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The Adventures Of Maggie

A continuing saga

Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page W04

Previously: The basketball season comes to an end for Maggie Lonergan, women's head coach at Catholic University, and so does her stint as the subject of this feature. On April 10, we will introduce Magazine readers to Greg Estrada, a 41-year-old office manager whose alter ego, Curt Shackelford, is pursuing a career in stand-up comedy.

To catch up on earlier episodes go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.

The Adventures of Maggie
The Adventures of Maggie
(Photo by D.A. Peterson)

Episode 15

Mike Lonergan was getting ready for work on a Friday morning when he turned to his wife, Maggie, and said, "I'm going to sign the contract." He had decided to take the job as the men's head basketball coach at the University of Vermont.

Instantly, Maggie, 32, realized that her life was taking a dramatic turn. She could have reacted with elation -- Mike, a 39-year-old assistant coach at the University of Maryland, was about to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming a Division I head coach. But at that moment there were still too many uncertainties. What did this mean for her and the children? What about her own career? Her team at Catholic had a game that very night. So, instead of celebrating, Maggie told her husband that she didn't have time to think about the news.

The writing had been on the wall for more than a week, ever since Vermont had called to extend its offer. But Maggie had somehow managed to avoid the topic. "We talked about it a little," she says. "But I told him I don't want to get into it." The decision was his to make, she said.

That evening, Maggie's team lost in the semifinal round of its conference tournament, ending the season for her and her players. Now Maggie couldn't avoid the implications of Mike's decision. She didn't want to leave her job at Catholic. "Maybe I could stay here" and work for one more year, she remembers thinking to herself. "Maybe I could have [my] mom and dad move in" to help take care of the kids. Then she thought about Jack, 6, and Margaret, 4, being separated from their father for a year. "That's crazy," she said. "I have to do what's best for my family, and I've got to make this move."

In a way, Maggie made that decision long ago. When she and Mike married in 1998, Maggie says, they agreed "that we've always got to do what's best for each other, and he's always said that if I get a good job, then he'll leave everything -- and vice versa."

Now she had to honor that promise. So Maggie sat down and wrote an e-mail to her players, who were on spring break.

"Needless to say this was not an easy decision for me," she wrote. "What it finally came down to is family . . . How could I keep Jack and Margaret from their father? It's crazy that I even considered [staying another year], but that's how much this job and you all mean to me. I love you all. I love Catholic and I have loved these past four years with each of them getting better each year. This was by far the best!"

One of Maggie's players, sophomore forward Shannon Mertz, e-mailed back: "I am really sad that you are leaving. I have loved these past two seasons, and I am so happy I had the chance to play for you at Catholic."

Maggie says she is looking forward to being able to spend more time with Jack and Margaret, and adds that her coaching career is far from over. "I'd like to think it's on pause," she says. In fact, she's already checked out the Web site of the women's basketball program at Vermont.

-Tyler Currie


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