Midwood’s Artie LaGreca, one of the most respected girls basketball coaches in New York City, gave up the position this week after being promoted to school athletic director over the summer.
LaGreca took the Hornets to the PSAL quarterfinals in each of his nine years and three times they made the semis. He’ll be replaced by former assistant coach and Midwood junior varsity boys basketball coach Mike Moore.
“This opportunity presented itself,” LaGreca said. “Now, I don’t just oversee 15 players, but I oversee an entire athletic department and one of the biggest and I think one of the most successful in the city.”
While it isn’t uncommon to see athletic directors across the city coach one or two sports, LaGreca, who also will step down from his boys golf job, didn’t think that would be feasible in his situation.
“There’s not a question in my mind that I would be doing a disservice if I coached either the girls basketball team or the golf team in the spring,” he said. “How would I get over to a boys game in the winter if we had a game? I’d never get to see any of these teams practice and play. … I don’t see how it would be humanly possible at a school as big as Midwood.”
LaGreca told his players the news Wednesday. Becoming an administrator, he said, is always something he has wanted to do and he jumped at the chance to be AD when longtime athletic director Mary Anne Elder, also the assistant principal for physical education, stepped down this summer.
Stepping aside will not be an easy task, LaGreca said, especially considering he has coached every one of the last 23 years. From 1986 to 1992 he was an assistant coach for the Brooklyn College women’s basketball team, then a Division I program. After that, LaGreca was the girls basketball coach at FDR from 1992 to 1998, followed by a short tenure coaching New Utrecht boys JV basketball.
“I told the girls today, ‘I’m gonna be there to watch you guys, but you’re never gonna see me pop into practice to run a drill unless Mike asked me to,’” LaGreca said. “It’s his team. It’s his program to run as he sees fit.”
Moore is a close confidante that LaGreca has known for more than a decade going back to their time at FDR. He has the Team Mike Moore girls AAU basketball program for three years after spending four years with Exodus.
“He’s always been a real smart basketball guy,” said LaGreca, was impressed that Moore always had time to help out the girls basketball program despite coaching a team every season at Midwood. “I’d pick his brain. He’d pick mine. … He’s excellent at individual stuff. He’s really good at developing individual skills.”
LaGreca helped bring Moore to Midwood as a teacher and Moore says he looks up to LaGreca as a mentor. He wants to emulate LaGreca’s “poise under pressure, his game-planning, his preparation. His ability to get the most out of his kids.”
“I know I have big shoes to fill,” Moore said. “I’ve been under his tutelage for many years. I’m trying to make this a seamless transition, so the program doesn’t miss a beat.”
Francess Henry, the lone returning starter from a team that lost to John F. Kennedy in the PSAL Class AA quarterfinals last winter, said she wasn’t surprised to hear about LaGreca’s departure. But she doesn’t think there will be a tough transition with Moore, who coached her over the summer the past three years.
“If you have that opportunity, you have to take it,” Henry said of the AD job. “I’m not mad, because he’s still in the school. If I need guidance or a mentor I can always go to him. It’s not a problem.”
Moore feels the same way.
“I’m still gonna use him as a sounding board,” he said. “I’m still gonna ask for advice when I need it. I don’t know everything. Learning is a daily process. He said in a meeting that he has an open-door policy and I’m gonna use that to my advantage.”
LaGreca has prided himself more on that kind of relationship with his players than the one on the court. He brags more about the players from Midwood who have gone onto elite academic schools and didn’t play basketball than the Division I players he’s had.
“It’s not about the wins and losses,” LaGreca said. “When I can look back nine years to see who’s in med school, who’s a teacher now, who’s really successful. … We’ve had Yale, Columbia, Stanford, Wesleyan, I can go on and on.”
While his immediate future, will be on the administration side of things, LaGreca said he has not ruled out the possibility of coaching somewhere else after he retires.
“When it’s in your blood, it’s hard to get out,” LaGreca said. “I love it. The passionate part of coaching, you take a group of kids that aren’t a team and you teach them how to become a team. And that’s more than just running plays. The dynamics of that are tremendous.”