Lonergan, Patsos: Match wits, share stories

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George Washington’s meeting with Loyola on Wednesday reunites a pair of longtime friends. As certain as it is that the Colonials’ Mike Lonergan and the Greyhounds’ Jimmy Patsos will stalk the Smith Center sidelines, it’s just as sound an assumption they’ll rehash their two hours of competition later in the evening.

On one side is Lonergan, a man constantly thinking about basketball and product of the D.C. area who returned home to take over the Colonials (4-3). On the other is Patsos, the outsized personality and renaissance man who was a longtime assistant at Maryland before taking over the Greyhounds (6-1).

They were teammates at Catholic. They rose up the coaching ranks simultaneously. They’ve faced each other four times in their careers while Lonergan was at Vermont.

“Two-and-two,” Patsos said mischievously. “Rubber match.”

This game, though, brings things full circle, playing a short drive from where they played together a quarter-century ago.

It was Lonergan who vouched for Patsos when he joined Catholic’s program as a player. It was Patsos who put in a good word for Lonergan when he applied for Patsos‘ old job at Maryland.

They’re also hardly anything alike.

“We were the two sons of Jack Bruen [their coach at Catholic],” Patsos said. “Couldn’t be more different. I’m a little more rough around the edges. I like to have a better time than him. I probably recruit harder than he does, even though he recruits hard. He’s probably a better X-and-O guy than me. The point is, we’re on the same wavelength.”

That’s part of why a GW-Loyola game makes sense (along with the friendship of Colonials athletic director Patrick Nero and his counterpart at Loyola, Jim Paquette).

The ties between Lonergan and Patsos go deep. When Patsos was an assistant at Archbishop Carroll High School and bartending at the Third Edition in Georgetown, Lonergan would stay with him during the summers when he worked at American International and Colgate.

And when the chance to become an assistant at Maryland emerged for Patsos, it was Lonergan — and his basketball-first thinking — who prodded his friend into taking the job.

“I was a gym rat, and everything I do revolves around basketball,” Lonergan said. “Jimmy’s a little more cultured. I won’t say he’s smarter. But he’s more well-rounded, and he has different interests. I always would have a basketball game on TV. He might want to watch ‘The Godfather’ or something.”But the mutual respect is evident. Patsos is the godfather of Lonergan’s daughter. The two coaches speak about once a week, and Lonergan said he hopes to take his kids to a Loyola home game once this contest is over.

“The unique thing today with those two is that they like each other,” former Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan said. “I was talking to Mike at Jimmy’s wedding and we were talking about how it’s a different kind of situation. They truly like each other.”

It provides an intriguing subplot Wednesday. Patsos plans one of his patented field trips before the game, intending to take the Greyhounds to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Lonergan, by contrast, will try to keep his mind off facing his old friend — at least until they meet up after the game.

“I don’t like it at all, and I think about it until the ball is thrown up for the jump,” Lonergan said. “We’re both very competitive. Jimmy’s more of a showman on the sidelines. I’ve toned down my act since I was younger. It’s hard to shake hands after a game, win or lose. Win, and you feel bad. You lose, and you probably take it at least as bad or worse than another loss.”

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