Coaches of the Year

By Theresa Katalinas

Montgomery County Community College Men’s Soccer Coach Tom Haney of Philadelphia and Women’s Basketball Coach Mark McDonnell of Phoenixville were selected as the Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference (EPAC) Coaches of the Year.

The head coaches of each sport vote by ballot to determine an EPAC Coach of the Year winner.

Haney, a retired law enforcement officer, has been playing and coaching competitively for 35 years, including three seasons at the College. McDonnell, a substitute teacher at Phoenixville School District, has been involved with basketball as a player and coach for 30 years, including two years with the College.

Both said news of the EPAC Coach of the Year award came as a surprise. Haney started off the season without a goal keeper or a trained back line. He spent the early part of the season training a player to assume the role of goalie. Haney attributes the success of the keeper to his assistant coach, Kim Gerhart, an accomplished goal keeper trainer.

“We literally had four players returning from last year’s team. It was a totally brand-new team that we had to put together,” Haney said. “Chemistry is huge in sports. At the beginning of the season, we did not have the chemistry needed to be a successful team.”

Yet, by season’s end, he helped the team to not only develop chemistry, but to become Eastern Pennsylvania Athletic Conference champions. It was a challenge turning around a season that began as a “disaster,” according to Haney, but one he wholeheartedly accepted.

“I usually have that type of player I need to develop,” he said. “I relish that. I don’t even think about accolades and awards. I just think, ‘what can I do for the players to make them better?’”

Like Haney, McDonnell said the EPAC Coach of the Year honor was not something he expected.

“The Northampton coach did not lose a game,” he said.

Still, McDonnell said he’s proud of the fact that he brought the girls’ team to the playoffs for the first time in six years, ultimately finishing 8-2 in the conference and having four students named to the EPAC All-Academic team. With the prospect of three starters returning, McDonnell said he’s “optimistic” for next season.

Throughout his teaching and coaching career, McDonnell said his early start as a point guard on the court has helped him be a better coach.

“I was a coach on the court,” he said. “I think because I was a point guard and had that coaching intuition on the court, coaching and teaching sort of went hand-in-hand.”