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The Adventures of Maggie

A continuing saga

Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page W08

Previously: Maggie and Mike Lonergan's relationship has always been rooted in basketball. Their first date took place in a dingy gym where Mike was playing in a summer league. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.

Episode 8

The phone rings in Maggie Lonergan's office at Catholic University. "Women's basketball," she answers. It's her husband, Mike. And, once again, he's calling from the road.

This year, Maggie and Mike have stopped arguing, if only because they hardly see each other. (D.A. Peterson)

Last year, when Maggie, 32, and Mike, 39, were both head basketball coaches at Catholic, they drove to and from work together. Their offices were across the hall from each other. Their teams often traveled on the same buses.

"Maggie and I saw each other almost too much," says Mike, now an assistant men's coach at the University of Maryland. Both are fiercely competitive, and those impulses sometimes spiraled out of control.

"We were both rooting for each other's teams, of course," Maggie says. "But we each wanted our records to be better. Sometimes we would compete with each other about whose team had the better GPA . . . The competition led to bickering."

This year, however, Maggie and Mike have stopped arguing, if only because they hardly see each other. "It's probably helped my marriage," says Mike, who often works 13-hour days. When he's traveling with the Terps or out recruiting, his schedule is even more grueling. He gets home to Bowie a few hours before dawn, only to leave again at 8 a.m.

Sometimes Maggie has to turn on the television for a glimpse of her husband. The other night after practice, she rushed from the gym to catch the second half of a televised Maryland road game. Her stomach dropped when she saw how badly the Terps were losing. Maggie braced herself, knowing that Mike would come home in utter distress.

The next day there was a lot of silence in the house. Mike didn't seem to have any desire to talk about the game, and Maggie knew the most supportive thing she could do was to leave him alone. "We passed by each other a couple of times," she says. "We just didn't strike up conversation." Maggie understood. Her own team's play had been less than stellar lately, and she'd been devastated by every loss.

Maggie says Mike's absences aren't making her lonely. "I'm just completely swallowed in my work. Then when I'm at home, I'm constantly with Jack and Margaret." But she does worry that Jack, 5, and Margaret, 4, are missing out on a relationship with their dad. "The thing that hits me is dinnertime with the kids," Maggie says. Mike "can never do that, but that's our life."

When Mike took the Maryland job, he knew he'd be away a lot, but he didn't know how much it would bother him. Recently, three days went by when he didn't see Margaret. "I really miss my kids," he says.

A few days ago, a recruiting trip to New England got canceled, and Mike spent the evening at home, helping Jack with his homework and reading to him before bedtime. Margaret was with her mother, who had a road game that night.

Maggie and Margaret didn't get home until 2 a.m. Maggie's team had lost again, and, as she crawled into bed, Mike heard Maggie crying. It was his turn to sympathize.

"Basketball has been very good to both of us," he says, "but this year has been extremely difficult." As he fell back asleep, it occurred to him that there was only one thing that could lift their spirits: winning.

-- Tyler Currie

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