Wells coaches students in sports journalism, basketball


Michael Wells is a man with many titles. He serves as Occidental’s Sports Information Director, assistant athletic director and an assistant basketball coach. He oversees almost every game Occidental plays, hosts and organizes the Annual Roy Dennis Senior Scholar-Athlete Banquet and the Occidental College Athletics Hall of Fame and manages Sports Facilities Rentals and External Relations.

Wells’s colleagues have high praise for his performance and work ethic. Fellow assistant basketball coach Will Morris identifies Wells as “the Renaissance man of sports.” Athletic Director Jaime Hoffman called Wells a gem.

“Mike has an infectious personality,” Hoffman said via email. “He is respectful and has a work ethic that is rare nowadays.”

A self-proclaimed sports junkie, Wells’s background in sports almost predates his birth. Both of his parents were basketball coaches at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), and as soon as Wells was able, he spent every possible moment around the various CMS teams.

“I didn’t have a babysitter,” Wells said. “I had a community of people that raised me that was the faculty; the coaches. And whatever sport that was in season, they just threw me out there.”

Wells played a variety of sports before settling on basketball, which he played throughout high school and college at Dominican University of California. While at Dominican, Wells studied communications and worked for the Marin Independent Journal. He covered all levels of athletics for the Independent while honing his skills in the classroom, and even tried his hand in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation, Wells came to Occidental to direct sports information.

“I was totally unqualified but I had the skills to be a sports information director, and Hoffman took a chance on me,” Wells said. “I’ve been here ever since.”

Hoffman remembered Wells’s interview fondly, and claims she knew he would be ready for the job.

“[Wells] came with phenomenal references from people I respect in the athletics world.” Hoffman said via email. “Plus, he shared a story in his interview that spoke volumes of his ‘can do’ attitude and resourcefulness. I knew that was exactly what we needed.”

Wells’s work ethic made a strong impression on Hoffman and helped him rise to assistant athletic director within his first year. Hoffman recalled one instance in which Wells was set on completing a task over the weekend, despite Hoffman’s insistence that he not work on his days off.

“His response: two things…I haven’t worked a day since I got here and this enthusiasm is who I am and it’s not going anywhere,” Hoffman said via email.

Wells believes he has found an almost perfect fit for himself working in athletics. He said he had always expected to become a coach, but after developing his journalistic skills in college, sports information provided a medium for him to combine his two passions.

Wells sees little to complain about, despite his busy schedule.

“I like coaching as a teacher, and I like the feel I get in a small college environment,” Wells said. “There is something to be said about the passion [Division III Athletes] must have to participate in intercollegiate athletics, dedicate all this time, when you are not on a scholarship. It’s less of a business, it’s still true amateur athletics.”

Basketball player and Athletics student employee Joe Compagno (sophomore) sees Wells as a teacher and mentor. Compagno has worked with Wells as both an athlete and a writer for the Sports Information Department, and feels he has benefited from Wells’s instruction in both.

“He’s a really smart guy, really talented. I learn new things from him everyday,” Compagno said. “As a coach, he’s one of the best I’ve ever played for. He’s very passionate and a great motivator, and has a way of pushing people to work their hardest without being overly critical.”

Student employee Roy Sutton said that when seeking employment he initially addressed his emails to “Mr. Wells” and went into Wells’s office with trepidation. But Wells quickly lightened the mood, telling Sutton just to call him Mike.

“You can relax with him,” Sutton said. “But as low key as he seems, we have the best Sports Information Department in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) because he cares so much.”

Wells said he feels lucky to work in sports, and feels like he has not worked a day in four years at Occidental. Be it in games management or coaching a basketball game, Wells thinks the best part of his job is working with students.

“One day last year, I covered a women’s lacrosse game on the road, ended up head coaching for [a men’s] basketball game, wrote a story of the basketball game, then the next day woke up and did a soccer game,” Wells said. “But it was all so fun.”

Working with Wells on these busy event nights has been rife with humorous moments for Sutton, too.

“One night a game was going late, and [Wells] said, ‘Ugh, I’m not going to get to Chipotle tonight,'” Sutton said.

And if there was any concern about his Claremont roots, Wells proudly declares that he has no plans to leave his position in athletics any time soon.

“I’m definitely a Tiger.” Wells said.