Mike Lonergan was nearly 15 minutes into a news conference earlier this season when he broke his own policy about referring to last season, his first as the head men's basketball coach at George Washington University.
“I try to forget about last year. I won't say coaching is overrated. You have to have players,” he said. “I definitely did not do a good enough job (last season) of hiding our weaknesses.
“I take the losses very hard. It was probably the worst year of my professional life, by far.”
The moment of candor may have been refreshing, since that is not always the routine for some major college Division I coaches.
But honesty is part of the package with Lonergan, who posted a mark of 10-21 last season as he returned to the area after a successful run at the University of Vermont. He grew up in Bowie and is a former assistant under Gary Williams at the University of Maryland.
Isaiah Armwood, who played at Montrose Christian in Rockville, decided to transfer from Big East power Villanova in the summer of 2011. Before deciding to enroll at GW he met with Lonergan, who graduated from Catholic University.
“He is not going to sugarcoat anything,” said Armwood, a 6-foot-9 senior forward from Baltimore. “He will tell you how it is. He will not leave you in the dark.”
Armwood felt comfortable enough around Lonergan that he decided to transfer to GW, which plays in a conference (Atlantic 10) that may be gaining ground on the Big East.
GW junior guard Lasan Kromah, a standout at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, was the only local player for the Colonials last season. Kromah began his college career under head coach Karl Hobbs, a former Bowie resident who was let go by GW following the 2010-11 season.
“Some of the people I know, he knows,” Kromah said of the Prince George's connection with Lonergan. “Some of the phrases I use he is familiar with.”
Lonergan grew up on Traymore Lane in Bowie. His father, Jack, played baseball in college at Holy Cross while his late mother, Maureen, was a coach and athletic director at Elizabeth Seton in Bladensburg. His wife, Maggie, was the former women's coach at Catholic and coached prep hoops in Vermont.
Lonergan graduated from Archbishop Carroll High in Washington and then played basketball at Catholic, where he was a team captain as a senior in 1987-88.
Lonergan, who was born in Silver Spring, won a Division III national title at Catholic in 2001. He was an assistant one season at Maryland from 2004-05 before getting the head job at Vermont, where he averaged more than 20 wins per season.
“I was fortunate to get the Vermont job. Then I wanted to be in a top five, top seven league. I knew we could get this program going,” he said of GW.
One of Lonergan's assistants is Pete Strickland, who played at DeMatha Catholic High under Hall of Fame coach Morgan Wootten.
They are quickly trying to put last season behind them.
“I never want to be in that situation. We never turned it around. We just needed that one win. I am glad it is over,” Lonergan said. “I learned a lot from it. We have moved on. We have learned from it. We don't want to be 10-21 again. We have to get used to winning. I am excited. It is a great time to be here.”