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The Adventures of Maggie

Introducing Maggie Lonergan

Sunday, December 12, 2004; Page W08

Our story so far: Every person's life is an unfolding narrative, with its own cliffhangers and unexpected revelations. We have decided to prove that point by asking everyday people to let us write about their lives. Last week struggling restaurateur Frank Connell said goodbye to Magazine readers after sharing his life for almost five months. This week, we meet Maggie Lonergan, a women's basketball coach trying to juggle the demands of her team and the needs of her two young children.


Maggie Lonergan walks toward a white cooler with an armload of more than 200 frozen hot dogs. Catholic University is playing its final football game of the season, and Maggie, the 32-year-old head coach of the women's basketball team, is running the concession stand. That's been her job for the last three months, though it's not exactly her life's calling. "You're seeing me at my best," she says, her sarcasm tempered by a smile.

(Photo by D.A. Peterson)

She's grateful, though, that the football concession stand has generated $3,000 for her Division III basketball team. The Cardinals need every penny. "We're on a tight budget," explains Maggie, a slender woman with sharp features and bright blue eyes who lives in Bowie.

More than a decade ago, Maggie was a star point guard at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md., where she later became an assistant coach. Next she assisted the women's team at American University, where she worked until 1999, when her son, Jack, was born. By the time her daughter, Margaret, came along 19 months later, Maggie was itching to get back to work. At the time, Maggie's husband, Mike Lonergan, was en route to becoming the most successful men's basketball coach in Catholic's history. For several seasons, Maggie helped her husband as an unofficial assistant. Her coaching talents caught the attention of Robert Talbot, then Catholic's athletic director. He needed a new head coach for the woman's squad, which hadn't posted a winning season in 12 years, and decided Maggie was the right person for the job.

"I think the expectations were high," Maggie recalls. "The name Lonergan was already well known. I remember thinking, if the men can be so successful, this school can do the same for the women." After two so-so seasons, her team went 21-7 last year and made it to the semifinals of the Capital Athletic Conference tournament. This year Maggie wants to make it to the finals.

The Lonergans were a coaching duo for three seasons, and their children were fixtures around Catholic's athletic department. It was an ideal arrangement: When Maggie was on the court, Mike would keep an eye on Jack and Margaret. When Mike was coaching, Maggie had kid duty.

All that has changed. Last spring, Mike was hired as an assistant coach at the University of Maryland. Mike loved his job at Catholic, Maggie says, but the new position at a nationally ranked Division I school was just too good an opportunity to pass up. "He's the best mentor I've had," Maggie says. "But with him not here . . . I can't run across the hall and ask, 'Mike, what would you do?' . . . I'm learning a little to stand on my own."

Mike's new job is all-consuming, and their schedules make it hard to spend much time together, Maggie says. Then there's the question of how to care for the children. Recently, Maggie's sister, Kate Cruz, moved in with the Lonergans while her husband is on a military assignment. Kate has been able to watch Jack, 5, and Margaret, 4, in the afternoons. What will happen when Kate's husband returns, which could be as early as next month, Maggie says they haven't figured that out yet.

Back at the concession stand, Maggie hands a cheeseburger to a sandy-haired frat boy. "This is the last time I'll have to do this" before the basketball season begins, she says, putting $3 into the cash box. "That's why I'm in a good mood."

-- Tyler Currie

© 2004 The Washington Post Company