She wouldn’t have left for a job.
It had to be the job.
And for Bernadette Laukaitis, that’s exactly what she signed on for.
Last week, Laukaitis, a 1996 graduate of St. Hubert High School and a 2000 grad of Holy Family University, was hired to be the head women’s basketball coach at her college alma mater.
Laukaitis, a three-sport high school star who was a top player for the Tigers, has been coaching ever since she got out of college.
Upon graduation, she started coaching at Holy Family under her coach Mike McLaughlin. She also went with him 10 years ago when he took over the program at the University of Pennsylvania.
While she was a Quaker for the past decade, she will always be a Tiger first.
“When I came back, even though it’s been a while, it felt like being home,” said Laukaitis, who grew up in St. Matt’s parish and now lives in Feasterville. “I learned so much by coaching with Mike, and Penn was home. I wasn’t looking for a job. Penn was tough because it’s far away and I wasn’t seeing my family as much as I wanted, but Penn was home. Holy Family is home, too.”
Laukaitis was one of two hirings by Holy Family last week. The school also named Father Judge grad Ryan Haigh its new men’s basketball coach. Like Laukaitis, Haigh is a St. Matt’s kid who went on to star on the Tigers basketball team.
Haigh, who graduated from the school in 2006, has spent the past eight seasons as Holy Family’s top assistant coach under former coach RC Kehoe.
The Tigers have potential to be good in both men’s and women’s next year, and there’s a good chance you’ll see some familiar faces on the rosters.
The men already have Patrick Robinson, a Conwell-Egan star who just completed his freshman year, and the women’s program will have Archbishop Ryan senior Monee Moore, who has been a franchise guard for the Ragdolls.
Laukaitis will mine the local courts for players who can help Holy Family get back to the top of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
“I know there are some great players around here,” Laukaitis said. “I know there are some 5-foot-nothing kids from Northeast Philly who will run through a wall to play basketball. I know you can win with that type of player. And we’ll be looking for them.
“I’m really happy with what we have, too. I spoke to some of them, and they’re as excited as I am. I am ready to get down to work right away, and so are they.”
The women’s team went 8-19 a season ago, 6-13 in conference play, but lose only one senior, Katie O’Hare. While she was a huge part of the team, scoring nearly 10 points per game, the Tigers will have plenty of talent back.
They’ll also have a coach who will push them to play a tough brand of basketball.
“I love coaching defense, that was something I loved to play as a player and coach as a coach,” Laukaitis said. “(McLaughlin) coached that way, and he was my mentor, I learned so much from him.
“I want to cultivate a family atmosphere. I think that’s a recipe for success. I think having that kind of team can make a huge difference.”
The school certainly thinks she can make a huge difference on and off the court.
“I can’t think of anyone better to lead our women’s basketball team and take the program to the next level,” said Holy Family athletic director Pat Hamill. “I’m happy to welcome Bernadette back to Holy Family where she was a standout player and began her coaching career as an assistant.
“She brings a ton of knowledge and experience with her after spending close to two decades with one of the top coaches in the area in Mike McLaughlin. Bernadette’s enthusiasm for Holy Family basketball and her connection with our alumni can’t be overlooked. I’m confident she’s going to do great things with the program.”
The school is equally excited about the new men’s coach
“Ryan has proved over the past eight seasons he has what it takes to lead the men’s basketball program,” Hamill said. “I’m fully confident that he will guide the team to new heights and continue a long tradition of success. I’m excited to see Ryan grow as a coach in his new role. The pieces are there for him and the team to be successful not only on the court but also in the classroom.”
Laukaitis loves to win, but she preaches family first.
She does it with her team and she does it at home.
She and her husband Joe have two children, Joey, 11, and Kasey, who recently turned 8.
Both are basketball players, and her husband is their coach. They also love to watch mom do her thing on the bench.
“The kids were sad because they love Penn and we still love Penn,” Laukaitis said. “But they’re excited. They know how important Holy Family is to me, and it’s going to be important to them.
“They’re going to love it. This works perfectly for me because I’ll be closer to home, I’ll be able to see them more and I’m at a school that I love.”