Manitta takes Manhattan

By Mark Kitchin

Morriscountylacrosse

Steve Manitta already had good vibes after interviewing for the Manhattan College men’s lacrosse coaching position, but it was the former Chatham coach’s chance meeting with an old friend afterwards that made him believe that something special might be at work.

Manitta was named the new coach of the Division I Jaspers on Monday, succeeding 15-year coach Tim McIntee. The former Roxbury High and Chatham High lacrosse coach has been toiling for the last three years to establish the fledgling Mercy College lacrosse program. Manitta was hired by Manhattan on Friday but had a strange feeling that the job might be his long before that.

“Its karma really,’’ Manitta said. “It was a weird co-incidence. I didn’t know Billy Walsh had been there. When I was interviewing with the athletic director, he noticed that I coached at Chatham and he mentioned Billy.’’

Walsh was a soccer star at Chatham, who also played at Virginia and Rutgers as well as the U.S, Olympic soccer team in 1996. He coached at the high school level and later on at Manhattan while still playing professionally for the Major League Soccer’s MetroStars.

“The next day I went to grab a cup of coffee at the Dunkin Donuts in Chatham,’’ Manitta said. “I turned around and there he was. I said, ‘Billy, I’m going to blow your mind.’ He told me he liked coaching at Manhattan and had nothing but good things to say about the place.’’

The weekend has pretty much been a whirlwind for Manitta. He spent much of his time on the phone either thanking the players and recruits he was leaving at Mercy or introducing himself to his new players at Manhattan. On Sunday, he had a little fun doing the announcements for the Under-19 National Team exhibition that was held in Mountain Lakes against a group of New Jersey All-Stars.

Manitta said leaving Mercy College was a difficult decision to make. He was the first coach of the Division II program located in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., which recently completed its third year of existence. He moves on with a 22-20 record including an 11-3 mark in 2011. Last year the Mavericks were 6-7.

“I was sorry to leave but I was very happy I (started the program),’’ said Manitta, who also experienced starting a lacrosse program on the high school level at Roxbury. “Quite obviously Manhattan gave me the opportunity because of my work there and I couldn’t have been more thankful. We were successful in one of the most competitive conferences in the nation and to mix it up with some of those schools is an experience.’’

Manitta was happy to add that some of his Mercy College assistants will be joining him. Matt Nealis, a former Chatham player, who has been coaching the defense and has had great success with his man down squads, has agreed to make the move. Sal Marinella, an expert in athletic conditioning also dating back to the Chatham High days, will join him on the Jaspers staff.

Manitta expects a smooth transition. Although Manhattan, which finished last season with a 5-9 mark including 1-5 in the MAAC, recruits at the Division I level Manitta is very familiar with the areas that Manhattan has traditionally drawn its players. He has also been pleasantly surprised at the notoriety he’s received from his years coaching the Chatham High program.

Manitta compiled a 115-47 record with the Cougars from 2001-2008. Many of his high school players went on to become All-Americans, captains and influential players on their respective teams.

“You don’t realize the impact the program has made until you talk to other people,’’ Manitta said. “The Bill Eisenreich’s, the Pete Coleman’s, the Keating family — they started and played at a high level. A lot of people recognize the Chatham program and what it stands for. I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it.’’

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About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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