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March 10, 2013

McVeigh leaves after 31 years at North Andover

LOWELL — Something wasn’t the same a few minutes after the North Andover High boys basketball team, one of the state’s top 10 teams for much of this winter, lost a tough game to Brighton High yesterday, 64-59, at the Tsongas Center.

Knights coach Mike McVeigh was hugging several friends and family members, including his wife Jackie, daughter Erin and son John after the game. These weren’t consoling hugs after a tough loss. These were longer and firmer hugs ... the kind you see after a life-changing event.

Well, a few minutes later after leaving the locker room, McVeigh repeated to a dozen writers what he had told his team.

“I am retiring as coach,” said McVeigh, who still had a tear on the outside of his left eye.

Wow.

Surprising? Not really. McVeigh has been doing this for 31 years. He retired as a teacher at North Andover High a few years ago.

But after doing one of his best jobs this winter in his illustrious career with the Knights — 497-176 record — it caught a few of us off guard.

“I decided about two months ago,” said McVeigh, whose last team finished 19-5 while making it to yesterday’s Division 2 North sectional final. “I had a great talk with my team. I told them, as a veteran coach, I know how hard this meeting is after a (state tournament) loss. I could see the hurt in their eyes. I told them they had a right to be hurt.”

Talk about going out on top.

McVeigh admitted a particular piece of breaking news last year probably ensured he had at least one year left in him. That was when it was decided North Andover High, after 40 years in the Cape Ann League, would be re-joining the Merrimack Valley Conference.

He needed to be there on the sidelines as this group entered uncharted waters.

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