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Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Adras: Elevating the Game On Campus and in the Community

Courtesy of University Marketing

Mike Adras has accumulated a winning record during his 11-year tenure as men’s head basketball coach for Northern Arizona University. But Adras is not just concerned with accolades and his players’ performance on the court. There are other results that make him more proud: seeing his students graduate and succeed in life.

Mike Adras has accumulated a winning record during his 11-year tenure as head coach of men’s basketball at Northern Arizona University. His teams have enjoyed eight post seasons and five Big Sky Championship game appearances. They won back-to-back regular season titles in 2005-06 and 2006-07, and Adras was selected Big Sky’s Coach of the Year in 2006. Under his leadership, the Lumberjacks have enjoyed its longest home game winning streak and tied the school’s record for most wins in a season (2007-08). His "recruit to shoot" motto has produced some of the best 3-point and free throw shooters in the nation, ranking NAU in the top 15 nationally for many awards in these categories. Seven of his players have gone on to play professional basketball.

All of these accolades are important to Adras, but there are other results that make him more proud: seeing his students graduate. Adras is not just concerned with his players’ performance on the court, he also wants them to succeed in life. This means excelling in academics, getting involved with the community, and most importantly—graduating. During his tenure, the Lumberjacks have garnered 31 Big Sky All-Academic honors. "Championships are fun," says Adras, "but our students’ success is the result of hard work from many involved." He is referring to his players’ academic commitment and their access to academic advisers and counselors.

Adras also acknowledges that part of his role as an NAU coach is teaching his students the importance of community service. His players are required to perform ten hours of community service each season, and they easily surpass this goal. NAU basketball players are often seen working at the Saint Mary’s Food Bank, collecting toys for the U.S. Marine Corps "Toys for Tots" program, or reading to Flagstaff elementary school children. "Whatever you give, you get back tenfold," says Adras. Mentoring to young people is a practice he hopes to instill in his players that will stay with them throughout the rest of their professional and personal lives.

Adras has always loved the game of basketball. He played it throughout his childhood growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada. While in high school, a friend recruited him to help work with third and fourth graders at a summer basketball camp, and the experience lit a spark. Adras became hooked on the idea of coaching.

Adras earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in educational administration from Nova University. He quickly returned to his high school alma mater, Bishop Gorman, to teach and coach basketball, where he led the boy’s team to four state titles. Adras moved up to college ball, coaching first at Drake University in Iowa, and then joined the coaching staff at Northern Arizona University in 1992. He took over as head coach in 1999, inheriting the role from Ben Howland who went on to coach at UCLA.

During Adras’ long tenure at NAU, many of the players have become a part of his extended family. Along with pictures of winning teams on his wall, Adras keeps notes and cards from former athletes that have gone on to have successful careers both on and off the court. "Getting a letter or note from a past player is more meaningful to me than the awards," says Adras, "because then I know we made a difference."