Joe Callero is coaching Cal Poly now, but otherwise he is a Puget Sounder through and through.
He played basketball at Enumclaw High School, in the Tacoma Community College summer leagues, at Highline Community College and Central Washington University.
Then he coached at Sumner High School, Highline CC, the University of Puget Sound and Seattle University before going on to Cal Poly in 2010.
His road is so winding that Callero – who comes from a family of 16 kids – says it comes as a surprise even to him that he will enjoy a kind of homecoming tonight, when his Mustangs visit the University of Washington.
Fittingly, he wraps it all up by quoting another South Sound coach: Pacific Lutheran legend Frosty Westering.
“I really just thought about being a high school coach and a junior college coach and a Division III coach,” Callero said. “It was the old adage of doing the jobs that you have. I’ve read Frosty Westering’s books probably three times and (followed his advice to) make the big time where you’re at. … That’s how I feel about Cal Poly right now. This is the best job in the world and the only job in the world, and the only thing I care about is getting ready for the UW game.”
Cal Poly scheduled like a big-time program this season, visiting three defending conference champions: Nevada of the Western Athletic Conference, Saint Mary’s of the West Coast Conference, and Washington of the Pacific-12 Conference.
However, the game that grabbed the national headlines was Cal Poly’s 70-68 win at then-No. 11 UCLA on Nov. 25.
“The students were ecstatic,” Callero said. “But the old-timers who have been around our program for 40, 50, 60 years, they’re the ones that really measure it, and they’re the ones who told me that’s the biggest win in school history.”
Washington will take the court on a two-game winning streak. However, coach Lorenzo Romar wasn’t happy with his team’s focus last time out against Jackson State.
He is working on getting his Huskies to give 40 minutes of effort every time out. But if the Mustangs’ win over UCLA helps get his players to focus, well, that’s all right, too.
“Whatever we can muster up to get our guys’ attention is great. Maybe that does,” Romar said. “… I always said, hopefully we get to the point that what gets our attention is, ‘We have a game,’ regardless of who the opponent is.”
In order to get another upset tonight, Callero figures his team will need to shoot 45 percent or better. He doesn’t expect his team to defend or rebound with the Huskies, but he figures a hot night of shooting could make up for that.
One thing the Mustangs usually do is secure the basketball. They average the fewest turnovers in NCAA Division I and are fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio.
That is a regular trait of Callero teams, and something he says he came to appreciate while playing at Central Washington.
“My senior year I was team captain, and I was able to lead the team in assist-to-turnover (ratio),” he said. “I learned early on that if you’re a 5-9 point guard, you’d better take care of the ball and you’d better pass the ball well and make sure that the best players get the most shots in the best spots.”Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/uwsports @donruiztnt