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Arkansas State head basketball coach embraces Hispanic heritage

There are only four Hispanic head coaches in Division I men's basketball, and Arkansas State's Mike Balado is one of them.

JONESBORO, Ark. — There are only four Hispanic head coaches in Division I men's basketball, and Arkansas State's Mike Balado is one of them.

He's originally from Miami. His parents came to this country from Cuba. 

"My parents came actually came from Cuba and with my aunt and grandparents. They came to the United States to build a better life for themselves during the communist regime. They actually came here on boats. They had to start everything over again. My grandfather on my dad's side owned one of the most prestigious hotels in Havana and it was taken from him. I was lucky enough to be an American citizen which allowed them to open a lot of doors in our family to be able to succeed here in the greatest country in the world," Balado said. 

Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba and that's the sport he played when he was younger, however, the Miami Native eventually moved from the diamond to the court. 

"Baseball was always prominent in our family. I started playing when I was younger, but when you're playing in Miami it's really hot out there. When I picked up the game of basketball I realized I could wear shorts and a tank top in an air-conditioned gym so I was like I'm staying in here. My dad was always a Celtics fan so I grew up watching those games with him. Larry Bird was the guy who I tried to model myself after." 

Balado played college basketball at St. Thomas university in Miami. He then became a grad assistant at Augusta State, and from there he coached at various schools in South Florida. 

Balado's first power five stop was at Louisville. 

In 2017, he earned his first DI head coaching job at Arkansas State.

Balado speaks fluent Spanish. That's helped him on the recruiting trial. He's coached athletes from various Latin countries and even was an assistant coach for the Puerto Rican National team. 

"Hopefully we get more Hispanics involved in sports like basketball there's not a lot of us around."

Jonesboro, Arkansas is a lot different from Miami and Balado always keeps a piece of home with him. 

"The #1 thing my dad still sends monthly is Cuban coffee. You can't find that here. I make that at home for myself to remind myself about Miami, where I'm from." 

The Red Wolves open up the season on November 7th against Harding University. 


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