Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Moving boxes, earning respect

According to men’s basketball head coach Mike Lonergan, there’s only one downside to helping students move in each fall.

On a day when a significant amount of heavy lifting is required, representatives of a sports program are usually among the most popular volunteers, Lonergan said with a laugh.

“Whenever we did it in Vermont, [associate head coach] Hajj [Turner] and I had some taller assistants, and they would always get handed couches and stuff, so we would joke about move-in day because, sometimes, at Vermont it was hard,” Lonergan said.

Physical challenges aside, when Turner talked about carrying the tradition from Vermont to GW, Lonergan said he immediately agreed. Schools depend on volunteers during move-in efforts, he pointed out, but more importantly, it’s a chance to connect with the rest of the University’s population – a chance for the men’s basketball to establish itself as an integral part of the community.

So the Colonials’ coaching staff got to work, led by Turner, who grabbed boxes for the early arrivals at Thurston Hall Wednesday morning. Friday, Lonergan, assistant coach Kevin Sutton, assistant director of basketball operations Maurice Joseph and three players, junior guards Bryan Bynes and Lasan Kromah and forward Jabari Edwards, a graduate student, grabbed move-in volunteer shirts and headed to Thurston. Across the street, assistant coach Pete Strickland and director of basketball operations Matt Lisiewski lent a hand at Potomac.

It was a different kind of uniform for the players, who traded jerseys for T-shirts as they helped the newest Colonials settle in to their rooms.

This gesture from the men’s basketball program, indicative of Lonergan’s desire to strengthen his team’s ties with the rest of the community, is a marked difference from former head coach Karl Hobbs, who drew criticism for a perceived lack of community engagement.

Lonergan said more than anything else, he wants his team to be respected. And Lonergan said he knows that if you want respect, you need to earn it.

“Our guys are fortunate, most of them are on scholarship and get to attend a great University,” Lonergan said. “If you want the faculty and student body to respect your program, you have to give them reasons to respect it.”

The lifting and hauling, while providing immediate benefits for residents, also acts as a crucial step in creating a relationship between his team and the rest of the University, Lonergan said. While attendance at home games isn’t the driving force behind his push for service, the head coach said, the lack of bodies in the stands last year showed him the basketball program needed a new mentality about connecting with the University at large.

It’s about support, he said. If his program supports the University, hopefully, the University will support his program.

“I always want our students to be just like other students. I want them to be respected by their peers,” Lonergan said. “We were last in attendance at the league. We have to get the crowds back at our games. That’s not why we’re doing this, but I want the students to want to support these guys. It’s their team, it’s their university.”

Lonergan’s focus on service extends past the Foggy Bottom community. The men’s basketball team also volunteered with the Northwest Settlement House in early August, working at a fundraising carnival that benefited the Shaw community in Northwest D.C. The Colonials spent the day connecting with some of the District’s youngest residents, painting faces, tying shoelaces, running carnival attractions and even making snow cones.

The program also hosted a day for Boys Town Washington D.C., a District-based program that provides direct care services for children, including foster services and treatment needs. Bringing them to the Smith Center for the day, Lonergan said, was yet another chance to demonstrate the opportunities available through the world of sports.

Through these demonstrations, through the outreach, through the time spent lifting boxes, there’s always one goal in the back of the head coach’s mind. They’re all chances, he says, for his team to use the spotlight to become community leaders.

“When you’re in college and you play in college, young kids look up to you,” Lonergan said. “Our staff is supposed to be role models for our players and our players are supposed to be role models for young kids. We want to be role models. They definitely are supposed to be.”

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