David Elfin On Sports: Lonergan Is Back Home
For Mike Lonergan, Washington isn’t the city of monuments or politics. It’s his hometown, well technically, Bowie is, but in any case, DC is his favorite city and coaching at George Washington was “my dream job.”
So it was almost as if destiny brought the 45-year-old Lonergan, who was introduced as GW’s new coach today, to Smith Center.
Jack Kvancz, the one-time athletic director at Catholic U. and buddy of the late Jack Bruen for whom Lonergan captained the ’88 Cardinals, is retiring after 17 years running GW athletics. Kvancz’s successor, Patrick Nero, had been the commissioner of the America East Conference, whose top basketball program the past six years was Vermont, coached by Lonergan.
Small world, no?
“I thought the next time this job came open, it would be a good opportunity for me,” said Lonergan, a finalist for the Seton Hall vacancy last year. “I hoped that whenever Jack Kvancz retired that whoever they hired I would know him or he would know me.”
Lonergan was a backup point guard at Archbishop Carroll High in the early 80s but he left a lasting impression. Lions star Derrick Lewis, who went on to make All-ACC at Maryland play 15 years in France, said that Lonergan was as smart as any point guard with whom he ever played.
Lonergan certainly has gotten the job done on and off the court wherever he has been. After getting his Master’s as a grad assistant at American International, he joined Bruen “like a second father to me” at Colgate for three years before returning to his alma mater in 1992. Lonergan was 251-88 at Catholic, winning the Division III national title in 2001 before becoming an assistant in 2004 to Gary Williams at Maryland. Lonergan helped recruit Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes and “changed my resume.”
Lonergan then inherited a very young team at Vermont, but he won the America East title in his second season, the first of three such titles in four years not including 2010 when the Catamounts won the conference tournament and the automatic NCAA berth. And as was the case at Catholic, all of Lonergan’s players graduated. All of them.
And now Lonergan is back home where: his father Jack (a baseball star at Holy Cross before a career at the Pentagon) and four of his five siblings still live (his late mother Maureen was a longtime coach at Elizabeth Seton High in Bladensburg); where he met his wife, Maggie, the former women’s coach at Catholic; and where as a Cardinals freshman reserve he used to take the Metro to Smith Center to watch GW play because Colonials coach Gerry Gimelstob was a buddy of Bruen’s.
Small world, no?
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” said Lonergan, who takes over a team that returns six of its top seven players and was 17-14 (10-6 in the Atlantic 10) last season despite playing all year without injured guard Lasan Kromah. “I truly feel blessed.”
And why not? Unlike new George Mason coach Paul Hewitt, Lonergan knows everyone in DC hoops. Unlike American’s Jeff Jones, Lonergan can offer recruits the chance to play in a near-power conference. Unlike Georgetown where the Hoyas collapsed down the stretch again this year, GW’s program is heading in the right direction. And unlike Maryland where Williams’ stunning retirement last week left a gaping hole, the Colonials have a coach.
The right one.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.