In his first hire as George Washington’s athletic director, Patrick Nero selected Mike Lonergan to become the next Colonials men’s basketball coach. Nero announced the hiring on a conference call to reporters Friday evening.
“We had terrific pool of candidates,” Nero said. “In the end, we’re very excited that Mike will be joining us and excited for the seasons ahead with Mike.”
It’s a homecoming for Lonergan, 45, who grew up in Bowie and graduated from Carroll High School and Catholic University.
Lonergan replaces Karl Hobbs, who was fired April 25. The terms of his five-year contract were not announced.
Lonergan comes to GW from Vermont, where he has spent the past six seasons. He led the Catamounts to a 126-68 record and one NCAA tournament appearance. Prior to Vermont, Lonergan spent one season as an assistant coach to Gary Williams at Maryland. He coached Catholic from 1992 to 2004, going 251-88 with the Cardinals and leading them to the Division III national championship in 2001.
Lonergan declined to comment about his hiring, but did release a statement through the school.
“I am eager to get started,” he said. “I am committed to supporting and developing our student-athletes and building a program that will make GW proud.”
Nero said he conducted a national search for Hobbs’s replacement, using a search consultant — former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese — to help him narrow the field of 25 candidates. They judged the candidates on four criteria: academic success, 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.”
Nero, the former commissioner of the America East conference, played down his relationship with Lonergan, saying it was Lonergan’s credentials more than his familiarity with him that led to the hiring. Vermont competes in the America East.
Lonergan, his wife Maggie and Nero met with the players for about 40 minutes on Friday afternoon.
“As you would expect, they were anxious over the last two weeks to meet their new coach,” Nero said. “They were genuinely excited and supportive.”
Nero declined to comment on the status of GW’s recruits, except to say that Lonergan will be reaching out to them this weekend. Lonergan’s biggest challenge will be persuading Erik Copes, considered one of the top high school centers in the country, to keep his commitment to GW. Copes is the nephew of Roland Houston, who was an assistant on Hobbs’s staff.
Lonergan inherits a team that went 17-14 last season and tied for fourth in the Atlantic 10, even though Lasan Kromah, its leading returning scorer, missed the entire season with a foot injury. Four starters return for GW, in addition to Kromah.
“We’ve made it really clear that our expectation is to build on” last season, Nero said. “But we’re not going to judge it on one year. We want to long-term build a program that can be competitive to the point of competing for the postseason, competing to be in the top third of the Atlantic 10, competing to be in the discussion to get into the NCAA tournament.”
A news conference to introduce Lonergan is scheduled for Monday at Smith Center.