While he was a coach at Division III Catholic, Bowie native Mike Lonergan had trouble landing a big-time Division I head basketball job due to his small-college roots. "I was labeled a Division III coach," he said Monday afternoon.
So he became an assistant coach at the University of Maryland in 2004 under Gary Williams, and that eventually led to a head job at Division I Vermont the next year.
Lonergan was good friends and teammates at Catholic with Jimmy Patsos, another former assistant under Williams who is now the head coach at Loyola. "It changed my resume," Lonergan, 45, who grew up on Traymore Lane in Bowie, said of getting experience with the Terps and Williams.
Oh the irony: on Friday, just hours after Williams held a press conference to confirm his retirement at Maryland, George Washington announced that Lonergan had been named its new men's basketball coach.
On Monday afternoon in Foggy Bottom, Lonergan met the media and GW supporters as he was introduced as the new head coach of the Colonials, a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference. "I grew up in Prince George's. This is a basketball hotbed, maybe one of the best in the country," said Lonergan, who graduated from Archbishop Carroll High in The District. "I am excited to be here and feel blessed to have this opportunity."
On hand Monday at GW was Longeran's father, Jack, who still lives in Bowie as do three of his four sisters. Lonergan's late mother, Maureen, who passed away in 1995, was a former coach and athletic director at Elizabeth Seton in Bladensburg. A field is named for her at the school. Also on hand Monday was Seton athletic director Candy Cage, who played for Lonergan's mother in high school.
Lonergan, who attended St. Pius, said when he was in eighth grade he read a basketball book by Morgan Wootten, the legendary former head hoop coach at DeMatha Catholic High in Hyattsville.
It was then that Lonergan said he wanted to be a hoop coach if he could not play a high level. He played at Catholic and met his wife, Maggie, at a summer basketball camp. His wife was the women's basketball coach at Catholic for several years at the same time Mike was coaching the men's team.
Lonergan takes over for Karl Hobbs, a former assistant at Connecticut. Hobbs' daughter, Rashauna, played in high school at Riverdale Baptist while living in Bowie and then played at George Mason University. In late April, Hobbs was released from his contract at GW.
GWU hoops already had a connection to Prince George's County before Lonergan came on board. One of the top freshmen in the Atlantic 10 in 2009-10 was GW's Lasan Kromah, a former standout at Eleanor Roosevelt in Greenbelt. He missed last season with a foot injury. "He is a very good player," Lonergan said.
The incoming athletic director at GW is Patrick Nero, the former commissioner of the America East Conference. Lonergan coached for six years at Vermont, a member of the AEC.
“Mike Lonergan has the skills, experience and drive needed to take the GW men’s basketball program to new heights,” Nero said in a statement. “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.”
“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. The combination of GW’s strong academics, commitment to excellence and athletics tradition make it an ideal position, and I am eager to get started. I am committed to supporting and developing our student-athletes and building a program that will make GW proud,” Lonergan said in a statement last week.
“Mike Lonergan has deep connections to the greater Washington metropolitan area and a proven record of helping student-athletes succeed in the classroom and on the basketball court,” said GW President Steven Knapp in a statement. “The fact that he has achieved a perfect graduation rate among the student-athletes he has coached speaks volumes about his integrity and commitment to the young people he leads.”
Lonergan had a record of 126-68 in six years at Vermont and won the regular-season league title three times and appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2010. He was an assistant at Maryland during the 2004-05 season. Lonergan led Catholic to the NCAA Division III national title in 2001 and he was named National Coach of the Year at that level.
Lonergan praised Williams of the Terps on Monday for giving him a chance to be a Division I assistant. Also in attendance on Monday at the Smith Center in Foggy Bottom was Derrick Lewis, a former Terp standout who had a long career as a pro in France. Lewis, now the basketball coach at Archbishop Spalding in Severn, was prep teammates with Lonergan.
Lonergan is a 1984 graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., where he was class salutatorian. He and his wife Maggie have four children: Jack, Margaret, Michael Jr. and Robert (Moe). GW was 17-14 last year and is expected to return four starters. The Colonials were tied for fourth in the Atlantic 10 last season.