By Rob Todor
Mike Fuline and his wife Amy, have five children ages 7 and younger, so he knows all about trying to get kids all moving in the same direction, even if they think they know more than him.
He’ll use that experience to rebuild the University of Mount Union men’s basketball program.
Fuline, 35, was officially named the Purple Raiders’ coach on Tuesday, succeeding Lee Hood, who resigned last month after 19 seasons.
Hood guided Mount Union to the Ohio Athletic Conference championship in 1997, but the Purple Raiders have suffered six consecutive losing seasons.
Fuline comes to Mount Union with a reputation for rebuilding programs. He spent the past six seasons at Jackson High School in Stark County, where he was 95-42, winning the Division I state championship in 2009-10.
“[NCAA] Division III basketball is the best place to be,” Fuline said. “It’s the best because it’s pure. Academics come first, and guys are here because they love to play basketball.
“That’s my goal. Of course, your [success] is always related to wins. But I want guys who will play with a passion. What we have to do is find out who is committed to that.”
Fuline, a graduate of Kent State, also coached at Rootstown High School, where he was 36-10 in two seasons with one district championship.
His last four Jackson teams were 76-19.
“You have to begin with your core beliefs and principals,” said Fuline of his success plan. “You treat people the right way … then you work their butts off and see who’s committed.
“Players [at Mount Union] are no different than anywhere else. They want to be disciplined. They want to be pushed. So we’re going to find out much.”
Fuline said he struggled with leaving Jackson, but once he met with the search committee at Mount Union he was convinced it was the right move.
“At Jackson you’re leaving people who gave you a chance,” he said. “I can honestly say, over the last six years, there isn’t one thing I would change.”
Fuline, who is the nephew of former Lisbon and Struthers basketball coach (and current Struthers High principal) Joe Fuline, said he relied on advice given to him by his uncle.
“Joe always told me, ‘Never leave [a program] in a bad situation’,” said Mike Fuline. “I’m confident I’m leaving Jackson in a good situation. That made this decision a lot easier.”