Nazareth names former star its new basketball coach

Mary Kate Magagna is returning to her alma mater as head coach of Nazareth Academy basketball.

Mary Kate Magagna stopped coaching to spend time with her husband, Barry, her son, Barry, and daughter Avery, but now she’s returning to the bench at Nazareth Academy. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Athletics have given a lot to Mary Kate McDade Magagna.

The 2005 graduate of Nazareth Academy High School played sports, particularly basketball, her entire life. She was a four-year starter as a Panda and then went on to star at St. Joseph’s University, where she was a two-time team captain and finished her career seventh all-time in program history with 385 assists.

Now, she’s giving back to the sport, and just as important, to the school she loves.

Magagna was named the head basketball coach at Nazareth. She inherits a team that went 6–13 under first-year Pandas coach Jimmy Dillon, who parted ways with the school after the season.

“I got into coaching because I love being around sports and this keeps me around the game,” said Magagna, who was named the Gatorade Player of the Year during her senior year at the school. “But more than that, I wanted to give back. I feel like basketball has given me so much, it’s always been there for me and so many coaches have helped me during my life, I just wanted to be there to do the same for players.”

A lot has changed for Magagna since she graduated St. Joe’s. She spent two seasons as a graduate assistant at the college, where she would analyze tape during games.

After her two years were over, she moved on to be an assistant coach at Nazareth for a season.

“I loved coaching, but I stopped to have a family,” said Magagna, who along with her husband Barry have two children, Avery, 5, and Barry, 3. “Coaching was very important to me, but family is very important to me. I think I got that from my family, but I also got it from Nazareth and St. Joe’s. Both places stress family, and it’s very important to me.”

Being a mom suited Magagna perfectly, but she always knew she wanted to get back into coaching.

When the Nazareth job opened, she had to jump at it.

She’s looking forward to getting back in the swing of things, but she knows it’s important to have great people around her so she can put everything she has into the new gig.

“It’s important to me, but so is my family, so I wanted to make sure it would work,” said Magagna, who lives in Our Lady of Calvary Parish. “My husband is very supportive. It means so much that he’s helping me get back into this, but this even went into other people, like the grandparents, because they’re going to help out with babysitting when we need it. Everyone is so supportive.”

Now that Magagna has all of the outside responsibilities handled, she’s ready to get down to basketball.

After a quick vacation, Magagna is slated to meet with her players shortly. She’s very excited about working with the players.

“I know they’re very hard-working players and I can’t wait to get started,” Magagna said. “I want to meet with them and I’m sure they want to talk about basketball. I’ve talked to a lot of people and I’m told they’re very dedicated and very hard working.”

They’re also getting a good coach.

Sure, Magagna knows a lot about the game.

When she was at Nazareth and St. Joe’s, Magagna ran the show from the point. On top of being a good athlete, she was very intelligent with the ball and was a good team leader on the court.

She continues to use what she learned during her playing days.

But Magagna is also a teacher first. That’s her primary job. She works as a first-grade teacher at Tacony Charter. She moved to first grade last year. Before that, she taught special education.

“I love teaching, I think coaching is teaching,” Magagna said. “I think I use a lot of what I learned while playing because I had so many great coaches during my life, it would be impossible for me to single any out. I’ve been so lucky with that. I had great coaches when I was younger in CYO and AAU with my dad and my sister. Then when I got to Nazareth, I had a great coach, Kathy Costello, and her sister Maureen Costello did so much. And then when I got to St. Joe’s, Coach (Cindy) Griffin and all of the assistants helped me so much. I’ve been really lucky.

“And when I played, I was a point guard, so I had to learn a lot, know what everyone had to do. I think you learn a lot while playing the position.”

Magagna has all of the makings of a great coach.

That’s why Nazareth is so happy to have her.

“We are thrilled to welcome Mary Kate back to Nazareth, where she represented herself, the basketball program and the school with such passion and success as a student-athlete,” said Sister Rita Fanning, principal of Nazareth. “Her experience and success as both a player and coach at both the high school and collegiate levels, along with her commitment to developing and empowering our girls on and off the court, made her the ideal individual for this position.”

No doubt she’ll give it her all. She’s not just coaching, she’s coaching at a place she loves.

“I wanted to coach, but it’s very special going back (to Nazareth),” Magagna said. “It’s such a special place, seeing all of the people and being in the school. I loved Nazareth and it does mean more to coach there. It’s a place I love.”