Coaches Corner: Jon Borovich

By Brian Belford

Jon Borovich, NIU men’s basketball assistant coach, was hired this season after four years of assistant coaching at Dayton.

Borovich sat down with the Northern Star to talk about his Michigan roots, his experiences as a player and a coach, and who he thinks the best basketball player is among the Huskies’ coaching staff.

Northern Star: Where did you grow up?

Jon Borovich: I grew up in Michigan, born and raised. My family is still there, and I played high school basketball at Birmingham Seaholm High School.

NS: So you grew up there and played collegiality at Central Michigan. Are you a Michigan man through and through?

JB: Well, I’m a Michigan State man through and through. There’s a big difference there.

NS: How did you first get into basketball?

JB: I grew up playing a lot sports just in general. I think I gravitated toward basketball because my dad and my brother weren’t as good at that sport as I was. It was a competitive family; my brother was a little better at baseball, and my dad was a little bit more of a baseball guy. So I gravitated toward basketball so I could find my own niche.

NS: You played at Central Michigan. Mark Montgomery, NIU men’s basketball coach, was an assistant coach there. How did your relationship with him start?

JB: His start in college coaching was my freshman year at CMU, and I was actually there for four years with Montgomery. He was in charge of the guards, and I played the guard position, so over that four-year time span we formed a very strong bond and relationship with one another.

NS: You said you played guard at Central Michigan. You went through some tough times, but those teams did have success as well. What advice do you give NIU players about dealing with tough times?

JB: I tell them to have resiliency. You have to have great endurance. You have to have a very strong faith and belief in who you are and what you’re doing. It is a process. It is a journey, and that’s the beauty of college basketball; it’s not something that you can just build overnight. Coach Montgomery and I reflect a lot on our experiences at Central Michigan because we barely won five games our first year there together. But in our fourth year, we won 20 games and the league championship, so it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifice. But we have a group of individuals that believe in a common goal, and through hard work we can get there.

NS: So when did you know that you wanted to become a basketball coach?

JB: When I was making my college choice, I thought ultimately I wanted to teach, and I could never really find a subject that I loved like basketball. So my passion being basketball, I figured that I wanted to teach that and pass on my experience and knowledge to guys that love to play the game. I think that’s the ultimate rush for any teacher is to work with individuals that have a passion for what you’re teaching. I think that sometimes, for example, when you’re a math teacher, you teach students that don’t necessarily like math. But when you’re a college basketball coach, you work with guys that have a passion for the game that you love to teach. That’s ultimately a winning combination.


NS: You were a graduate assistant at Michigan State for two years from 2001 to 2003. What was that like working under MSU head coach Tom Izzo?

JB: Well coach Izzo is the best, the absolute best. He took me in, a guy that was essentially willing to work for free. I was working on my Master’s Degree and I was learning from. In my opinion, the best college basketball coach in the entire country. I did everything. It was the ultimate experience. I say to young guys all the time that if they want to get involved in the profession is that if you’re willing and able to volunteer your time for a coach that you believe in it will open up a lot of doors of opportunity for you. I learned from one of the best and ever since then it’s been an unbelievable ride and it was definitely a springboard for where I am today.

NS: At Dayton and Oakland, colleges where you’ve had experience coaching at, they’ve been able to have success on a consistent basis with its basketball programs. Do you think NIU can become an Oakland/Dayton like school in the future?

JB: There is great potential here. We have the resources and the support from the administration, and if you take a look at where we’re located and the league that we’re in, we have everything that we need to be great. It’s our job as a coaching staff to put together a collection of people that can come together and reach that greatness It’s going to take time. I said before it doesn’t happen overnight, but there’s no doubt there’s no reason why we can accomplish that. But what it comes down to is the people that comprise the program, and with the right people in place, anything is possible.

NS: Who is the best basketball player among all the NIU coaches?

JB: (Laughing) Well, that’s debatable. In our prime, I would have to say coach Montgomery was the best player, but I think right now, if we were to play one on one, Todd Townsend would be very hard to stop.”