The Hostos Athletic Department is on quite a roll. The women’s basketball team is coming off back-to-back national championships in NJCAA Division III play, and the College recently helped CUNY form the University’s first wheelchair basketball program.

Hostos has also hired a new Athletic Director for Fall 2019, Erik Smiles. Sports have always been a big part of his life, and the lessons learned from competition are something he takes great pride in teaching.

Learn more about him here in 10 Questions with Hostos Athletic Director Erik Smiles:

Erik Smiles, Athletic Director

Where are you from and what were you doing before you came to Hostos?
I am from Long Island native. Before I came to Hostos, I was the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Long Island University Post, a private university in Brookville, New York.

What attracted you to Hostos and its athletic program?
First, Hostos’ success. I have been a college basketball coach in the New York area for a long time, so I have seen and been around Hostos athletics for a long time, and have recruited many Hostos players over the years. So, I am very familiar with the history here; it is off the charts.

In the relatively short history of this department, Hostos has won three national championships and multiple regional and conference championships. So, that success and the chance for future success attracted me to the College. Also, the facilities are very good and it has a great location in the heart of the Bronx and a great selection of academic majors. When you add all of that up, I feel this is a place that we can build upon that foundation and really grow the department into something special in multiple sports.

Another thing that really sold it for me was the administration. We have supportive, student-first, student-centered leadership here at the College. That is really the key ingredient to being successful in college athletics.

What is your “philosophy” regarding athletics and higher education?
I feel we have three very important missions here. The first is giving student athletes a great collegiate athletic experience. The second is academic retention. It is our mission in this department to prepare our student athletes to be successful students and prepare them for their next higher education home, not only on the playing field but in the classroom. The third is moving our student athletes toward graduation. We have to graduate our students, that to me is at the heart of what we do. Seeing our student athletes walk across the stage at commencement is better than any championship.

Did you play sports as a student? What was that experience like for you?
I played multiple sports in high school, and I played college basketball at the University of Bridgeport. Playing college basketball was one of the best experiences of my life. Grinding with your teammates and coaches in practice every day, on the road, on the bus, going to battle in games together. There is nothing else like it. Many of my best friends to this day are my former college teammates and coaches. Those bonds and friendships were born through competition and comradery. That is why I am so passionate about college athletics, because the experience that we give these students and what they learn through being on a team is one of the most unique and special experiences they will ever have.

Do have any coaching experience? How does that differ from your current role?
I was a college basketball coach for 17 years, 15 of those years I was a head coach. I was the head men’s basketball coach at Farmingdale State from 2004 to 2013 and at LIU Post from 2013-2019. There are differences but also a lot of similarities between coaching and leading the department as the athletic director. As a coach and in an administrative role you are still leading, building, mentoring, relationship building and helping young people to improve day to day and get them ready for life.

How would you like to advance the athletics department at Hostos? What are your goals?
Our first three goals are giving our student athlete a great colligate sport experience, academic retention and moving them onto graduation. I feel at a junior college especially, our mission is to mentor these kids and teach them life lessons through sport.

Also, I think we have great potential here at Hostos to grow the department. We have great facilities and some room to grow. At one point Hostos had six colligate teams. My goal to start with is to get back the teams we lost through the years and grow in numbers to approximately 100-120 student athletes. The first thing we are doing is brining women’s volleyball back for the Fall 2020 season. Also we are looking at adding men’s soccer, as well as men’s and women’s track and field in the near future. I think once we add those sports back over the next few semesters, we can then stop and assess to see what other sports we can add. On the recreation front, we are looking to add community swim hours to the pool. The pool is a major asset for the College, and adding that back into our fitness center offerings will be great for the entire community.

What do you do when you are not running the athletics department?
Spending time with my beautiful family. My wife Kay and my two daughters Samantha (6) and Skylar (3) are so important to me, so we try and do as much stuff with the kids as we can. Taking them to the beach, the city, museums and sometimes some toy shopping.

I am also an avid college sports fan so I already have a trip planned for the Penn State vs. Michigan football for this fall, as well as many St. John’s basketball games this winter.

What is your fondest sports memory?
Coaching so many great players over the years, the winning that we did together, the championships. Then watching them graduate and get great jobs and start families. Also spending time with my assistants in the office, on the road recruiting, just on the grind with them. I was fortunate to work with some really great assistant coaches that made me look really good over the years.

What is your worst sports memory?
Every game that I coached and we lost!

What is your best advice for a student interested in participating in colligate athletics at Hostos?
Come on down and tryout and get involved. We are not just college athletic teams; we have intramurals, recreation hours, games that you can come to and cheer on your fellow Caimans! Be a part of athletics!