It’s a return to familiar surroundings for Jack Flanagan … albeit in a different role.
Flanagan, the first head coach of the Pope John Paul II boys basketball program, is back on the parochial-school environment. He replaces T.J. Lonergan, who held the post of girls basketball head coach the previous three seasons.
Flanagan brings more than two decades of high school basketball coaching experience to his latest job. He was a basketball coach at the former Kennedy-Kenrick High school prior to taking over at PJP, where he led the Golden Panthers to the 2011 Pioneer Athletic Conference title. He spent five seasons leading PJP before logging another five at Pottsgrove.
Flanagan’s coaching credits include four teams that qualified for the PIAA State Tournament, and selection as Boys Basketball Coach of the Year from the Pottstown Mercury and Norristown Times Herald in 2011, when the PJP boys became the fledgling school’s first league champion.
Flanagan played scholastically at then-Bishop Kenrick before moving on to Cabrini College.
“We are thrilled to have Jack return to the PJP sidelines, this time coaching our girls team,” PJP athletic director Joe Trainer said at the time of Flanagan’s hire.
Deanna Mayza has taken another step — a decidedly upward one — in her involvement with The Hill School girls program,
The Class of 2013 graduate played scholastic ball there, then returned to the renowned prep school as an assistant to Jennifer Weisbach in 2019. Now she takes the reins of the program from Weissbach, who led it for the past six seasons.
“I am very excited to be back at my alma mater, and a place that helped mold the person I am today,” she said.
Mayza went on to play Division I basketball at the University of Hartford following her graduation from the Hill. Off a successful collegiate career, she played professionally overseas in Denmark and Lithuania.
At Phoenixville, Tracey Sterling is stepping up in the girls’ program’s hierarchy. Assistant to Brian Grashof last season, she helped forge a 9-1 record in the PAC’s Frontier Division (10-6 overall) and berth in District 1’s Class 5A playoffs.
A former special-education teacher at Phoenixville who previously served as an assistant at various high schools in Florida before landing in Phoenixville, will bring a familiarity with the student/athletes, the school and the PAC.
“We’re thrilled to be given the opportunity to continue to grow the program and build off last season’s success,” Sterling said in a press release issued by the school at the time of the announcement. “We intend to advance the program while providing our student-athletes the opportunity to succeed on and off the court. I would like to thank the district administration for their faith in me and allowing me to continue to serve this great community.”
At Upper Merion, Jennifer McCarthy is looking to tap into her considerable playing and coaching experience as she works to reverse the Vikings’ fortunes. In its second season under former boss Shawn Wheeler, UM was 0-10 in the PAC and 0-15 overall.
“I’ve wanted to be a coach since I was in high school,” the product of St. Basil Academy and Delaware Valley University said. “After playing (at DVU). I began coaching there for a few seasons and then quickly jumped to Philadelphia University — now Jefferson University — where I stayed for the next 11 seasons (2020 Season cancelled).
“There I coached under Tom Shirley. As a very experienced coach, he taught me everything and more about the game of basketball and life. At Jefferson, we were able to win three conference championships, five NCAA tournament appearances and a record of 190-81.
“Coach Shirley made me want to be a head coach and to help change the lives of young women on and off the court.”
McCarthy realized that aspect of her coaching career by taking over the girls’ hoop program at school where she’s currently a teacher.
“I always wanted to have my own program and felt like the time was right to leave college and come to coach at the high school I also teach at,” she said. “It was a no-brainer, I wanted to be able to help these girls at my own school. I’m happy to be even more a part of the Upper Merion Community and I hope to have an impact on their success on and off the court.”
At Perkiomen School, Kerri Kovaleski replaces Randy Littlefield, who held the post for nine years.
A coach named Clark will again be in charge of the Phoenixville High wrestling team this winter.
With one bit of a difference.
Brad Clark, who served as assistant to brother Brandon Clark for two years, has taken over the program from his younger sibling. He was recently affirmed as the new head coach by the Phoenixville Area School Board of Directors.
“I enjoyed the assistant role,” Brad said. “I think I got more time with Brandon.”
