Niagara Gazette

Sports

November 23, 2012

Purple Eagle family mourns with Mihalich

Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Purple Eagles have lost one of their most loyal and resilient supporters.

Dolores Mihalich, the mother of men's basketball coach Joe Mihalich, died Wednesday after a nine-year battle with cancer. She was 88.

When she was first diagnosed with colon cancer in December 2003, doctors told Dolores Mihalich she had less than a year to live. Even as the cancer spread to her liver, she continued to beat the odds, surviving long enough to see her son realize his dream of coaching Niagara into the NCAA tournament in 2005. She was behind the bench when the Purple Eagles repeated the feat in 2007, and again in 2009 when they set the a modern record for wins and went to the NIT.

"She loved Niagara basketball and she loved Niagara University," Joe Mihalich said. "She answered the phone every day with, "Go Purple Eagles.'"

Joe Mihalich, the oldest of six siblings, has been traveling back and forth between Philadelphia and Western New York this week, spending as much time with his family as he can while preparing the Purple Eagles to play Little 3 rival St. Bonaventure today (2 p.m., WGR 550 AM) in Rochester.

"In some respects, it's the easiest thing to do because she wouldn't want it any other way," Mihalich said. "She wouldn't want anyone sitting around feeling sorry for her and she cares about this team. She wouldn't want this team not to be at full strength."

A hospice caregiver told Mihalich recently that his mother's positive spirit had waned and she was losing interest in most daily activities.

"They asked her what she was still interested in," he said, "and she told them, 'my kids and Niagara basketball.'"

Mihalich said he has received an outpouring of support from former Niagara players and coaches and their relatives.

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