Lewinger passes coach job

Garden City residents Maura and Joe Lewinger hold their 3-year-old twins Jack and Madison for a photo with Santa. Photo by Christina Santucci
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JoAnn Arbitello’s cellphone rang as she was walking through the aisles at BJ’s two weeks ago and Joe Lewinger was on the other line. When she picked up, the Mary Louis athletic director informed her he was retiring as varsity girls’ basketball coach and promoting her to do the job.

“I said, ‘What?’” she said of hearing the news. “I forgot half the stuff I had to get.”

Lewinger, who spent 11 seasons on the bench, is stepping way for good to concentrate on his administrative duties as the school’s athletic director and as the CHSAA girls’ soccer JV commissioner and intersectional coordinator. He felt he wouldn’t be able to devote his full attention to both jobs and believed the people he worked for deserved nothing less.

He took two leaves of absences in the last four seasons to focus on his twins Madison’s and Jack’s battle with cancer. Both are healthy now and had no bearing on his decision.

“It just seemed like it is time,” Lewinger said. “That’s what I said to myself. ‘It is time.’”

Arbitello, a Mary Louis alumna, is getting through some health issues in her own family. Her father Joe has been in and out of the hospital after having part of his leg amputated. It kept her away from her role as assistant coach during the preseason.

Her return last week and with her dad’s situation improving made Lewinger reassess things. He could not think of a better person to hand the program over to. Arbitello, whose brother Joe is the Christ the King boys’ hoops coach, spent five seasons as the school’s junior varsity coach and won its first CHSAA JV city title last season.

“She is a championship-caliber coach,” Lewinger said. “As an athletic director it is a luxury to have someone of her level and pedigree in house.”

The fact that it caught Arbitello off guard did not allow her to enjoy it right away, she said. It sunk in Monday when Lewinger told the players of the move. She is excited about taking over such an established program, one that has been to three of the last four CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I title games.

They could be in a rebuilding mode this season after the transfer of top sophomores Mei-Lyn Bautista, Jordan Agustus and McKayla Hernandez to St. Mary’s (L.I.).

Lewinger said her enthusiasm for the job has made it even easier on him and they both expect an easy transition since a number of the players played for Arbitello on the JV level are with her Positive Direction travel team. Her brother Rob will serve as her assistant.

“The philosophies between me and Joe are the same,” she said. “The transition is going to be very smooth.”

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Reader Feedback

Lou from Bayside says:
Retired ? or pushed out after losing four promising players ! Maybe he had a poor attitude!
Dec. 1, 2012, 7 pm

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