The University formally introduced former six-year University of Vermont head coach Mike Lonergan as the new head coach for the men’s basketball program at a press conference Monday. University President Steven Knapp and incoming Director of Athletics Patrick Nero emphasized Lonergan’s academic and athletic successes as key factors in his hire.
“I’m excited to be here and I really feel blessed to have this opportunity,” Lonergan said. “George Washington University, for the people that know me, I’ve always talked about this as being my dream job. Being in the nation’s capital, my favorite city in the world.”
Lonergan took to the microphone to address the media and community for the first time since his hire. He spoke of his intentions to build a winning program, adding that he sees GW as a school poised to take advantage of its many attractive qualities to recruit high-level players. He believes that GW’s academic reputation, as well as its metropolitan location, makes it an especially desirable school for potential players. Strong recruits, Lonergan added, will help the men’s basketball team develop into a nationally competitive program.
“The goals I have as a new coach at George Washington University are many, and they’re very lofty,” Lonergan said. “We want to compete for Atlantic 10 Championships and postseason tournaments. We’re going to recruit locally, nationally, and internationally.”
Recruiting was a key point of conversation for Lonergan, who returned to it frequently as an example of how he plans to strengthen the program. Though he acknowledged that recruiting for the Colonials will be different from the programs he’s worked with in the past, Lonergan said that at the end of the day, “basketball is basketball,” and that his skills as a recruiter, combined with his familiarity with the Washington area, will prove beneficial.
Lonergan also spoke on GW’s incoming recruiting class, headlined by Erik Copes, ranked as the sixth-best center and 49th best player in his recruiting class by ESPNU. Copes, guard Curtis “Trey” Davis and forward Johnathan Davis signed letters of intent to play at GW, ones that the University would have to release them from should they wish to play for another program without losing a year of NCAA eligibility. Lonergan said he’s reached out to all of the recruits since his hire, but that he has yet to gain a sense of whether or not they will remain at GW following the departure of Karl Hobbs. It’s a personal decision for the recruits and their families, he added, and estimated that the final news would come in a matter of weeks.
Another decision pending for Lonergan is hiring the members of his coaching staff. Roland Houston, an assistant coach under Hobbs, is also Copes’ uncle, prompting speculation that his position in the program will influence Copes’ decision. Lonergan said Monday that he has yet to decide on a staff, but that he is meeting with both members of the Colonials’ basketball program and members of his previous staff.
As Lonergan begins to assemble his staff, he’ll look for coaches that align with his preferred style of play: one that emphasizes defense and rebounding as a strong backbone for offensive power. Though he’ll be taking the helm of a team recruited–and shaped–by a different coach, Lonergan doesn’t anticipate a problem when he takes to the sidelines.
“They did have a lot of wins later in the season so hopefully that momentum will carry over not just into next season, but really in the summer workouts,” Lonergan said.
Nero and junior guard Aaron Ware agreed with Lonergan’s assessment. The end of the 2010-11 season will boost the team, Ware said, adding that the Colonials’ versatility will allow them to adapt easily to a new coach. Ware emphasized that GW has the right mix of players to step up and form a force to be contended with, an idea echoed by Nero, who added that Lonergan has one clear goal heading into the job.
“He is going to play the style of play with them that gives them the best chance to win,” Nero said. “I’ve spoken to the guys from the beginning and Mike has spoken to them. We believe, and everyone around here should believe, in one style of play. And that’s winning.”