Keeping It in the Family

By Staff

Athletic Management, 14.2, February/March 2002,

When Catholic University Athletic Director Robert Talbot needed to hire a new head women's basketball coach last summer, he didn't have to look very far. His choice was Maggie Lonergan, the wife of Men's Basketball Coach Mike Lonergan.

"She actually was not among the initial candidates for the job,"Talbot says. "We had interviewed four or five other candidates, but the senior captains who were on the search committee asked about the possibility of getting Maggie."

Lonergan had been serving as her husband's unofficial assistant, breaking down game film and accompanying him on recruiting trips. And she had experience with women's teams, having previously served as an assistant coach at American University and at Mount St. Mary's, where she had played for four years. The Catholic women had also gotten to know Lonergan when she worked at the school's summer camps.

"The kids really wanted her to coach, and I certainly did, too,"Talbot says, "so I asked her if she had any interest. She thought about it, talked to her family, and decided she did want to pursue it."

Lonergan had left coaching in 1999 to be home with her two children, so some of the discussion had to do with whether two head coaches in the same sport could also balance family duties. "Mike, Maggie, and I went through their schedules and there are very few conflicts,"Talbot says. "Mike gets to go to most of her games, and she can see most of his games, too. Their kids are a little too young for our daycare center, but there's no lack of students who can help take care of their kids for a couple of hours while practice is going on."

It also didn't hurt that Mike had just been given a new contract at Catholic, having won the men's Division III championship last year. "Maybe that made her decision easier,"Talbot says. "She could see there was a more settled situation at Catholic University for her family, that they could think about buying a home around here, and she could feel better about getting involved in coaching again."

"Really, this was the situation where it could have worked,"Maggie told The Washington Post after being hired. "One of the people here was joking that Mike and I can do a handoff of our two children between games. Mike will hold them during my games, and then when I am done he will hand them to me."

"It was always a dream of mine that one day we would coach together,"Mike added. "I was not sure where it would be or if it would happen, but I feel like the dream has come true."

Talbot says Lonergan's hiring also contributes to the family-friendly environment he advocates at Catholic. "I don't know what this would be like on a Division I level, but we try to promote a family atmosphere here,"Talbot says. "No one pays to get into the basketball games, so it's a nice, relaxed environment--even though everyone wants to win. Besides, the coaching staff here has more young children than I can imagine. After a football game, we've got so many carriages lined up out in the hallway it looks like a used car lot."