Niagara Phils head coaching position
For the past three decades, Phil Mosley has been one of the top high school coaches in Niagara.
Aside from a two-year stint as head coach of the Niagara College women’s basketball team (2004 to 2006), the 54-year-old native of Oklahoma has been a successful fixture coaching football and basketball at Westlane (12 years), Thorold (eight years) and Centennial (nine years).
Over the past decade, the Port Colborne resident has built the Centennial boys and girls basketball programs into two of the most consistently successful programs in Niagara. That success and his connection to his players made it difficult — but not impossible — for him to pursue and ultimately land the position of head coach of the Niagara College Knight’s men’s basketball program.
‘It was definitely factored into the decision, although I am so close to finishing my career,” the father of two grown children said. “Not being able any more to work with such great kids will be difficult.”
His decision was made easier by the health of Centennial’s programs.
“They are great kids playing at a really high level and they will be able to sustain that regardless of who comes in,” he said. “That makes me feel a little bit better.”
His motivation to join Niagara was the challenge of coaching at a higher level.
“I have always looked at the college system and Niagara College itself and wondered could I do this with a certain style of athletes and players and how would I interact with them,” he said. “It’s elevating your own coaching development and coaches have to constantly evolve and challenge themselves. If you become complacent, you are not really getting better as a coach and you need to do that so your team can get better.”
The graduate of Eastern Michigan University was Mike Hurley’s lead assistant with Niagara’s men’s team during the 2017-18 season.
“Mike and I are great friends and he included me in almost all of the decisions with regards to the direction of the program,” Mosley said. “That taste gave me a sense of what it would be like to be a head coach.”
The former Niagara player (1981 to 1983) doesn’t expect people to notice much difference between his and Hurley’s regime.
“Part of the appeal of working together was that we were so connected and we had so many of the same philosophies; what we wants to do and how we approached people,” he said. “Mike is great at developing relationships with players and I learned from him this year.”
Mosley expects a seamless transition.
“I enjoyed the team, I enjoyed the whole process of being in the OCAA (Ontario Colleges Athletic Association) and the challenges of high level basketball.”
College hoops will be a huge step up from high school ball.
“It comes down to the level of play,” Mosley said. “The skill level and athletic ability is so high and there is a huge difference between high schooling college in terms of men and boys.”
What stays the same are Mosley’s core basketball beliefs.
“I still believe in developing relationships with them, I still believe in teaching good fundamentals, and smart basketball is a priority at any level,” he said. “And it’s matching wits with very, very good coaches throughout the league.
“There are a lot of challenges, but they are exciting challenges.”
Mosley preaches practice preparation, players knowing what they are supposed to do and what is expected of them.
“If you have a system and you ask guys to fit into a system, it is easier to not lose it (on players) because this is the system that we worked on in practice,” he said. “If we fail, we failed the system and we need to get better at the system and it’s not directed at the individual as much.”
The key to any success Mosley will have is player recruitment. Niagara was able to land Rahim Bardi and Braidon Moore this spring and there is a ton of talented players coming through the ranks in Niagara, especially in Grades 7 through 10.
“I feel very confident that one of my strengths is my connection to the Niagara basketball community, specifically boys high school basketball,” Mosley said. “I am excited to keep that going and there always needs to be a local component at Niagara College with some really good basketball players and some really good students.”
That being said, Niagara is only half of the recruiting equation.
“Recruiting has no borders or boundaries,” Mosley said. “If you want certain types of players, you have to go out and find them.”
One of Mosley’s first tasks will be to choose his assistant coaches.
“I have a list of people that I have in mind and it’s taking the time to sit down with them and explain expectations, look at schedules, look at opportunities and how much they can give.”
Mosley will retire from teaching at Centennial at the end of the 2018-19 school year and then he’ll focus solely on the Knights.
“It’s a pretty good exit strategy and I feel very lucky that this opportunity became available,” he said.
Niagara College is delighted to have Mosley.
“We are truly excited to have Phil assume the leadership role with our men’s basketball program,” said Ray Sarkis, Niagara’s acting director of athletics and recreation. “We received numerous highly qualified applicants from across the country. At the end of the day, what separated Phil from the competition was his dedication to the educational aspect of the student-athlete experience. He is a seasoned educator and a top quality individual that is going to accomplish big things with our team.”
Mosley inherits a Niagara team that is at the top of its game. In the past three seasons, the Knights have an overall record of 38-16 and will return most of its roster from this past season. The team’s training camp opens Sept. 10 in Welland.