The Crusader coach will now be coaching the Crusaders. No folks, that's not a typo. Maureen LaRoche, who has been a coach for the New England Crusaders AAU program for the past 2 years, has been hired as the new girls basketball coach for the Manchester Memorial Crusaders.
The position became available in mid-October when Jack Quirk stepped down to coach the school's boys basketball team instead. Quirk was the girls coach for the past 9 years and coached them to back-to-back D-I final four appearances in 2011 and 2012. Quirk is also the school's Athletic Director.
"I am looking forward to continuing the strong traditions apparent in the Manchester Memorial’s girls basketball program" LaRoche told the NH Notebook. "I'm prepared as a coach to meet the challenge of this tough division, and in going forward I will look on the program’s past success of consecutive final four appearances as a ‘starting point' for the goals of this program in transition instead of the ‘finish line'."
With the Crusaders AAU club, LaRoche has coached alongside former Notre Dame captain (and Nashua High standout) Kara Leary. Laroche has coached players like Aliza Simpson from Londonderry (has offers from New Hampshire and Holy Cross, Conant freshman Madison Springfield (has offers from UMass and Providence), as well as McKenzie Brown and Ali Glennon from Bedford. LaRoche coached the Crusaders U15 and U16 teams this summer at Nike Nationals, which is one of the biggest recruiting events in the country.
LaRoche is also the former head coach at Mass Bay Community College. She is from Massachusetts, where she played her high school basketball (at Gardner High) and later went on to coach with the New England Select AAU club (won U14 Mass AAU State Title), the Explosion Elite boys AAU team and also at Gardner Middle School.
LaRoche takes over a Memorial squad which has been one of the top teams in Division I for the past few years under Coach Quirk. They have graduated some outstanding players over the past couple years though, most notably Ashley Gendron (now playing at Stonehill) and Amra Elezovic (now playing at UMass-Lowell). This spring they also had a player leave for prep school, as Peace Kabari (one of the top freshman players in the state last season) transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy. Ironically, Kabari plays for the Crusaders AAU program.
Still, there is still enough talent on this team to once again get a home playoff game. Allie Hartford is a four-year starter at point guard, while senior Danielle Fletcher and sophomore forward Makenah Grisson are also back. Hartford is a potential first team all-state player this year, Fletcher is a tough slasher who can rebound and Grisson is one of the most improved players in the state. That will be a tough trio to stop.
"The kids that I have met so far seem focused, committed, and disciplined and that is a huge ingredient for the success of any team" said LaRoche, who also added that Bob Couture will be her JV coach and
LaRoche isn't the first coach to get a high school job after first coaching with the Crusaders. Others include Kevin Gibbs (former Bishop Guertin coach now the head coach for NHTI women's basketball), Joe Mason at Windham and Steve Tracy at Alvirne. Both Mason and Tracy have had tremendous success in their first 2 years as varsity coaches for their respective schools, both making it to the final four. Then you also have Crusader coach Annie Alosa who also coaches the Salem High girls team (a team that definitely exceeded expectations in 2011-2012).
There is no question that the trend over the past few years is AAU coaches getting high school coaching jobs. Shooting Stars coach Jeremy Faulkner has won back-to-back D-II titles in his first 2 seasons coaching the Souhegan High girls team. Rivals Basketball Club coach Scott Hazelton won the D-I title in his first season coach the Bishop Guertin girls team in 2011-2012.
Ricky Oliver, who is the director of the NE Lady Panthers AAU program and on the board for NEAAU, was the NH Notebook's D-I Coach of the Year for the job he did coaching his Nashua North girls squad. Dave Hartnett coached the Coe-Brown girls basketball team to a 15 win season in 2011-2012 - the best season they have had in a LONG time. Yes, Hartnett is also a former AAU coach, as he coached the Exeter Hawks to three consecutive top 15 finishes in AAU Nationals from 2007-2009. GS Rockettes AAU coach Steve Signor coaches the Milford High girls team, which I expect to be the surprise team in D-II girls this winter.
LaRoche is certainly no stranger to the elite AAU / exposure showcase scene in girls basketball. In addition to coaching with the Crusaders on the AAU circuit, she has also been an instructor at the Nike Pre-Draft Camp and a talent evaluator at the Hoop Mountain Showcase and the BeanTown Hoops Showcase.
She played high school basketball for former Franklin Pierce women's basketball head coach Steve Hancock. In college she played tennis on scholarship at the University of North Carolina.
Laroche didn't get much time to prepare for her new position at Manchester Memorial, as tryouts are this week. Still she is excited to get to work and start molding her team.
"Coach Quirk, the Memorial Athletic Department, and most importantly the young ladies who play for this school have all done a tremendous job in holding this program to a high standard of basketball" said Coach LaRoche, who lists Coach Hancock and Kara Leary as the people who have inspired her coaching. "And as I take over for Jack, my expectations will be nothing short of the same. I am excited to begin my journey as a Crusader."
The Memorial girls open their 2012-2013 season on Tuesday, December 18 at Salem. The coaching match up for that one will be two Crusader AAU coaches, with LaRoche vs. Alosa.