NCAA, Magpayo is the founder and president of the Asian Coaches Association, an organization that unifies, supports, and elevates all Asian coaches beyond just the basketball community.

“I hope I can open the door for other Asian coaches… that’s the mission,” he told Sports Illustrated.

However, Sports Illustrated noted that while Magpayo and his organization continue to open doors in the sports industry for Asians, “his own door has been wavering shut.”

UC Riverside in August began considering eliminating its entire athletic program to address the financial deficits that the school is experiencing due to the global health crisis.

“A number of Power 5 universities have already eliminated several sports teams—including Stanford’s rowing program and Minnesota’s indoor and outdoor track and field teams—though no one in 2020 has ended athletics entirely,” said Sports Illustrated.

“But for a non-Power 5 school like UC Riverside, which additionally lacks a lucrative football program (the Highlanders’ football team is a member of the NCAA’s Division II), a notion to cut its entire athletic program could be seen as justifiable,” it added.

Magpayo, for his part, expressed disbelief over the situation.

“I know it’s about dollars and cents and we’re in a once-in-a-century pandemic, but I just truly believe in the value of athletics and sports in general. Especially in a pandemic … I just can’t imagine it,” he said.

On the bright side, the Filipino coach will remain steadfast in his goal to continue opening doors for future basketball generations despite the uncertainty he currently faces.

“And those inspired by his presence as a coach can clearly see how crucial it is to keep his own door open,” Sports Illustrated concluded. (Ritchel Mendiola/AJPress)

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