By Jen Toland, Telegram & Gazette Staff
Paul Phillips' friendship with Steve Manguso has spanned about 25 years, through their association at the Central Mass. Invitational Camp and in their roles as vital members of the area basketball community — Phillips at Clark University and Manguso at Milford High.
In addition to their love and knowledge of basketball, they share a similar sense of humor, and they often joked about someday working together.
"He said, 'I'm going to retire and come coach with you so I can hang out with Gramps (Clark assistant Mike Burlas),'?" Phillips said. "And so we kidded."
The conversation turned a bit more serious at the start of the school year when Peter Mugar, Phillips' associate head coach the last five years, left Clark to take the same position at Salem State.
"I immediately called Steve," Phillips said.
Manguso, who was about to begin his 31st season with the Milford boys' team, initially turned down Phillips' offer.
"I had no intention of leaving (Milford)," Manguso said. "I thought about it, talked to my dad about it, and a couple weeks later, I called Paul back to see if the position was still open."
Manguso stepped down from his post at Milford in early September and assumed the role of associate head coach at Clark. His dedication, expertise and personality have been a great addition to a Clark staff that also includes Phillips' longtime assistants and confidantes, Tyrone Hicks and Burlas, as well as Pat Oroszko and John Ginnity, both of whom played for Phillips at Clark.
"Coaching at the college level seemed like it would be fun," Manguso said. "If I waited a couple years, I don't know if something would have been open. It seemed like the right fit and I'm very happy."
Manguso, 60, retired from teaching three years ago, but continued his successful coaching career and guided the Scarlet Hawks to the Central Mass. Division 1 championship last season.
Phillips recruited two players from that team — Joe Atkinson and David Mercier, both freshmen at Clark this year. Trevor Walker, who also played for Manguso at Milford, was a standout player for the Cougars about 10 years ago.
Manguso, known to his friends as "Goose," won 435 games at Milford, captured 12 Mid-Wach A titles, and took the team to the state final in 1996. He was inducted into the Milford High Hall of Fame last Saturday.
At Clark, he is assisting in all facets of the program, including practice preparation, player development, and recruiting.
"It's Paul's team," Manguso said, "and I'm there to help him, to help the kids, and to help Clark basketball."
Phillips, who is one year younger than Manguso, is in his 16th season with the Cougars. He is enjoying having Manguso on the bench.
"For me, it's like I'm reborn," Phillips said. "I'm having an absolute blast this year. As much as Goose and I are alike, we do things a little differently, but it feeds into what we're doing. The kids love him and I can tell they love him. I've learned a lot from him in a little amount of time."
The mostly young and inexperienced Cougars won their first two games of the season. They played at Fitchburg State Tuesday night.