January 20th, 2012

Hyland's Heroes: Mike Gandolfo

Paul Najjar

CSN Staff Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Mike Gandolfo
photo from Mike Gandolfo

Basketball lifer gives back to community

The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes" - a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero? Send your recommendation to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

In the CSAA coaches and officials get involved for a myriad of reasons. Whether it is for the love of the game or the opportunity to work with kids or the chance to give back to the organization that gave them a chance to play when they were young, a passion for one of these is almost always mentioned.

For Mike Gandolfo, currently the head coach of the freshmen basketball team at Assumption, it is a combination of all of those things and more.

Gandolfo is a basketball junkie. One of those guys who loves to be in the gym working out a player, leading a practice or watching a game. He got his start playing ball at Holy Trinity where his dad was a coach and was a student trainer at St. Xavier.  That experience as a trainer helped him land several positions in college and after college with some prestigious coaches.

He comes from a family of coaches. His father was a coach. His wife is a coach at St. Leonard. His brother Matt is an assistant coach for lacrosse at St. Xavier. His cousin Chris Moore is the head coach of the soccer team at Sacred Heart Academy and Chris' sister Maggie coaches lacrosse at Sacred Heart; his cousin Mariah Weyland is the head soccer coach at Mercy.

With all of that family coaching experience, Gandolfo surrounded himself with even more in his high school and college days.

“I got to work with great men like coach Bergamini in high school, coach (Bob) Valvano at Bellarmine and coach Crum at Louisville,” said Gandolfo. “I was the new guy at UofL and got to watch coach Crum at every practice. And on home game days, it was my job to sit on the visitor’s bench so I got to see Gene Keady and Charlie Spoonhour and Bob Huggins and all the coaches in the conference with Louisville. I got to see how they conducted themselves and how they handled game management and time outs. It was an incredible experience to soak up all of that coaching knowledge.”

While still attending Louisville, Gandolfo got his coaching start in the CSAA at Sacred Heart Model School. He and his then-girlfriend-now-wife Chrissy Preston Gandolfo coached the 8th grade “B” team together and remain one of his favorite groups he ever coached.

“We went to their (SHMS’s) first ever city final,” he recalled. “We had six kids and those guys had a tough time just walking and chewing gum, but they played together. It was a fun year for us. And all of those kids attended our wedding.”

His wife Chrissy was a three sport standout at Holy Family and then Assumption in volleyball, basketball and softball. She played volleyball and softball at Bellarmine and was awarded the Silver Knight award her senior year.

Gandolfo’s coaching career moved from the CSAA to St. Francis high school, where he also served as Athletic Director. He then coached at Collegiate with his good friend Tim Williams. After that, he spent two seasons on the sidelines coaching with Charlie Just at Spalding University and won a USCAA title in his first year with the team.

He coached the 8th grade boys at St. Leonard last year and has taken over the Athletic Director position there as well. For now, he’s coaching the Assumption freshmen team and enjoying his role on head coach Steve Small’s staff.

“To me, being involved with the CSAA and Assumption is my way of giving back to my Catholic faith; it’s my ministry,” he proudly stated. “It’s my way to instill certain life skills that were given to me that I think the kids need to be successful later in life. Of course it’s fun to win games. But it’s also about helping kids overcome obstacles and achieve things that they wouldn’t have been able to do without that experience of being on a team. Seeing kids succeed outside of basketball helps me to see this as more of a ministry and a way of giving back more than anything else.

“The experience of playing sports was so valuable in my life and it taught me so many lessons to help me be successful. When you get down, you can either stay down or try to figure out a way to get the most out of yourself to overcome something. And that’s what I try to instill in my teams.”


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