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Patriot Pride

Alumni Coaches Root for the Home Team

By Sabrina Tillman
George Mason alumni who return to their alma mater as coaches may be the Patriots' most committed fans. They returned to make coaching their career¬and in doing so have made it a lifestyle. George Mason alumni coaches have a special relationship with the school¬they have a hand in its past, present, and future. Currently, the Patriot coaching staff has 6 head coaches and 14 assistant coaches who are George Mason alumni, a high number considering other universities in the Colonial Athletic Association average only 7 alumni coaches.

Pat Kendrick

A Value-Added Bonus Although Mason alumni may have an advantage as coaches once they are hired, they are not given special consideration during the hiring process. "It's always an open search, and alumni status is not used as a hiring criteria," says Tom O'Connor, director of athletics. But O'Connor describes alumni status as a value-added bonus. "These coaches know the university, they have a great passion for the university, and having been Mason students, they understand what the university is all about," O'Connor says. Coaches with other alma maters can be just as successful as alumni, but Mason grads understand the experience here at George Mason better because they lived it themselves, he says.

Pat Kendrick, B.S. '82, is the most successful women's volleyball coach in Patriot history. As a student, Kendrick was a two-sport Patriot star as one of the top players on the women's volleyball team, as well as the university's first conference champion in track and field. Like Debbie Taneyhill, Kendrick began coaching right after she graduated. "I never really left George Mason," she says, after 17 years coaching. Kendrick uses her firsthand knowledge of the university on a regular basis to recruit athletes.

Bill Brown

Bill Brown, B.S. '80, says having been a student here makes it that much easier to come back to work for the university. "Right from the start you have a pretty good feeling about what you are getting into," Brown says. "You can never walk away from the fact that you are an alum, and you take pride in putting out the best possible product," says Brown. In Brown's 18 years as a coach, 19 Patriots have been drafted and signed by Major League Baseball clubs, and several others have been signed as free agents. Brown says there will always be a bond between past, current, and future players. "Ultimately, you are all part of the same fraternity¬that being George Mason baseball."

More Than a Job Women's basketball coach Debbie Taneyhill, B.A. '92, M.A. '97, began her coaching career with George Mason as an assistant just after graduation in 1992. Three years later, she was promoted to associate coach, and in 1998, she became the head coach.

Debbie Taneyhill

"Being an alumna makes coaching here much more than a job for me," Taneyhill says. "I have a history with this university, and to see the strides that George Mason has taken over the years is very rewarding for me," she says. When Taneyhill played, the women's team competed in the P.E. building. "We've added a lot of facilities since then, and it's great to be able to see the programs grow with the school."

History in the Making Associate athletic director Kevin McNamee says, for alumni coaches, the job goes far beyond a working commitment. "It's a living commitment¬they are a little more attached because they played here, they competed in the program, and they helped create the legacy of the program," he says.

A legacy is just what women's soccer coach Jac Cicala, B.S. '75, M.S '88, has created. When Cicala was a Patriot defender in the early 1970s, George Mason didn't have a women's soccer team. In 1982, he returned to help launch the program. Over the next 10 years, Cicala served two separate seasons as an assistant coach with the Patriots and coached for local high school teams until 1992, when he assumed the role of head coach.

Wrestling coach Brian Shaffer, M.Ed. '92, is an alumnus but did not play for the Patriots during his undergraduate career. Shaffer wrestled at the University of Pittsburgh and later coached at American University before coming to George Mason. In just a few years as a Patriot coach, Shaffer has observed one thing about the Patriots: "History and tradition are a big part of George Mason athletics."


George Mason Alumni
Head Coaches
Bill Brown, '80, baseball
Fred Chao, '94, men's volleyball
Jac Cicala, '75, '88, women's soccer
Pat Kendrick, '82, women's volleyball
Brian Shaffer, '92, wrestling
Debbie Taneyhill, '92, '97, women's basketball
Assistant Coaches
Tony Barton, '93, women's track and field
John Curtis, '93, wrestling
Greg Franzke, '93, men's soccer
Marcell Harrison, '94, women's basketball
Kim Maslin-Kammerdeiner, '88, women's soccer
Martin Nachtman, '96, men's soccer
Jaime Pagliarulo, '99, women's soccer
Liz Robertshaw, '98, lacrosse
Jeff Rockwell, '98, volleyball
Mark Ryan, '98, men's soccer
Simon Targett, '99, tennis Chris
Tischler, '98, volleyball
Mario Vernon-Watson, '95, men's track and field
Sue Vodicka, '86, '92, women's soccer
Mark Weader, '99, wrestling


In the Colonial Athletic Association, George Mason tops the league with the most alumni coaches
George Mason 6 head coaches 14 assistant coaches
James Madison 6 7
William and Mary 4 6
Old Dominion 3 6
Virginia Commonwealth 3 5
East Carolinia 2 4
UNC at Wilmington 4 1
University of Richmond 0 3
American 1 1


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