IND's Hahn eager to see familiar faces at The Game

Coach has been looking forward to Friday's 45th annual matchup with Mercy since agreeing to return to Indians' sideline after 18-year absence

February 03, 2011|By Katherine Dunn, The Baltimore Sun

Jerry Hahn is looking forward to a family reunion Friday night.

It's been 18 years since he coached the Institute of Notre Dame girls basketball team in The Game, the annual showdown with Mercy at Towson Center. Last year, The Game drew nearly 5,000 fans; it is regularly the highest-drawing girls sporting event in the Baltimore area.

With just as many people expected to gather for the 45th edition at 7:30 on Friday night, Hahn is bound to run into a few folks he hasn't seen in a while.

"It's one of the greatest traditions going in girls sports," Hahn said. "Everyone comes to it, and to me, it's not just a basketball game, it's like a family reunion. Both sides. You have aunts and uncles. You have alumnae come. You have different coaches. You have the players. [In working as a community supervisor for the Baltimore County Recreation and Parks Department], we have all these people wanting to have reunions in our parks, and that's what this game comes down to."

Hahn, 59, coached the Indians from 1982 to 1993, winning one Catholic League tournament championship and two regular-season titles. He left because of a conflict with his day job but returned in 2009 to coach the JV. Last fall, he took over the varsity team, which includes his daughter Jennifer.

When he returned, one of the things he looked forward to most was being back on the sideline at The Game.

"I remember when it was played at the Civic Center after a Bullets game. This goes back to when I was in high school [at Archbishop Curley] and I used to go down there. The guys, we'd go down there and we'd say, "Why are these girls crying at the end of the game," whoever lost? We said, "It's only a basketball game," but to them it was so, so important."

This year's game is no less important even though the teams have only three wins between them. IND is 2-15, and the Magic is 1-15. Mercy's win came over IND, 37-25, in December, but after Friday night, no one will remember that game.

"It's still a big game for our kids even though we're not having a very successful year, because they're never going to experience anything else like this in their lives," Mercy coach Mary Ella Marion said. "We're 1-15, and regardless of how we did against them in December, teams get better and you have to be ready and block out the distractions as best you can."

What's happened up to this point doesn't really matter.

"It's always been, and Mary Ella knows the same thing, throw out the records," Hahn said. "Of course this year, we're both at the bottom. What's that mean?. Why do you get so many people with teams that are playing like that? They can be competitive."

The last time Hahn, who was inducted into the IND Hall of Fame in 1999, coached in The Game, the Indians won 42-41 on Kortni Webb's free throw with 10 seconds left. That victory ended a four-game Mercy winning streak in the series.

The Magic, which leads the series, 28-16, also comes into this year's game riding a four-game winning streak. IND had won four in a row before that.

Hahn remembers when Marion started using poster-board signs to let the player know what offense to run or what defense to use because, with all the noise, players cannot hear their coaches' instructions

Marion, who has known Hahn since she played college basketball at Loyola, doesn't remember a particular highlight of their coaching rivalry in The Game, but she said it was toward the end of his tenure that the game began to sell out Reitz Arena at Loyola. In 1997, it was moved to the Towson Center to accommodate the larger crowds.

She said she is glad to renew their rivalry.

"I know what kind of person he is in terms of teaching the girls not just about the sport of basketball, but about life. To me, that's always great for women's athletics," Marion said. "I think that's what we all try to do, but nowadays, it's more about the wins and losses than about the life lessons. For me, it's nice to see someone get involved again with the game who is about that."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

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