Callero earns big bonuses but may get more as Cal Poly tries to keep star coach

jscroggin@thetribunenews.comMarch 27, 2014 

Based on the success of last week’s run to the NCAA Tournament, Cal Poly men’s basketball head coach Joe Callero triggered $25,000 worth of bonuses and will walk away with at least double that, plus his $200,000 base salary as the university works to extend his contract.

The bonuses are stipulated in Callero’s current contract, which runs until 2017.

But Mustangs athletic director Don Oberhelman said he is renegotiating Callero’s contract now to try to hold on to the coach, after Cal Poly made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in the program’s 20-year history at the Division I level last week.

After a disappointing regular season, the Mustangs shocked the Big West Conference by becoming the first seventh-place team to win the conference tournament and earn entry into the NCAA Tournament. After being placed in the First Four play-in event, Cal Poly won its first NCAA Tournament game.

As part of his existing contract, Callero got $15,000 for winning the Big West title and $10,000 for an 81-69 victory over Texas Southern in the First Four.

Callero also earns money unrelated to wins and losses. He receives at least $25,000 for securing games at high-profile schools such as Arizona and Stanford and also could receive another $5,000 bonus if the team meets specific academic requirements by the end of the spring quarter.

All of the unexpected success has led to some suggesting Callero as a candidate for higher-profile jobs, including in the Seattle native’s home state at Washington State.

“They’d be crazy if they didn’t,” Oberhelman said.

“He’s a very good head coach. That’s something we should all welcome, providing a coach with that type of opportunity. That said, I hope he retires at Cal Poly. But when you have success, it’s going to lead to these types of conversations. ‘We want that guy. We want Joe.’ Good. That means we’re having some great success. So, that makes me happy.”

Already back on the road recruiting, Callero said Wednesday that he has not been contacted formally by any other universities, though he has received some flattery from fans of other programs.

Focused on building what remains of a young Cal Poly team after losing three seniors, Callero said he would listen if a high-major suitor called.

“It’s flattering to be named in the running for a position or two,” Callero said, “but the reality is, it’s far more flattering to be in San Luis Obispo and talk about what we’ve just done. It’s OK to be ambitious, and it’s OK to look at professional advancement, but don’t necessarily try to move for the sake of moving because you just had a great season.”

Callero’s current contract runs through March 2017 and has already been extended once since he was hired by former athletic director Alison Cone in 2009. Originally on a five-year term, Callero was re-upped by Oberhelman in December 2012.

Under the current deal, if Callero were to leave to coach for another Division I or professional team, he would have to pay Cal Poly $75,000 for each remaining season left on his contract.

The Mustangs would certainly prefer he stay after delivering one of the most thrilling sequences in the department’s history. Callero was at the center of it, making appearances with national media outlets that scrambled to book him after the improbable run.

“Joe represented Cal Poly very, very well,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said. “He mentioned our region, he mentioned our city, he mentioned our academics.”

Many Cal Poly fans had left the team for dead after the team finished 10-19 in the regular season, which was capped by a lopsided and anti-climactic loss at home to arch rival UC Santa Barbara.

Armstrong praised the Mustangs players for implementing Callero’s teachings.

“I was impressed with how they handled defeat. I’ve always felt that athletics provides good lessons for life. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose, but that’s the key.”

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