-By Cary Shuman
Pam MacDonald was hoping to be on hand when Revere basketball star Morgan Jenkins scored the 1,000th point of her career this season but the former Revere High girls varsity basketball coach had a game of her own that night.
“I would have loved to have seen Morgan get her 1,000th point,” said MacDonald. “I was very disappointed not to be able to be there but we had a game that night.”
“We” is the Lynnfield High girls varsity basketball team. MacDonald just completed a successful first season as the head coach of the Lynnfield Pioneers who qualified for the State Tournament with a 10-10 record. MacDonald left the Revere program in 2009 after six years of building a program and leading the Patriots to the brink of their amazing run to 37 victories the past two seasons and a Northeastern Conference championship this winter.
MacDonald’s program at Lynnfield has a distinct Revere flavor beyond the similar shade of blue in the LHS uniforms. Three of MacDonald’s assistant coaches at Revere High, Richard DeMarco his brother, Jon DeMarco, and Natalie Lyons are on the staff in Lynnfield. Two of the Lynnfield players, senior captain and starting center Morgan Festa and freshman Rachel Goodwin, come from well-known Revere families.
The former Revere coaches made an immediate impact and ignited the Pioneers’ resurgence.
“It was an awesome season – we made the tournament and they’re great coaches,” said Brittany Hunt, one of the Lynnfield captains. “We had brand new coaches but it was a good, positive transition. We loved playing basketball for them.”
Richard DeMarco, a former RHS basketball captain and graduate of Boston College, worked directly with MacDonald as an assistant coach with the varsity and junior varsity.
“We really came on toward the end of the season,” said DeMarco, who works as an engineer for a biotech firm. “It was a situation when you come to a new team, you look over the players and see what you have. Pam and Jon have always preached the developing of talent and coaching of players and that was really the goal and it worked out really well. Our upperclassmen improved and it showed at the end of the season. And our JV team had a 18-2 record.”
DeMarco said he was appreciative of the opportunity given to him by MacDonald to join the Lynnfield staff.
“It’s an honor to coach with these guys because they’re really talented coaches and they do a great job developing talent and they know the fundamentals very well and it showed,” said DeMarco. “The future looks very bright now.”
Jon DeMarco, a former RHS three-sport captain and Merrimack College football player, coached for two seasons with MacDonald at Revere High. He was the coach of the Lynnfield JV team this winter.
“When Pam was named the new Lynnfield coach, she asked me to coach in the program and I was excited to come back and coach with her,” said DeMarco. “More than anything else, Pam is a great person and she’s really great with the girls and she builds a real sense of teamwork.”
DeMarco said that MacDonald chaperoned the Lynnfield players at a Boston College women’s basketball game, coordinated pasta parties and held other team bonding events.
“I think team events like that help to build a program,” said DeMarco, who is a history teacher at Revere High School and an assistant football coach. “I really love being up in Lynnfield. I think some of the toughness we brought to the team comes from our roots in Revere. It’s a credit to the Lynnfield girls how hard they played this season. I enjoyed working with Pam and my brother, Rich, in the program. The future is very bright.”
Lyons enjoyed her freshman coaching position in Lynnfield. “I loved working with Pam and the DeMarcos – they really know the game and it’s a team mentality,” said Lyons. “What made this year so successful was the coaching staff and the players’ determination and hard work.”
For MacDonald, who teaches two days a week at Revere High School, it’s been a rewarding return to the varsity bench in Lynnfield. She reflected on her six years as the head coach in the Revere program.
“It was tough to leave Revere in the sense that you never like to leave something unfinished and I felt that I wasn’t done there and I hadn’t accomplished everything I wanted to,” said MacDonald, who conducted a well-attended basketball camp each summer at the high school for elementary and middle-school players. “But I really feel like things happen for a reason.
“I’m closer to home [MacDonald and her husband and their four children live in Lynnfield]. My life is great and I’m happy coaching here in Lynnfield and teaching two days in Revere. I think things worked out well for me.”
She said the Revere players are special to her. “Morgan is the best kid in the world. I love all those kids. Marisa [Parent] is a great kid. Ashley DiFraia is one of the best kids I ever coached – the same thing with Kat Prince. They turned out great. They had two great seasons under Diana [DeCristoforo] and you can’t take that away from her.”
MacDonald said the Lynnfield job has been a good fit for her. The Pioneers showed their poise and growth as a team by qualifying for the State Tournament with a win over North Reading in the final game of the season. The players adapted well to her coaching style and emphasis on fundamentals and teamwork.
“I think we maximized our performance and capabilities this season,” said MacDonald. “The future looks good. One of our captains, Kelsey LeBlanc, is coming back. We have some talented sophomores and a great group of freshmen.”
MacDonald feels she brought a new level of intensity to the program and she credits her coaching staff for its contributions to the turnaround that saw the varsity more than double its previous year’s win total.
We’ve brought an intensity to the program that wasn’t here before,” said MacDonald. “I have a great coaching staff and obviously I brought them all with me from Revere because I think they’re great. The DeMarco brothers are superb coaches and Natalie Lyons is bar none when it comes to discipline which is really what you need in a freshman coach.”
MacDonald was asked whether she would consider a return to the Revere High girls basketball program. The head coaching job is vacant following the resignation of Diana DeCristoforo.
“That ship has sailed for me and I couldn’t be happier where I am,” said MacDonald. “I’m excited to be in Lynnfield and that’s where I’m staying.”