A coach’s life can be a nomadic one.
So when Chris Monahan told his 8-year-old son Christopher he was taking a new coaching position, his son had an astute observation. It was going to be Monahan’s third stop in the past three seasons and his son noted he “moves around a lot.”
Pending school board approval later this month, Monahan will be taking over as head boys’ basketball coach at Upper Dublin High School this season.
A resident of Plymouth Meeting, Monahan is hoping his stay at Upper Dublin puts a halt to that moving around.
“I loved coaching at Gwynedd last year but the time required to recruit, the travel, I have young kids at home and it was just too much,” Monahan said. “Upper Dublin plays in a great conference and there were just so many things going for it. It’s close to home, it’s a place where I feel like we can put a lot of energy into the program. It’s a great community that gets behind its sports programs. It seemed like a great spot for me.”
Monahan has plenty of ties to the local area. He is a 1994 graduate of Archbishop Wood, where he played basketball before attending Lehigh University where he graduated with a degree in engineering. Most recently, Monahan served as an assistant coach at Gwynedd Mercy College last season, following a five-year term as head coach at Radnor.
He got his first taste of coaching as a graduate assistant at Pepperdine from 2003-04, where he served under former NBA player and coach Paul Westphal. Monahan then returned to the Philadelphia area, spending two years as an assistant at Chestnut Hill College and the next two years at Germantown Academy as an assistant where he helped the Patriots to Inter-Ac titles in 2007 and 2008.
His next stop was a three-year term as head coach at Fitzsimons High School in the Philadelphia Public Leage, where he guided the team to the district playoffs all three years. Following that, he took the head coaching job at Radnor, where he remains a Business Education teacher.
With such a long and diverse background, Monahan has had plenty of influences in his coaching career.
“You see different teams playing different styles and you try to take things or pull different things you see,” Monahan said. “It’s more a result of longevity. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve done it in a lot of different areas that you ending pulling from each experience.”
Monhan had his first session with his new team at an open gym last week, and said it went very well with 14 players coming out and putting in two hours of hard work.
The Cardinals struggled to a 3-18 season in 2016-17, including a 3-11 mark in Suburban One League American Conference play. Upper Dublin did graduate nine players from the season before when it qualified for the District 1 playoffs and won its first-round playoff game by upsetting Abington.
UD will again have to replace a number of starters and rotation players but Monahan’s goal is to be competitive right away. The timing of his acceptance of the job and pending approval have put the Cardinals a little behind in terms of getting in a summer league or going to team camps but Monahan plans to counter that with plenty of gym work for the rest of the summer.
“It’s never about what the other teams or doing or what the league is looking like, we have a vision of what we want to be and a standard we want to live up to,” Monahan said. “If we can get that going, I think we can be successful without even thinking about who the other teams are. It’s about how quickly we can get these kids in the program or who aren’t in the program yet in here and working.”
While he resides locally, the upcoming season will be Monahan’s first time coaching in the SOL, a challenge he is looking forward to. Monahan noted the strength of the American’s top teams like Plymouth Whitemarsh and Cheltenham, plus the looming addition of Abington in the 2018-19 season.
Likewise, he understands he is stepping into an Upper Dublin athletic program that has had a great deal of success in a number of sports over the last decade. Monahan said he’s talked briefly with girls’ basketball coach Morgan Funsten and football coach Bret Stover since taking the position.
“It comes down to good athletes, there’s a strong youth program and a diverse population and that all helps,” Monahan said. “We’re just hoping to come in and tap into all of that, to have kids playing with a lot of energy and getting the community excited about boys’ basketball.”
Monahan hopes to have the Cardinals playing an up-tempo offensive style and swarm the court defensively, but added he’s going to base everything on the players he has come out for the team. While Upper Dublin competes in the 6A PIAA classification in basketball, it is on the lower end in terms of overall attendance.
Across the board, the Cardinals have plenty of multi-sport athletes and UD’s basketball team often features plenty of football players. Monahan is welcoming anyone, but he especially likes to have players who participate in other sports.
“I was a three-sport athlete myself and some people go the other way on this, but a school this size is small enough that if you’re a good athlete, you should be playing multiple sports,” Monahan said. “In our sport, AAU is huge and there are kids who really commit at an early age to just basketball.
“I like the guys playing multiple sports because I know the football players, they’re used to competing, they’re used to practicing hard and showing up every day ready to work. They’re used to playing hard on game day because it’s a good league, they’re used to winning and when they come in the gym for basketball, I know I don’t have to worry about all that stuff, I don’t have to coach any of that stuff.”
During his interview process and in getting to know the administrators and officials at the school, Monahan wanted to make certain of one thing.
“I wanted to get a feel for is it a place where I see myself being able to stay long term and I got an overwhelming this is a good group of people, a good administration and a good staff of coaches,” Monahan said. “I want to stay here as long as I can.”
Top Photo: Chris Monahan, pictured coaching the Radnor boys basketball team in 2015, is set to become the Upper Dublin boys basketball head coach pending school board approval. (Rick Kauffman/Digital First Media)