Lonergan Takes 'Dream Job'
By Chris McManes, MikeLonergan.com
Monday, May 09, 2011
WASHINGTON – When Vermont won the America East Conference regular-season championship this year, then-Catamount Coach Mike Lonergan received the trophy from league commissioner Patrick Nero.
On Monday, Nero handed Lonergan another title: George Washington University head men’s basketball coach.
“Mike has the skills, experience and drive needed to take the GW men’s basketball program to new heights,” said Nero, the Colonials' incoming athletic director, during Lonergan’s introductory news conference. “Out of an extremely talented national field of possible candidates, Mike distinguished himself as the right fit for George Washington University and the best candidate to lead our men’s basketball program to future success.”
Lonergan, born in nearby Silver Spring, Md., and raised in Bowie, Md., was pleased to return home. He hasn’t coached in Washington since leaving Catholic University at the end of the 2003-04 season. Many of his former Cardinal players, coaches, and support staff were in attendance. Bob Talbot, the man who hired him at Catholic in 1992, and his wife, Barbara, were there, as was Lonergan’s successor, Steve Howes.
Franny Murray, who has worked in the Cardinal athletic department since 1947, also made the short trip from Brookland to Foggy Bottom. Lonergan’s wife, Maggie, flew in this morning from Burlington, Vt., to celebrate the occasion with a host of Lonergan family members, including Mike’s father, Jack.
“The opportunity to return to my roots in the Washington, D.C., area and build a program at an exceptional school like George Washington was too good to pass up,” Lonergan said. “This is my dream job.”
Nero said last Friday that when GW set out to find a new coach, it decided to judge potential candidates in four major areas: academic achievement, reputation, Washington-area ties and on-court success.
“When we took into account those four criteria, Mike stood above everyone,” Nero said. “He has had a 100 percent graduation rate of his student-athletes. He has a wonderful reputation at both Catholic and Vermont. He’s a Bowie native. And very importantly, Mike has been an extremely successful coach.”
Boy has he.
In 18 years as a head coach, Lonergan has enjoyed 15 winning seasons, 13 NCAA Tournament victories, 13 postseason appearances, 12 regular-season conference titles, 12 years of 20 or more victories, six conference tournament championships and 10 NCAA Tournaments appearances. He has been named Coach of the Year six times. The pinnacle of his career came when he led Catholic to the 2001 NCAA Division III National Championship.
Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey also speaks highly of the 45-year-old graduate of Washington’s Archbishop Carroll High School. Brey played for the Colonials in 1981-82.
“I think he is one of the prime young teachers in the college game, somebody who really understands the Washington, D.C., area and GW’s place in it,” Brey said in a statement. “Quite simply, he’s the kind of coach you’d want your own son or daughter to play for.”
One of the most successful coaches in the nation, Lonergan enters the 2011-12 season with a career record of 377-156 (.707). He’s averaging more than 20 wins and less than nine losses. Now in his 24th year as a college basketball coach, he posted a 126-68 record in six seasons (2005-11) at Vermont. His .649 winning percentage is highest in school history. The Cats’ 69-27 (.719) America East Conference mark was tops in the league from 2005 on.
Lonergan guided UVM to four postseason appearances, three regular-season titles and one conference tournament championship. His team’s appearance in the 2010 NCAA Tournament was his first at the Division I level. His final team at Vermont finished 23-9 and made its second appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. Lonergan averaged 21 wins a year at UVM.
He thanked Vermont Athletic Director Dr. Robert Corran for hiring him in 2005.
“He took a chance on a guy to follow a tough situation [and popular coach Tom Brennan],” Lonergan said. “We inherited the least experienced team in the nation and he really supported me. The fans were great and all the players were great. We are really going to miss them.
“It was a great six years for my family, and I’ll always appreciate what Vermont did for me.”
Before Lonergan was hired last week, he had to meet with George Washington President Steve Knapp.
“When I had the opportunity to meet Coach Lonergan and speak with him firsthand,” Knapp said, “I was really impressed by his integrity and his commitment to the student-athletes he leads.”
Despite his strong ties to high school coaches up and down the East Coast, Lonergan said he and his staff – which he has yet to assemble – will look everywhere to uncover players willing to buy into his winning philosophy.
“We will recruit locally, nationally and internationally,” he said.