Mike Cole is excited to be back in Riverdale.
Not only is he anxious to begin his first season as Manhattan College’s new baseball coach, Cole is eager to start building the Jaspers back into a power in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
While there is no calendar in his new office, Cole has Manhattan’s start date seemingly tattooed to his brain — a trip to California to take on Cal State-Northbridge on Feb. 23.
“I think our spring schedule will be tough early on, but it will get us ready for conference play,” Cole said.
Returning to Manhattan College is a homecoming of sorts for Cole, who served as an assistant coach for the Jaspers between 2005 and 2008. That was a time Manhattan compiled a rather robust 127-83-1 overall record, with a stellar 72-27 mark in MAAC play.
His track record as a whole speaks of success at every stop of his coaching career. Cole was the associate head coach at Fairfield for the past five seasons when the Stags posted three 30-win seasons, clinched consecutive MAAC regular-season titles, and earned a berth in the NCAA Regionals in 2016.
Cole also has some head coaching experience leading the New Jersey Institute of Technology to a school-record 25 wins in 2012 while also mentoring current Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Mark Leiter Jr.
Now he wants to bring his winning ways to Riverdale.
“I think you get into this business to be a head coach, so when this job opened up here and me having been here and having had success here, it was perfect,” Cole said. “I’ve coached for 16 years, and those four years I was here were probably the most enjoyable four years I’ve had coaching.
“It’s awesome to be back. This place is a special place. It doesn’t have the glitz and the glamour of the big-time schools, but it’s a place where you feel that if you accomplish something, you really feel good.”
When he landed the job, Cole’s first order of business was to assemble his staff, and he knew who he wanted for his pitching coach from the moment he was hired — former Jaspers pitching great Chris Cody.
“The first phone call I made was to Chris,” Cole said of Cody, who was the ace of the Manhattan staff that won the MAAC tournament in 2006, advanced to the NCAA Regionals, and defeated nationally ranked Nebraska and Joba Chamberlain on their home field.
“Chris is exactly what we needed here because I think you have to be familiar with how Manhattan works,” Cole said. “Chris bleeds the Jasper green.”
Vince Redmond also joined Cole’s staff as recruiting coordinator and assistant coach. That’s a huge role, because the Jaspers are a “little bit behind the eight ball” when it comes to recruiting.
“So our top priority right now is to get familiar with our own guys, but we also need to really get on the road and start bringing in our own guys,” Cole said.
Jim Duffy, who left the Jaspers coaching job to join Rutgers, had formed a recruiting pipeline in Florida, which Cole said he hopes to continue using. But he also wants to add a little more local flavor to his future recruiting classes.
“I think Jimmy did a good job, but I think we need to do a better job on focusing on recruiting locally,” Cole said. “When we were really good, we had the local city Catholic school kids. Those were the kids that kind of put us over the top. I think kids here are tougher-minded, blue collar kids that are more focused on winning than the extras.”
Cole said his new program has talent throughout, and with a nice recruiting haul or two, expects the Jaspers to be consistent contenders in the MAAC.
“I wouldn’t have taken this job if I thought it was a rebuild,” Cole said. “I think there is plenty of talent here to be successful in our conference. It’s just kind of changing the culture and making them understand the tradition that we had here, that if you believe you can do something, you can. I don’t know if they had the belief.”
A return to Riverdale with a fresh attitude and a bulging resume of success is what Cole thinks will return the Jaspers to the glory days of the mid-2000s. And with just over 150 days before the season starts, Cole is ready to start building a championship-caliber program.
“I told the guys that I’ve coached here before and I’ve been in this conference for nine years, and I know what it takes to win in this conference,” Cole said.
“I expect to win. I didn’t come here to come in second place.”