SPORTS

Honoring a pair of greats

Posted 12/24/21

Last week the Rhode Island community - especially the sports community - lost a legendary figure in Meg McGonagle, who passed away from complications stemming from COVID-19. She was just 41 years of age. McGonagle was a big-time athlete at Pilgrim, where

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SPORTS

Honoring a pair of greats

Posted

Last week the Rhode Island community - especially the sports community - lost a legendary figure in Meg McGonagle, who passed away from complications stemming from COVID-19. She was just 41 years of age.

McGonagle was a big-time athlete at Pilgrim, where she would win a basketball state championship and receive All-State honors for both volleyball and basketball. She was the Pilgrim girls program’s all-time leading scorer.

Since then, she had been an administrator and volleyball coach for nearby Cranston East, where she would go on to be one of the top coaches in the state and bring home more state championships.

All the way around, she was a winner.

I never knew Meg on a deeply personal level. My interactions have just been during post game interviews and things of that nature. On a professional level, it was always a pleasure to work with her. She was always accommodating and loved shedding light on her athletes. She was never too high, never too low, she was just a really solid person to do business with.

It is obvious the impact she made on everyone she dealt with, even outside of sports. East held a vigil for her on Sunday and it was well attended and well received. The entire community gathered to honor her memory, some people made statements, the number of visitors was a clear indication of how well respected she was.

From a sports angle, she was incredibly impressive. It is rare to see an athlete be at the top of their sport in high school, college, then go on to be successful as a coach and mentor. Very few people do that and she is in that class.

Of course, the community is mourning Meg for who she was. She was a leader, a kind heart, a role model. Everything else at the end of the day is secondary, and that includes sports.

However, sports were a massive part of her life and what she was passionate about. She enjoyed one of the best careers that any Rhode Islander ever has and was on her way to cementing her place among the all-time greats in this state.

The Providence Journal did a story on her impact as well and reported that she was planning on stepping away from coaching the boys this spring in an effort to spend more time with her family. She definitely deserved to make that decision, and I think the fact that that was her plan also showed how satisfied she was with her athletic resume. She had nothing else to prove and was going to scale things back on her terms - which is a great thing.

Between the passing of Gerry Habershaw and now Meg McGonagle, it has been a terrible few weeks for the Warwick and Cranston communities. As always, it is important to appreciate what you have and to remember how fast things can change. Especially in these times, life happens fast and it comes right at you.

Thank you, Meg, for being such a pleasure to work with and know these past few years. Your impact speaks for itself.

The Johnston boys basketball team honored its late coach Dan Mazzulla prior to tip off in its home game last Thursday evening. Mazzulla passed away in 2020 after a battle with brain cancer after spending decades coaching both the boys and girls teams at the high school. He was one of the best players to come out of the school and was a Bryant Hall of Famer.

He was another coach who left a lasting legacy on his hometown and continued to proudly serve it right up until his death. He coached during the 2019 season while battling cancer and was the town’s recreation director until just a few short months prior to his passing.

Mazzulla passed away right at the beginning of the pandemic. With everything going on, between public gatherings being limited, small crowds and whatnot, the school never really got to honor his memory in front of a full house.

Prior to the game starting, current boys coach Mike Bedrosian, who was a longtime family friend of the Mazzullas along with his father Ed, made a statement honoring his work in the school and the lasting memories he left. Although it was a brief ceremony, it felt right to do so now that fans are back allowed in the fold. The gym was packed and it was a moving scene … remembering Mazzulla in a gym in which he was a staple and made so much history, brought home state championships, it was a very fitting tribute.

Mazzulla was another coach that always very kind and welcoming. I remember when I first started covering sports in Rhode Island almost four years ago, he was one of the first coaches from the town that I crossed paths with and without any hesitation, he introduced himself, gave me his number and permission to reach out whenever I needed anything. As both the basketball coach and rec director, I took him up on the offer quite a few times and he was always so helpful.

I have had the pleasure of working with many great coaches throughout my career and am still working with some great ones to this day. McGonagle and Mazzulla each demonstrated the qualities and traits that I respect most in coaches. They were devoted to their players, loved teaching their sports, and were always sure to respect the community in which they served.

For any new coaches out there or people looking to break into the coaching realm, look to people like these two as examples to follow.

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