It was a flip of their roles with the Pottstown mat program in 2016, Brad serving as head coach and Brandon as his assistant. The elder Clark also spent two seasons as head coach at his alma mater, Methacton, in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
“It was perfect,” Brad said. “Two philosophies working toward combined strategies.”
In high school, Brad had a career win total of 126 and three medals from the PIAA Class AAA Tournament. He then wrestled for Liberty University, a member of the East Region Conference, at 165 and 174. He placed second twice in the conference and ended up one match short of all-conference.
Those experiences helped mold Clark’s coaching approach.
“The big thing is drill in high school,” he said. “The way you drill shows out on the mat. What happens when you get taken down?
“One of the main things is to instill a different mentality. A good wrestler makes himself great with a never-die attitude. I was able to pick up a lot of techniques. It opened my eyes to a whole new world.”
During the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season, Brandon Clark capped a three-year resurgence with an 11-7-1 record and two grapplers, Owen Koch and Justin Meyers, making it to the PIAA District One tournament,
“We’re looking forward to the season,” Brad said. “We have a few returners, got a couple kids back. The youth program, we have a chance to see them.
“It’s always nice to get back to where it was. I feel the two-day tournament adds to the experience.”
At Norristown, William Evans takes over a team that was idled in 2020-21 by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like this should be a good season for Norristown wrestling,” Evans said. “We’re coming off of a year where we didn’t compete due to COVID concerns. Building towards the post-season is what our focus will be on, and I think we have some wrestlers who are going to make some noise there.”
The only “new” thing for Jack Graham this year is his latest head-coaching job.
Graham brings a wealth of experience, both as a competitor and coach, to Spring-Ford’s swim program this winter. He comes to the twin-borough school district, taking over from Greg Huff, from an 18-year (1996-2014) stint heading the Perkiomen Valley swimming and diving programs,
His PV teams combined for nine PAC and Ches-Mont League titles between 2007 and 2014. They helped him amass 299 victories and Coach of the Year honors from The Mercury and Times Herald a combined eight times in that time span.
Graham swam for Council Rock High School and Indiana University of Pennsylvania during his competitive days. He served as Council Rock’s assistant coach four seasons prior to his move to PV, and had been a member of District 1’s Swimming Committee.
Between his “retirement” in 2014 and the present day, Graham has been involved with coaching his twin children in baseball, softball, soccer, floor hockey, basketball and swimming.
Graham takes over a Spring-Ford program whose girls are coming off a 3-1 finish in 2020-21, and the boys a 1-3 mark.
At Boyertown, Hannah Scheiry is replacing Bill Draves, who held the post for six seasons. The Boyertown boys and girls were both 2-3 in PAC competition last winter.
Jay Spencer takes over for Amy Agnew at Hill School, which didn’t compete last winter.
BOYS ICE HOCKEY
Sean O’Brien takes over The Hill School boys’ hockey program from a four-year tenure as the Director of Hockey Operations at Harvard University. He brings an extensive background in the sport to his new position.
O’Brien played collegiately at New England College, where he topped 100 career points and served as team captain for his senior season prior to playing professionally in Europe for a season. After his playing career, Coach O’Brien spent four seasons as a scout for the Florida Panthers and then then returned to New England as a co-founder of the Portland Jr. Pirates hockey club, a Tier III Junior A program. From 2003 until 2010, O’Brien served as a coach and general manager in the organization and sent more than 100 Jr. Pirates alumni to play college hockey.
In 2011, O’Brien became Vice President of Legacy Global Sports, LLC and Director of the Selects Academy boys’ program, overseeing the organization’s ascent to becoming one of the top AAA youth hockey clubs in the United States at the U16 and U18 levels. He also managed Legacy’s NHL Player Agency Division and remained with Selects Academy until moving on to Harvard.
At Perkiomen School, Jacob Wells broadened his position in the school’s track and field programs by becoming head coach of its indoor track team. Wells already is serving as head of Perkiomen’s co-ed cross country and spring track squads.
At Perkiomen School, Donte Gittens is stepping up for Tom Baudinet after five seasons to coach the Panthers’ varsity team. Baudinet is currently head coach of Perkiomen’s National team, which plays a schedule independent of the boys’ varsity program.
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