George Washington Men's Basketball Head Coach Mike Lonergan Interview
In the upcoming issue of Finest Magazine things will be done a little differently. Yes the focus will remain on local talent excelling in the game of basketball of course, however, instead of focusing on players the next issue will shine light on the individuals who walk the sidelines....the coaches. Coaches are the heart and soul of any program. They put their philosophy, personality and pretty much everything else into building a quality program. Players no matter how talented, can only go so far without the lessons of the teacher on the court, the coaches. Michael Jordan once said this regarding his college coach at the University of North Carolina, the late great Dean Smith "A lot of people say Dean Smith held me to under 20 points a game. Dean Smith gave me the knowledge to score 37 points a game and that's something people don't understand." In issue nine, I asked numerous coaches throughout the DMV area from all levels to be a part of this special issue, to share their various philosophies on evaluation of players, X's and O's and ultimate goals as coaches, short and long term.
Next up is George Washington Men's Basketball Head Coach Mike Lonergan. A basketball lifer, Lonergan has brought some much needed energy back into the GW Men's Basketball program, where GW is back in the conversation with Maryland and Georgetown among area basketball fans discussions regarding quality DMV college programs. Winning has followed Lonergan throughout his basketball journey as a player (point guard for Archbishop Carroll 1980-1984 & Catholic University 1984-1988) and as a head coach ( Catholic University 1992-2004, University of Vermont 2005-2011, George Washington 2011- Current). Although he has learned from some of the greatest coaches the game has seen, like legendary DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten and newly inducted member of the basketball Hall of Fame Maryland Basketball coaching icon Gary Williams, Lonergans trademark and unmatched passion for the game has been the key to his success outside the usual X's and O's. With a D-III National Championship in 2001 as head coach at Catholic University which included a a run of seven straight conference championships from 1997-2004 and a career average of 20 wins per season as a collegiate head coach, you can see why there is extreme optimism and excitement surrounding the GW program that hasn't been felt in quite some time. I recently had a conversation with Coach Lonergan to see what his coaching philosophy is, what he looks for when evaluating a player and his ultimate goals as a head coach.
" What turns me off to a kid I am thinking about recruiting is to start a bad attitude. We just don't have the time or energy to deal with that. Also I want to see the kid play to see if he's selfish, I want to see if he is more concerned with scoring points instead of winning games and if he is, he's not a good fit for GW. Last if there is a lot of negative off the court situations surrounding the kid then I will look elsewhere. You can have all of the talent in the world, if the character of the player isn't where it needs to be then it will be a constant problem for your program."- Mike Lonergan
FM- When evaluating a player, what do you look at to see if the player is a good fit for your program?
ML - Well our choices are limited due to our academic standards being so high, so we will start there, are you academically able to be accepted into the school, GW won't just take anyone. Then I will look at where the kid can be two years down the road, how can we develop them into quality impact players as they move along as a student athlete. We also look at the type of program and coaching the kid has come from and of course their overall character.
FM - What are your turn offs when evaluating a player?
ML - What turns me off to a kid I am thinking about recruiting is to start a bad attitude. We just don't have the time or energy to deal with that. Also I want to see the kid play to see if he's selfish, I want to see if he is more concerned with scoring points instead of winning games and if he is, he's not a good fit for GW. Last if there is a lot of negative off the court situations surrounding the kid then I will look elsewhere. You can have all of the talent in the world, if the character of the player isn't where it needs to be then it will be a constant problem for your program.
FM - Talk about your ultimate goal as a coach?
ML - I would love to reach a final four before I retire. I am 49 years old and this will be my last stop. I started at Catholic at 26 and then I went to Maryland for a year, Vermont and now GW. Im a Bowie native, to be coaching in the area is great for me, however I want to win and thats my goal. Short term goal is to get back to the NCAA Tournament which is not easy, especially with the competition in the area. I would also like to get more guys from the area and I think that will happen due to our recent success and ever growing TV exposure. If we can succeed at those things I will be a happy coach lol.
Coach Mike Lonergan talking with then GW freshman point guard Paul Jorgenson
The entire interview will be in the upcoming issue of Finest Mag 9, coming in late June