Coach takes over a program that finished last in the Big West Conference last season

Joe Callero will address an audience this afternoon in San Luis Obispo, Calif., to explain why he left Seattle University after eight years as men’s basketball coach to take over at Cal Poly, which has fallen on hard times in recent years.

Many of his former Redhawks players and recruits heard an abbreviated version of his explanation when they spoke with him Thursday.

“One of the things he talked about was having a 9-year-old daughter and living in a college community and being in a place to raise a family,” said Bainbridge High School senior Ben Eisenhardt, who signed a letter of commitment to Seattle U. last November. “He said he was the coach that brought this program back to Division I, and it’s going to be a part of someone’s legacy to bring them even farther.

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“I think he found something that he’s really interested in and reviving the program that’s down at Cal Poly.”

The Mustangs finished last in the Big West Conference last season with a 7-21 record and were 12-18 in 2007-08. After nine years and a 99-145 record, Cal Poly fired coach Kevin Bromley.

SU athletic director Bill Hogan was unavailable for comment Thursday. Earlier this week, he said the school would move quickly to find a new coach.

“We have a good program right now,” Hogan said. “We’ll work like crazy to have a really strong head coach in here.”

Hogan flew to Detroit to attend the Final Four, and he’s likely to begin forming a list of replacements over the weekend. A potential coaching candidate is Washington Huskies assistant Cameron Dollar, who was a finalist for the Sacramento State job last year.

In coaching circles, the Redhawks’ position is considered to be intriguing.

The school is in the first year of a five-year process to retain full Division I status since dropping out in 1980. The men’s basketball team is ineligible to compete in the NCAA tournament until the 2012-13 season, but Seattle U. can play in other season-ending tournaments such as the National Invitational Tournament and College Basketball Invitational.

Last season, Seattle U. posted a 21-8 record against a mix of Division I, II and III schools. The Redhawks were 13-8 record against D-I opponents, including a 60-59 victory against Cal Poly.

The Redhawks are scheduled to play 28 Division I teams in the 2009-10 season, including games against Oklahoma State, Utah, Oregon State and Washington.

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278