Phyllis Mangina steps down as Seton Hall women’s basketball coach with keen interest in who will replace her
In her basketball career as both a college player and a coach, Phyllis Mangina has spent just one year away from the court inside Seton Hall’s Walsh Gym. For one season, 1981-82, she was an assistant coach at Wagner on Staten Island. The rest of the time? Spent on the hardwood in South Orange.
In a move late Monday, Mangina — who has been Seton Hall’s women’s basketball head coach for the last 25 years — announced that she will be stepping down to pursue other opportunities inside the university’s athletic department.
“I never looked ahead or thought about the next five or 10 years,” Mangina laughed Monday night when reached on her cell phone. “I just tried to put one step ahead of the next. But I never expected this. It’s been a real privilege for me because in this business, most coaches are at four or five different stops and away from their family. I’ve been fortunate … I can go two miles and have dinner with my mom.”
In compiling a 352-368 career record at Seton Hall, Mangina departs as only the second head coach in the program’s history. After a four-year career as a point guard for the Pirates under Sue (Dilley) Regan, Mangina spent one year away from Seton Hall before returning in 1982 as an assistant under Regan. In 1985, she took over as head coach.
“Seton Hall owes Coach Mangina an incredible debt of gratitude for her years of service to the university,” Seton Hall athletic director Joe Quinlan said in a statement. “She has been a consummate professional while positively affecting the lives of countless young women and serving as a role model both on and off the court.”
However, despite her long tenure as coach, the tide seemed to turn against her as Seton Hall’s performance in the Big East slipped toward the bottom of the conference.
This past season’s 9-21 campaign — with just one win in Big East play — was the worst season under Mangina’s watch.
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer lamented Mangina’s loss to the conference’s landscape.
“She’s a real responsible person – works hard. She’s a fantastic person,” Stringer said Monday night. “She’s our Big East captain, always getting us on the phone, very much paying attention to detail.
“But I think Seton Hall is probably like everyone else. The way of the world is, ‘What did you do for me lately? And what did you do last year, the year before?’ And at the end of the day, everybody has a boss. I don’t think she resigned. You know how that goes. So that means everybody has to step up.”
Mangina does have some regrets about the team’s performance on the court.
“Obviously, we’d like to have won more,” Mangina said. “We would’ve liked to have been to more NCAA Tournaments, those things. … That’s what I’ll regret, that we didn’t do that.”
With Mangina stepping aside, Seton Hall will immediately begin the processes of what it termed in the release of the news as a “national search for a replacement.”
“I think it’s very important for our administration to go out and get a great person to come in here — and that’s very important to me,” Mangina said. “I told them, ‘I want you to understand how successful I want this program to be.’ I want them to have great success here and I’ll help in any way that I can.”
Mangina said she is still working with Seton Hall to determine what her new role will be inside the athletic department.
But for the first time since her freshman year at Seton Hall in 1977, Mangina will not be spending time on a college basketball court next year. Does that mean she’ll never get back to the sidelines? Right now, she’s still digesting her move. But after being ingrained in basketball for so long, she admits it’s going to be a little hard to shake.
“That’s really jumping ahead,” Mangina said when asked if she’d ever consider coaching again. “But I love coaching. I love everything about the profession. I love meeting people and working with kids. … I’m never going to say ‘No’ to anything. If something great ever came past my way I would absolutely have to look at it, for sure.”
Stringer wouldn’t be surprised to see Mangina return to coaching.
“Sometimes, coaches find out that it’s better to sort of back off for a minute,” Stringer said. “Take a step back, and you come back reinvigorated, or in a situation that allows them to be successful.”
Colin Stephenson contributed to this report
Brendan Prunty may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org