Jen Critchley, an accomplished attorney in commercial litigation and Verona youth team coach, has been selected as new girls basketball coach at Mount St. Dominic in Caldwell. (photos courtesy of Mount St. Dominic & Jeff Stiefbold)
Mount Creative In Its Approach
With Hiring Of New Hoops Coach
By Steve Tober
CALDWELL- It is now more than a generation since all-time great Anne Giblin helped lead coach Deb Malmgren’s Mount St Dominic Lions to the 1994 NJSIAA Tournament of Champions title and at times it feels like a lifetime for the hoops faithful from the long-standing Caldwell-based Catholic school.
A lot has happened since that memorable Mount accomplishment on the hardwood at Princeton's Jadwin Gym, such as the Lions copping their only Essex County Tournament title the following season in '95 and then Shabazz proceeding to rule Essex County girls basketball for 15 years in the 2000's and suburban Essex schools - for the most part - no longer being bona fide challengers for either a county or state title.
Schools such as the Mount have still produced some very representable teams, including several editions under coach Jerry Aquino; however, any thoughts of seriously challenging for the top prize in New Jersey high school girls hoops has become just a wonderful memory.
Still the show must go on, and the quest for excellence and attempting to produce productive players while developing talent on and off the Mary Jo Codey Gymnasium court continues in the home of the Lions who had a very youthful contingent last winter which came the closest to finishing .500 (at 12-14) since the school’s last winning team in 2012-2013 (14-13) as Dave Mead completed his 4-year run of guiding the Mount hoopsters.
Where to turn for the next head coach had to be a vexing question for veteran athletic director Lorenzo Sozio who is also head coach for the school’s highly-successful softball team.
Should he hire one of the veteran, former high school coaches who seem to always be out there in North Jersey and simply give it another whirl with a familiar formula, or should he make a move out-of-that-comfortable box and be a bit more imaginative and perhaps creative at the same time in choosing someone who knows the game but is fresh to the high school hardwood?
Welcome Jen Critchley to Mount girls hoops!
A former, accomplished Chatham High School and Colgate University player with a wealth of experience coaching youth level basketball, Critchley brings a solid hoops background to what will be a brand- new adventure for her and the Mount sports community.
“We’re very excited to bring Jen aboard as our new girls basketball coach,” said Sozio. “We’re impressed with her knowledge of the game and her enthusiasm to lead a young group of players we have returning next season.
“We’re always seeking to hire talented and well-rounded people here at the Mount and Jen brings a lot to the table as someone who can set a great example both on and off the court for our girls.”
For Critchley, who already has plenty on her plate with a busy professional and family life, the chance to coach at the high school level, and at a top girls Catholic school like the Mount, was simply too enticing not to pursue.
“It’s not something that a few months ago I thought I would be doing, but I knew I wanted to explore the opportunity when it came up,” said Critchley, whose full-time job is as a commercial litigation attorney with Connell Foley in Roseland. “With what we’ve all been through with the COVID-19 virus it simply makes you further realize how you can’t take anything for granted in life, and I strongly believe you should seek to try and do the things you feel you’d love to do.
“I know that one day I would like to be a judge, and my family is the most important thing to me; but, I also have a strong feeling about wanting to continue to coach basketball, and I am thrilled to now have this opportunity to work with such a great group of student-athletes at Mount St. Dominic.”
Critchley’s husband, Kieran Quinn, a native of Ireland, is another youth basketball coach in the family and also played at the collegiate level at Post University in Connecticut. The couple reside in Verona with their three children, daughters Sydney, 13, and Mairead, 5, and son Kieran Jr., 11.
Sydney has been a member of the youth girls basketball teams in Verona that her parents have helped guide to much success on a local level.
This past winter season both Jen and Kieran, along with Michelle Frungillo, guided Verona’s seventh-grade team to an undefeated record and the Suburban Essex League championship, the second of two titles a Critchley-coached team has won.
Critchley has coached numerous other youth travel and town teams in both Verona and Caldwell/West Caldwell in addition to coaching youth lacrosse and being one of the people behind the growth of the Verona field hockey program as it got off the ground at both the youth and high school levels.
A graduate of Seton Hall University’s School of Law and a busy attorney for the past two decades, Critchley will certainly enjoy the time she can devote to being a guiding force for a promising Mount hoops program.
The Lions had an all-underclassmen roster last winter when they competed well in the Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division, and as a 10th seed won a first round Non-Public, North A state tournament game before falling to second-seeded Hudson Catholic in the sectional quarterfinals.
Among the players due back next winter are rising junior guards Juliet Howell (11.5 points per game last season to lead the team in scoring) Alexa Murphy (7.6 ppg) and Amanda Micciche (6.1 ppg) and junior forward Jade Larkin (6.9 ppg) along with senior forward Bianca Coltenback (5.8 ppg) and sophomore guard Mia Barone (5.0 ppg).
“I look forward to getting started with the girls, and we will see what we can do in terms of off-season conditioning together once July 13 (Phase 1 of the NJSIAA’s COVID-19 Return To Play Task Force) arrives,” said Critchley. “I want to take what I’ve learned about this great game and try and help our players become the best they can be.
“Basketball opens doors and also teaches you so much about teamwork with lessons you can take into so many different areas of life.”
NOTES- Critchley is friendly with some talented women from the game of basketball she can bounce ideas off of and continue to learn from including former New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year and ex-University of Virginia star Kristen Somogyi and former Seton Hall University women’s head coach Phyllis Mangina…Critchley is the second female since Malmgren to be a head basketball coach at the Mount. Another woman who also guided the Lions since Malmgren was Kiki Enderle...Malmgren left the Mount in '95 to become the athletic director and girls hoops coach at Kent Place…Critchley played under Dave Shearman at Chatham, one of the coaches who guided the Cougars prior to the arrival of current head coach Joe Gaba…Critchley’s athletic director at Colgate was Mark Murphy, who has gone on to front office positions in the NFL including currently with the Green Bay Packers…The Mount has won 10 or more games just twice (last winter and 10-15 in 2017-2018) in the past seven seasons.
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
Kieran Quinn and wife Jen Critchley are seen in back of their children, from left, son Kieran, Jr., and daughters Mairead and Sydney. Husband and wife were part of coaching staff for a successful Verona 7th grade team this past winter and Critchley is now the new head coach at Mount St. Dominic. (Photos by Jeff Stiefbold-see www.jstiefbold.smugmug.com)
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