2005-01-28 / Sports

Mackey Keeps Christ The King On Top

By Elio Velez

On December 23, 2004, Bob Mackey’s Christ the King Lady Royals faced a huge task. Playing their fourth straight game at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, they not only were tired but had to play Piedmont, California. They were ranked by USA Today at that time as the #1 team in the country.

“It was our fourth game in four days and the kids were exhausted but they dug deep in the end,” Mackey said. “We hung in there and in the fourth quarter we came out and played one of our best quarters”

Piedmont found out how good the Royals really are. With time running out, talented sophomore guard Lorin Dixon nailed a jumper with 3.3 seconds left to break a 42-42 tie. When they won 44-42, USA Today installed Christ the King, who was ranked #2 entering the tournament, the #1 spot in the country. They’ve been there ever since.

Dixon isn’t the only talented player on the Royals. The 16-0 Royals are stacked up and down the roster. Senior forward Careem Gay, a McDonalds’ All-American nominee, is bound for Duke. At 6 foot 4, junior center Tina Charles is quickly growing into a dominant player who can block shots, rebound and finish inside the paint. Christ the King also contains many talented bench players to spell the starters.

But a talented team can’t coach itself. They need someone to be the teacher and Christ the King has the man who contains the qualities needed to do both. His name is Bob Mackey.

In his sixth season as head coach and fifteenth year overall at Christ the King, his record is an outstanding 162-14.

The former Rockaway native, who has many family members in Belle Harbor, coached players well known in this area as Clare Droesch and Tricia Tubridy.

In Mackey’s first two years at the head job, both players helped lead the Royals to the New York State Federation Championship in 1999 and 2000. The Royals have won six consecutive Brooklyn/Queens and New York City Catholic championships.

Mackey also coached Sue Bird who starred at the University of Connecticut and the WNBA’s Seattle Storm. Many players have passed through the program to achieve basketball and academic success in numerous Division I and Division II college programs.

Any fan watching a Royals game can identify Mackey as the coach and it is evident from the start of the game.

He wears a customary sweater vest. In the course of a game, he’ll never sit down. Mackey walks up and down the Royals bench with his arms folded and is very vocal with encouragement, corrections or instructions.

The basketball passion that is so visible to everyone started for Mackey when he was a student at St. Francis De Sales.

“We were gym rats. We loved it. It’s a great place if you want to play basketball, there’s nothing better.”

During the day, Mackey and his friends could play in the gym or the St. Francis Courts across the street.

Mackey was happy but he wanted to play at night so he snuck into the gym. St. Francis wasn’t too happy with that but a solution was found to solve the problem.

“Father Bracken gave me a key to the gym in the seventh grade. He was tired of us breaking through the window. We played ball at night. He got tired, showed up at the house one night and he told us we would be in charge,” Mackey said.

Classroom Success

Basketball is part of Mackey’s blood. The wins are great on the court but the academic scholarships are just as great. This is what makes his job fun and thrilling.

“These kids work very hard and off the court. Careem Gay is not going to Duke because she’s just a great player. She has a 98 average in the classroom and over 1000 on the SAT.”

“It’s great to hear about Clare Doresch and her success at Boston College and in the classroom,” Mackey says.

“Trish (Tubridy) had a great career at Harvard and she will do well anywhere she goes. Catherine Tubridy is in her last year at (NYU) Downstate and Doctor Tubridy soon to be.

It’s not just the stars that get the accolades. It’s a team effort Mackey stresses that wins games. An example of that is Marissa Pace, who lived every summer in the Rockaways before graduating in 2001.

“She’s a great kid who graduated from West Point, did a tour in Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. Those are the success stories you live for, it’s just not putting the ball in the basket. That’s what you want to see.”

The Christ the King program is not just led by Mackey, who is also Dean of Students. It’s group effort that works well together and has the Belle Harbor connection with Athletic Director Carolann Timpone, Director of Guidance Jim Vitale and assistant coach Jill Cook. Cook scored more than 1,000 points at the school as a player.

Tough Schedule

Christ the King plays arguably one of the toughest schedules in the country. Their non-league schedule features top teams from all over the country.

The league schedule features city rivals like Bishop Kearney, Molloy and Mary Louis. Mackey does it to challenge his team to play their best for the whole season.

“I want to find somebody earlier in the schedule to beat us. If there is a team out there that is really good, I want to play them earlier and in the season. It prepares us for what we got to do in the playoffs,” Mackey said.

The New York State championship is the one title that has eluded the Royals’ grasp for two years. That’s because a talented Murray Bergtraum has beaten them upstate in Glens Falls.

Mackey says the team hasn’t focused on those losses because they all believe this is a new year with new possibilities. There is no looking ahead towards a possible third matchup. They have to get upstate first and that is Mackey’s main goal.

There are long days throughout the season and he can log in more than 12 hour days at the school and coaching. What makes it a rewarding experience is that his wife Kelly and daughter Kerry support his passion for basketball. It’s a just another award for a job well done.

“I put in a long day. I’m here usually by 6 (a.m.) and there’s a lot of nights that I don’t get out of here until 8 p.m. but I love the game,” Mackey said.

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