Web extra: Thoughts on McConaghy’s departure
May 4, 2012
We are really blessed in Eagle County to have longtime high school coaches like John Ramunno (Eagle Valley football), Bob Bandoni (Vail Mountain soccer) and David Cope (Battle Mountain soccer), not to mention the dean of all of them, Pat Phelan.
But we’ve got to remember that they are the exception to the rule. If Battle Mountain ever gets around to hiring a football couch, he’ll be my seventh in 15 years at the Vail Daily. That may a tough example, given the challenges of that particular job, but coaching turnover is a constant here and throughout the country.
And thus, Eagle Valley boys basketball coach Brent McConaghy is leaving after two years to take the same job at Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev.
This has left some in Devils’ circles upset, given McConaghy’s departure and the arrival of a new coach will disrupt offseason informal workouts and practices. Meanwhile, there are doubtless some who will not mourn his departure – McConaghy came in here like a hurricane and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
I don’t care about the latter and the former should get over it.
Just as students who study with the hopes of advancing to college, there are some teachers – Mac was both a coach and a teacher, which are pretty much the same thing – who wish to advance in their chosen field, too.
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McConaghy is a passionate basketball coach who clearly has ambitions to coach at a higher level. He has started his way up the ladder. Bishop Manogue is Nevada’s equivalent of a Colorado 5A school with a serious basketball tradition. Good for him.
McConaghy showed us he’s a darn good coach. Let’s remember that Eagle Valley boys basketball had fallen on some hard times since it had moved up to Class 4A during the 2004-05 athletic year.
Yes, McConaghy had some promising players with whom to work, but I dread the word potential from my experience. Everybody’s got potential their freshman year. Will the kids work hard enough realize it, and, more importantly, will there be a coach there to extract it?
Guys like Jeremy Sabo, Sam Lounsberry and Cooper Senn became good basketball players because McConaghy demanded it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there’s a kid like Juan Baca who happens to be a freshman when the coach arrives or that a guy like Ayren Hart transfers into the district a year later.
If you’re a high school coach in a non-urban area, like anywhere in the Western Slope, you pretty much have to play the cards you’re dealt. McConaghy got some solid cards and made them a good hand.
Was McConaghy loud, abrasive and sometimes over the top? Yes, and he shouldn’t apologize for it. It’s honestly refreshing here at Lake Wobegon at Altitude, where all the children are above average, to see a coach expect his charges to work their butts off and perform at a high level every game night.
If you look at the three current coaches I listed at the top of this, they operate in a similar manner. Ramunno is not exactly Mr. Happy Fun Guy during practices, in the locker room and on game day, nor should he be. (You try to interview Ramunno after the last few years, and though gracious, it’s not hard to see that he’s hacked off by the way things have been going.)
Bandoni has this professorial image in the hallways of VMS and in print, but he’ll get appropriately-salty – in his own way – when necessary. (If you were there Thursday for the Aspen game, the Bandon came pretty close to getting carded in the second half.)
And, yes, Cope is always Mr. Good Guy, but he delegates the role of bad cop to an assistant coach like Kyle Mercer and Jeff Hayslip in the fall or Allison O’Neill or Jen Davin in the spring. (And, yes, I have actually seen Cope visibly upset – it happens once every few years. Seriously, after the boys soccer team had a bad tie against Glenwood last fall, he was steaming, in a Cope kind of way.)
What these coaches have on McConaghy, 28, right now is life experience. As much as his sideline antics may have given Eagle Valley administrators pause and the general community concern, McConaghy’s going to grow as a person and not have an aneurysm every time he thinks a traveling call went the wrong way. (Though I must admit as a reporter, McConaghy provided great amusement value.)
Remember that coaches are humans too, and they’re learning, too.
One can measure McConaghy’s success at Eagle Valley with numbers, and it works out well. The Devils were 4-19 in 2010 before he arrived and 16-8 as he’s leaving. That would be better.
But the truest measure is not quantitative. Having attended far too many high school sporting events in 15 years here at the Daily – I’m kidding; I do love my job – you know it when you see it.
It’s a crackle or a spark when a a well-coached team is humming. Eagle Valley track and field had it with the Smiths, Gambles and Ashley Rohweder. Devils football in 2005 had it as that beautiful double-wing heated up. Eagle Valley’s state volleyball team of 2010 had it. And, yes, so did the McConaghy’s basketball team when they took the floor.
It’s every player on the roster knowing exactly what they doing at the same time and executing it at one. It was a wonderful thing to watch.
All the best to you, Mac.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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