November 30, 2007

Harlem basketball coach encourages students to shoot for college

Source: New York Teacher


Pat Mangan

An English teacher by trade, a basketball coach by choice, Pat Mangan is a fixture at Frederick Douglass Academy, an academic jewel in the heart of Harlem.

"When you come here, we expect you to go to college," Mangan says. The school recently won a national Schott Foundation award for its high graduation rates for African-American students.

Mangan, a member of the United Federation of Teachers, encourages his students to score on the basketball court — and in the classroom.

In 2003, he began requiring every basketball player to maintain an 80 average to play on the school team. There are mandatory study halls in the fall before the season begins and tutoring sessions in the spring so every student in the program finishes the school year on solid footing. He requires the same sense of commitment from parents.

"We give the parents of our freshmen materials about the availability of EOP and HEOP funding so they know their child can go to college no matter the family's finances," he said. Within four years, "the parents are well-educated in what they need to have ready for college."

None of this is easy. Players with averages a decimal point below 80 have been forced to sit out big games. But it's a policy that brings positive results. All told, 55 of Mangan's former players have gone to college — 27 have played collegiate basketball.

"You can use basketball to motivate kids to do a lot better than they think they can do in the classroom," Mangan said.

He is committed to spreading the lessons he’s learned as a teacher, basketball coach and college mentor for students of color.

"I am eager to help coaches who have low-income students," he said. "If you know how to do a three-man passing drill, you also have to learn to get your kids into college." 

Along with several of his former players who are now professionals, Mangan is starting the A+B= CD Foundation — Academics and Basketball = College Degree — to help educators replicate his program in other high-need schools.

For more information, e-mail Mangan at pmangan@schools.nyc.gov; also, visit http://www.fdalions.org/.

— Bernie Mulligan