After guiding the Woodland High girls swim team to the Naugatuck Valley League crown in early November, Mike Magas had all intentions of taking the winter off from coaching.
When Chris York resigned from Nonnewaug months earlier, the fledging co-ed program in only its fourth varsity season was left without too many options.
Magas took action after seeing a story in the Republican-American saying that the Chiefs were in dire need of a coach just two weeks before Thanksgiving.
“There were some people who reached out to me and said it was a desperate situation,” Magas said. “I don’t want to see a program fall apart. I contacted the athletic director, Declan Curtin, to talk to him and that day agreed to take over the program. I knew there was a deadline and it was literally a week before Thanksgiving. It’s all a blur.”
But since practice began, Magas has been getting his focus, and it’s pretty clear.
“We have 20 swimmers, which is a good number,” Magas said. “It’s not as a steep learning curve as I expected. It’s a smooth transition based on the quality of kids and their willingness to accept and be flexible with new changes. The kids have been flexible and they have some experience.”
A huge break came when Magas, who lives in Watertown and previously coached in the Watertown Park and Recreation program, was able to broker a deal with Watertown High’s administration to have practices at the high school for a fee.
Over the past three years, the team has trekked to Crosby High’s pool for non-meet nights, from 5 to 7 p.m. Now, Nonnewaug is practicing alongside Watertown’s team from 3 to 5 p.m.
“I reached out to Paul Catuccio (Watertown’s athletic director). He and the principal and their administration and their coach have been so welcoming and gracious,” Magas said. “They made it work and it all came together over a few days.”
Nonnewaug (0-1) will be idle until Jan. 4 when the Chiefs visit seven-time Berkshire League champion Northwestern at the Winsted YMCA.
A 1977 Naugatuck High graduate and All-NVL selection, Magas has coached the Woodland girls team for 16 years, beginning in 2004, and the Hawks’ boys squad from 2004-07. He was also the Watertown boys coach for six years, from 2009-15.