NORTH ANDOVER — My son Kyle never bounced a basketball for Mike McVeigh, never put on a North Andover uniform and never hit the game-winning shot for the legendary coach.
But, in McVeigh’s eyes, Kyle — the team manager for three years — was as important to the program as the leading scorer or the game’s top rebounder.
In a day and age when winning is often looked upon as sport’s most important factor, McVeigh gave us the best of both worlds — winning and caring. During his 31 years as the leader of North Andover’s boys basketball program, McVeigh’s goal was to help each person realize their potential and to realize their importance, not only for the program but in life.
Mike McVeigh (1970 Merrimack College grad) retired last week as North Andover’s basketball coach following a 31-year run that included 497 wins and four appearances in the Division 2 sectional finals.
The latest sectional championship game was a week ago yesterday. McVeigh announced his retirement following North Andover’s 64-59 loss to Brighton, at Tsongas Arena.
“Coach McVeigh accepted me as part of the team and treated me just like a player,” said Kyle, 18, now a freshman at Bridgewater State University and the manager of the Bears’ men’s basketball team. “He never played favorites and showed the same amount of respect for everyone on the team.
“He has been a big influence in my life and I would not be where I am today without him,” said the communications major. “He cares about his players and managers well after graduation. I know he will always be there for me and for all of us.”
As Kyle and I were driving to the Division 2 North title game, I asked him, “What do you miss most about high school?”
Kyle answered immediately: “My three years managing the basketball team.”
That team, like many North Andover basketball teams, was a special group and Mike McVeigh was the bonding for each team.
As seniors, Kyle, Zach Karalis, Colby Smith, Mike Moroney, Jim Warden and John Miller led the Knights to a 21-2 record and advancement to the D2 North semifinals.
“Coach McVeigh is a huge influence in my life on and off the court,” said Karalis, the team MVP during his junior and senior seasons.
“He taught me valuable life lessons that I will carry with me forever. There is no coach who cares about his players like he does and he truly loves all of them.
“Coach McVeigh is one of the biggest role models that I have ever had. I owe a lot to coach for everything that he has done for me.”
Karalis just completed his freshman year at WPI and helped the Engineers to the D3 NCAA round of 32. The former Knight guard averaged 10.1 points and 22.8 minutes for WPI (26-3) and had the buzzer-beater shot to defeat Babson (66-64) and send his team to the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) championship game.
As a senior for North Andover, Karalis averaged 15.9 ppg, 6.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
“It was an honor to play for coach McVeigh for three years,” said Moroney, who averaged 9.8 points and 6.6 rebounds as a senior. “He taught me so much about basketball but he also taught me so many life lessons. North Andover basketball is losing a great coach and a great man.”
On a personal note: Thank you, Mike, not only for what you did for Kyle but for what you did for the North Andover basketball program. Your stamp will be on the program forever. You not only brought kids together, but you assured that they will remain together for many years to come.
Enjoy your well-deserved retirement!