McGann-Mercy names new athletic director

John Lonardo will leave his post as athletic director at SUNY/Old Westbury in order to accept the position as Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School’s athletic director, the Riverhead Catholic school announced. Lonardo will take over his new office on Aug. 1.

During Lonardo’s 11-year tenure at SUNY/Old Westbury, he instituted changes that resulted in bringing the university to the forefront of Long Island athletic venues, including the opening of the Jackie Robinson Athletic Complex in 2006.  This complex is considered to be one of the premier baseball facilities on Long Island.

In addition to serving as SUNY/Old Westbury’s athletic director, Lonardo also served as the school’s head baseball coach. He is Old Westbury’s all-time leader in wins with a record of 271-199-3. He has developed numerous all-league players, with three of his players signing professional baseball contracts.

An active member of the Long Island Sports Commission and the NCAA Division III Chairman Committee, he has also received numerous awards for his efforts, including Louisville Slugger Coach of the Year, Knickerbocker Conference Coach of the Year and Skyline Coach of the Year.

Lonardo succeeds Paula Nickerson, who re-retired after serving as McGann-Mercy’s athletic director for the past three years. Nickerson had originally retired as Middle Country’s athletic director before coming to McGann-Mercy.

But this retirement hasn’t taken, either. Nickerson has accepted a post as an interim assistant elementary school principal in South Huntington. She also teaches a graduate course at Stony Brook University, and hasn’t ruled out returning to athletic administration.

“I wasn’t ready to retire [three years ago] and I’m still not ready to retire,” she said.

Nickerson, whose career in education spans 38 years, said she forged deep relationships during her time at McGann-Mercy and developed an appreciation for the students.

“I have never worked with such wonderful, dedicated, student-athletes in my life,” she said. “They care about the school. There’s such Mercy spirit there.”

During Nickerson’s tenure, she initiated the New York State Scholar/Athlete Team Award, the Gold Key Award, and the Suffolk Zone Award for high school and middle school students for McGann-Mercy’s students. In 2010, she opened the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Since Nickerson arrived at McGann-Mercy, five new teams were created — in boys spring track, boys winter track, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and junior varsity cheerleading. Under Nickerson’s direction, McGann-Mercy has risen to rank third among Suffolk County’s 61 high schools in sportsmanship.

A McGann-Mercy spokeswoman, Robin Bay, said, “We wish her well as she continues to inspire others to grow.”

Speaking of Lonardo, McGann-Mercy’s principal, Carl Semmler, said in a statement that “as important as his accomplishments and accolades are, what makes Mr. Lonardo a true fit for the McGann-Mercy family is his understanding and commitment to cultivating the student-athlete. His recognition that success in athletics can go hand in hand with academic achievement and his proven track record at Old Westbury ensures that our standards of excellence for the McGann-Mercy student-athletes will be respected and protected.”

Lonardo holds a master of arts in school counseling from Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus and a bachelor of science in physical education from Queens College. He also recently completed an internship in administrative leadership with the Cold Spring Harbor School District.