Jim Fennell's NH College Notebook: After 27 years, Polak calls it quits as SNHU AD
Southern New Hampshire University Director of Athletics Chip Polak prepares to throw the ceremonial first pitch prior to the start of the first night game in the history of the school in March. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)
THIRTY-SIX years is a long time at one place. For Chip Polak, that's long enough.
Polak, 62, will be retiring at the end of the month after 36 years at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, the last 27 as the director of athletics.
"I grew up here," Polak said.
Polak went through treatment for prostate cancer this summer and never returned to the college after the fall semester started. He said he began thinking of retirement while he was on leave and decided he would step down.
"I'm fine, but when you have something like that, you really get to thinking," Polak said. "Do I still want to be (in the office) six, seven days a week? I love the competition, but the answer is probably not."
Polak said the investigation into financial mismanagement by Ray Prouty, his former assistant who was the university's budget manager at the time, earlier this year had nothing to do with his decision.
Polak's said his last day will officially be Monday, Dec. 31, but he said he decided not to go back into the office once the semester started and he was still on leave.
"I didn't want to go back for a little while and be gone again," Polak said. "It would have been disruptive."
SNHU spokesperson Gregg Mazzola said at the time of Polak's leave of absence that Heather Lorenz, dean of student affairs, would be the interim athletics director.
Polak said he was not sure when the search for a new athletics director would be complete, but he does not expect to be involved in the process.
"The place is in great shape," Polak said.
Polak said he doesn't rule out returning to college athletics again, "but this is what's best for me now."
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QUICK CAREER CHANGE: Corey Muscara wasn't planning to leave the Southern New Hampshire University baseball program any time soon. The Manchester native was content being part of a program that was on the cusp of a national championship last year, a valued assistant for Penmen coach Scott Loiseau who served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator.
But that changed late last month when St. John's University lost pitching coach Scott Brown to Vanderbilt. Brown told St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer he should talk with Muscara as a possible replacement.
Blankmeyer did, and he ended up offering Muscara the job. The whole process took less than two weeks.
"It happened so fast," said Muscara, who calls Brown a mentor. "I left a Division I program (Binghamton) for Southern New Hampshire, so it wasn't DI or bust for me. I wasn't looking to leave, but St. John's has been the top program in the East for the past 10 years."
Muscara said he plans to recruit players similar to the ones he recruited at SNHU. He calls them under the radar types who have a high upside. He feels the Northeast, including New Hampshire, is a great place to find players.
Muscara leaves feeling good about helping SNHU, which advanced to the Division II World Series last year, transform into one of the top small college programs in the East.
"I think they're going to be better than this past year," Muscara said.
SNHU didn't look far to find Muscara's replace. St. Anselm assistant Pat Austin will be joining Loiseau's staff.
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THREE AMIGOS: Two years ago, Jamie Holder, Mike O'Laughlin and Mike Mitchell helped lead Milford High to the second of consecutive Division II titles in basketball. The three grew up playing together and formed the core of a team that dominated the division for two years.
Then they went their separate ways.
It's taken each a little while, but it seems like they have found their place in the college basketball world.
After doing a year at Notre Dame Prep, Holder is at Concordia College in Bronxville, N.Y. The freshman guard moved into the starting lineup after five games and quickly made the most of his opportunity, scoring 16 points in a 94-89 win over Southeastern Oklahoma.
After getting limited time last year at Trinity College, O'Laughlin transferred to Wheaton College and starts there, averaging 13 points a game. Will Bayliss of Manchester (Central) and Scott Faucher of Lebanon, by the way, are the team captains.
Mitchell has had the most settled situation, now in his second year at SUNY-Plattsburgh. After playing in all 26 games as a freshman, Mitchell moved into the starting lineup this season and is averaging 3.6 points and 3.0 assists. In a recent game at Keene State, Mitchell had five points, six assists and four steals in a 70-64 win.
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THE BEYOND THE BORDERS SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON: Emilee Marro of Bedford (Trinity). Marro has followed up an impressive freshman season for the Regis College women's basketball team with what is shaping up as an even better sophomore campaign. The 5-foot-7 guard went into Saturday's game against Elms College averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Marro started 27 games last year for the Pride, who went 21-6, finished first in the NECC during the regular season and was invited to the ECAC Division III tournament.
Jim Fennell's weekly New Hampshire College Notebook appears weekly in the New Hampshrie Sunday News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.