Mike Bokosky is self-admittedly an old guy. He has an old car, old dogs, lives in an old house and has an “old wife,” he said. Even his kids are getting old. But not everything about Bokosky is old – his favorite artist is Snoop Dogg.
“When you get old, the old stuff becomes pretty cool,” Bokosky said.
Bokosky began his coaching journey when he was in high school, idolizing his hard-nosed basketball coaches and teachers who served in World War II and the Korean War.
Now Chapman’s head basketball coach for 26 years, Bokosky recalled his ninth grade basketball coach giving his players a toughness drill, in which players would try to pull the ball from each other when the whistle blew.
“He taught (us to) step through and yank,” Bokosky said, motioning the pulling away of a basketball. “I took to it like a duck to water.”
After all his years of coaching – two at his alma mater Santa Ana Valley High School, 11 as an assistant coach at the University of California, Irvine, a brief stint at California State University, Fullerton, and now for Chapman – Bokosky can marvel at the experiences he’s had.
He readily admits the role of luck in his career. It has allowed him to not only stay in Orange County, but also to coach athletes who have gone on to become NBA players and coaches, a list that includes Bruce Bowen, Scott Brooks, Dave Joerger and Bob Thornton.
“There are a lot of good coaches at every level that aren’t that lucky,” Bokosky said. “I’m really lucky. I’m the unicorn of coaches. I’ve never used that term before, but it’s true.”
With 400-plus wins, Bokosky is Chapman’s all-time winningest coach, and had 23 straight winning seasons from 1993 to 2016.
“Luck in life, in recruiting and finding a job, plays a big factor,” Bokosky said. “Sometimes, you have no control over it. I really believe, as I’ve gotten older, the better players you have, the less coaching you do. This is as good as it gets.”
“He’ll go bonkers in practice and yell some funny things. As you get older and play for him more, you realize he’s not crazy and it all makes sense. He just wants each player to focus on his strengths.”
Athletic director Terry Boesel and Bokosky are close friends. Bokosky initially hired Boesel as an assistant in 1992, and in 2015, Boesel became Bokosky’s boss.
“He likes to say, ‘You’re my boss,’ and I say, ‘I’m not your boss, we’re colleagues,’” Boesel said. “I told him we’re just going to prop him up like Uncle Bernie (in “Weekend at Bernie’s”) and he’ll never retire. We’re just going to keep him in that chair.”
Both Bokosky and Boesel share experience at the Division I level, something Boesel said is much tougher to manage with a family.
“He saw the Division III lifestyle as a coach can be good,” Boesel said. “You can mix family with that and it’s not so all-consuming as it is at the Division I level.”
Assistant coach Dan Krikorian said a Bokosky-led team has distinct features.
“The one thing you can always say if you’re an opponent of a Bokosky-coached team is that they’re going to play hard – they’re going to be disciplined,” Krikorian said.
There are some things that never change for a Bokosky: a relentless pursuit of excellence and care for his student athletes.
“He’ll go bonkers in practice and yell some funny things,” said senior guard Tyler Green. “As you get older and play for him more, you realize he’s not crazy and it all makes sense. He just wants each player to focus on his strengths.”
Senior guard Luke Selway said that he learned toughness, discipline and time management skills from Bokosky. Green took it one step further.
“I became a better person playing these four years than I ever thought I could become,” Green said.
Jake Hutchinson contributed to this report.