In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with former Marist head coach Dave Magarity. Coach Magarity, who is now the head coach of the women's basketball program at Army, won 253 games and three conference titles (one NCAA appearance) while at Marist.
Jon Teitel: In 1978 you became head coach at St. Francis and were the youngest Division I head coach in the nation. Did you feel that you were ready to be a head coach at age 27, and did you see your age as an advantage or a
Dave Magarity: Quite frankly I was just in the right place at the right time. Looking back I probably was not ready. It was a learn-on-the-job type situation, but it helped that I had recruited all of the players that I had to coach.
JT: In the mid-1980s you were an assistant coach for Pat Kennedy at Iona. What made Kennedy such a great coach, and what was the most important thing you ever learned from him?
DM: Pat and I had a long-standing relationship, but it was Jimmy Valvano who actually convinced me to make the move to Iona after he had moved on to NC State. St. Francis has only had a few winning seasons since I left. Iona was the right fit for me because they were such a good team. Pat is a very good coach and a great recruiter.
JT: In 1986 you became head coach at Marist, where you won a school-record 20 games en route to being named ECAC Metro Coach of the Year. Why did you take the job, and how were you able to be so successful so quickly?
DM: I was a finalist for the head job at Iona, which was the job that I really wanted but they hired Gary Brokaw. I honestly thought about getting out of coaching and getting into something financial. I was offered the job at Siena, but then the Marist job opened up. It was a strange set of events.
JT: What are your memories of the 1987 NCAA Tournament (Drafton Davis scored 14 points and had a Marist tournament-record 11 assists in a loss to Pitt)?
DM: It was a great experience and we had a really good team, but there were a lot of bumps in the road. Rik Smits was suspended for the first nine games of that year due to eligibility issues, and two of our other starters were suspended as well. We bounced back and got some vindication by getting to the tourney.
JT: In 1988 you won the ECAC Metro regular-season title, but the program was barred from playing in the NCAA Tournament due to some infractions. What did it mean to you to win the conference title, and was it a bittersweet win because you could not go to the tourney?
DM: It was hard because we had a great group of seniors. It was bittersweet because that would have been three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, and Marist has not been back since then. Smits probably would have been a lottery pick if he entered the draft the previous year, but he came back to school and was the #2 pick in the 1988 draft (behind Danny Manning).
JT: What are your memories of the 1996 NIT, the first in school history (Tyson Wheeler scored 24 points in a five-point Rhode Island win)?
DM: Talk about bittersweet. We felt that we were the best team in the league that year and belonged in the NCAA Tournament. We were up by three points with 10 seconds left in the conference tournament semifinals, but Mustafa Barksdale of Monmouth made a four-point play to beat us. We had a very good team, but the NIT does not get the same respect that the NCAA Tournament does.
JT: During your 18 seasons at Marist you graduated over 95% of your players who completed their NCAA eligibility. How important are academics to you?
DM: I have always had a great track record of having players graduate. I thought that was a huge priority in terms of the way that we ran our program, and I am very proud of that. Here at West Point it is a huge priority as well.
JT: In 2006 as an assistant coach for the Army women's basketball you made it to the first NCAA Tournament in school history, but the excitement was cut short when head coach Maggie Dixon passed away the following month. What made Maggie such a great coach, and how were you able to cope with the tragic loss?
DM: I had gotten out of coaching in 2004, and just felt it was time to change careers. I got into administration for a couple of years but I always felt that I was missing coaching. I knew Maggie's brother Jamie Dixon from coaching against him in the past, and when I met her she just blew me away. She reminded me of my daughter, and convinced me to join her staff. Chances are that she would have left Army to coach a bigger program. Her death was traumatic, and I really struggled with it.
JT: In your very first season as head coach at Army your team set a school-record by winning 26 games. How was the team able to remain focused, and what is the biggest difference between coaching men vs. coaching women?
DM: I did not know if I was the right person for the job, but the kids were very strong in their support for me. I had actually taken another job, but came back to coach and brought my daughter Maureen along with me. Sometimes the difference is just a one-word answer (drama), but that is not always the case. I do not know if I could coach women anywhere besides the Army, as there are a lot of issues that I do not have to deal with. The women's game has grown over the past two decades, but my biggest challenge is recruiting players to come to West Point because there is a five-year commitment after they graduate and we are at war. We graduated two of the top-three scorers in school history over the past couple of years, so we are sort of rebuilding at the moment.
JT: Your son David Jr. was a walk-on for your team at Marist while your daughter Maureen served as your associate head coach at Army before becoming head women's coach at New Hampshire in 2010. What was it like to coach your son, and how do you think your daughter is going to do as a head coach?
DM: It was special to coach Dave, but I redshirted him my first year without knowing that I was going to be leaving soon after that. My successor Matt Brady was tremendous to my son, which meant a lot to me. One of my great memories was when Matt and Jared Jordan won some Coach and Player of the Year awards (respectively) and thanked me during their speeches. Maureen is off to a rough start, but that is probably why the job was vacant. She is hanging in there, and has a couple of great wins so far. It is tougher for me to watch her games on the Internet than to coach my own games!
Coach Magarity is also on Jon's list of best coaches in MAAC history.
Canisius: John Beilein (1992-1997) 89-62, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title, 1-time conference COY
Fairfield: George Bisacca (1958-1968) 151-85, 3 NCAA tourneys
Iona: Pat Kennedy (1980-1986) 124-60, 2 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
Loyola (MD): Emil "Lefty" Reitz (1937-1944, 1945-1961) 349-227
Manhattan: Ken Norton (1946-1968) 300-205, 2 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles
Marist: Dave Magarity (1986-2004) 253-259, 1 NCAA tourney, 3 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
Niagara: John "Taps" Gallagher (1931-1943, 1946-1965) 465-261, 6 conference titles
Rider: Kevin Bannon (1989-1997) 131-103, 2 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 2-time conference COY
Siena: Fran McCaffery (2005-2010) 112-51, 3 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
St. Peter's: Don Kennedy (1950-1972) 323-195