MAHOPAC, N.Y. – Last year was the first time since 1998 that Tom McMahon didn’t coach varsity or youth basketball.
But anyone who’s played or coached sports can describe their almost magnetic pull. For the 42-year-old father of three, being away from a game to which he’s dedicated his life wasn’t easy.
“I got the itch,” McMahon said.
Last week, that itch led McMahon back to the place he calls home.
The Mahopac High School alum and basketball standout was named head coach of the varsity basketball team at the Aug. 22 Board of Education meeting.
It will be his second go-round with the program.
He previously coached Mahopac High School for two seasons (2005-2007) but stepped away after the birth of his third son.
“At that point, I felt I really needed to focus on my family,” said McMahon, an eighth-grade English teacher at Mahopac Middle School since 2002.
But basketball was in his veins. He had been coaching at the junior varsity level in North Salem and Mahopac since 1998. Before that he played for Mahopac, winning a league title.
Five of his last 10 years away from Mahopac were spent leading St. John the Evangelist’s Catholic Youth Organization basketball program.
Asked last year to return to Mahopac basketball in some capacity, McMahon declined because his sons were on the junior varsity and varsity teams.
“I had coached [my sons] all through their youth and they didn’t want their dad coming back and messing up their high school experience,” McMahon said.
Though McMahon declined the district’s invitation, “It did get the wheels turning a bit.”
When head coach Matthew Simone left the varsity program three months ago to pursue other coaching opportunities, it opened the door for McMahon’s return.
“This was an opportunity for me to get back involved,” said McMahon, who “let the coaches know I’d be interested in coming on the staff in some capacity.”
“Then,” he said, “literally everyone left.”
Just like that, Mahopac had no basketball coaches.
“You go from wanting to be a part of a program to there being no adults left in the program,” McMahon said.
With the blessing of his kids, McMahon pursued the varsity head coaching gig, which was made official last week.
In describing his expectations for the 2019-20 season, McMahon kept returning to one word: “Compete.”
“I’m a believer that competition in practice makes everyone better,” McMahon said. “I don’t want anybody getting comfortable. I want guys competing for spots.”
And with just four returning players, including his son, Matthew, “We’re going to have a lot of turnover, a lot of spots up for grabs.”
“We need to be grinders, we need to be hard-nosed,” McMahon said.
But most of all, “My biggest goal is we compete.”
The 2019-20 basketball season begins the first week of December.