After guiding the Brock women’s basketball team to their first playoff berth since 2012, Mike Rao will remain the bench boss of the Badgers after signing a three-year contract with the University on Wednesday, May 1.
This year, Rao and the Badgers improved their win total to 11 victories and reached the OUA Critelli Cup quarter-finals.
“Mike has done a phenomenal job with the program,” said Associate Director of Brock Sports Emily Allan. “He has worked tirelessly from Day 1 to improve and build a culture of excellence. He is continually recruiting talented student-athletes to elevate this team, and he is producing results.”
Rao stepped into the role this past season as an interim coach and was tasked with revamping the women’s basketball team after the Badgers went 6-18 and missed the playoffs in 2018. In one season, the Badgers improved their win total and secured their first playoff appearance in seven years.
“I really do enjoy building, specifically in sport,” said Rao. “I love helping a team grow. Each season is built around a plan. This past season we emphasized an important element of our program, which is empowering women in sport and celebrating the immense talent our female student-athletes have.”
A Welland native, Rao coached the Notre Dame College School boys basketball team for 36 years before joining the Badgers in 2016.
Rao and the Fighting Irish remained a constant powerhouse in Niagara, and won the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations AAAA hoops championships in 2013.
At Brock, Rao played a key role as an assistant coach when the men’s team reached the U SPORTS National Championships for the first time in 10 years during the 2017-18 campaign.
When he took over the women’s basketball squad, the Badgers’ offence surged from 54.2 points per game to 63.1.
“I have always considered myself a teacher and not a coach. I like to get to know my players personally and build from there,” said Rao. “I feel that coaching, or teaching, has its foundation on the building of relationships.”
Off the court, Rao’s squad is the highest academic achieving team at Brock by GPA, and he is committed to supporting the experiential learning environment on campus.
“I always say that coaches or teachers who are not on you about your game or chasing you in the classroom don’t really care about you,” said Rao. “My instruction is constant and visible. I need players to buy into our plan and goal. This can only be done with the forging of a good relationship, which is built on honesty and respect. I tell recruits, come to Brock women’s basketball to become a better player, a better person and a Badger for life.”