New subdued style suits Migneault just fine
The figure sitting at the end of the Rivier University men’s basketball bench looked out of place.
It wasn’t just because Jim Migneault was on the Raider bench in the Muldoon Center instead of at the Cardinal bench at the Bishop Guertin Colligidome.
It was because he was sitting down. For the entire recent game against New England College, with the exception of a couple of time outs.
Yikes. This wasn’t the fiery Migneault we knew at Merrimack, Raymond, and then Bishop Guertin. With those head jobs, he didn’t know where the bench was, constantly on his feet, communicating, often loudly, with his players.
But this Jim Migneault is an assistant, not the head guy, at Riv. That title most fittingly belongs to Lance Bisson, who can get just as crazy on the sidelines as Migneault used to. Of course, in the college game, you can get away with being a lot more demonstrative.
"I never sit," he said. "It’s something new. He’s (Bisson) got the game. I help him out on the bench. We talk a lot. It’s more like I’m a mentor type of role.
"I’ve enjoyed it, it’s fun. I’m getting a chance to work with all the kids."
Migneault last really worked extensively with college players during his pre-Merrimack days in Washington, D.C., working in summer leagues, one of them at Georgetown University.
But this is a new chapter for Migneault, 59, but probably a short term one. Once it was clear that he and the administration weren’t on the same page with the way he ran his program at Bishop Guertin, he did a very difficult thing. Rather than fight and try to convince the powers that be that his way was the right way, he saved everyone any possible drama by stepping down. New chapters get written, and Guertin hired a good coach in former Pelham head man Matt Regan.
It couldn’t have been easy for Migneault to move on. He’s a Guertin alum, Class of 1975. He compiled a 113-87 record at BG and coached the Cards to two state title games, winning one.
He was hired a decade ago when then-Athletic Director
Tony Johnson sought to have as many alums as possible coach at the school. Jimmy Migs was emotionally invested, so to jump before he was pushed because the Cards grew disenchanted with his tough love approach wasn’t easy.
"It was what I thought needed to happen," Migneault said of his departure. "I didn’t see where me and the principal there (Jason Strniste) were ever going to see eye-to-eye."
And it hurt.
"Quite a bit," he said. "I still have my daughter going to school there, it was my alma mater, I had been there. I planned on staying there until I was done. But, hey."
Yeah, but hey, life goes on. Migneault probably knew he was going to be coaching somewhere this year, and perhaps being an assistant at the local small college level can give him a chance to breathe and reassess. We all can use that at some point, right? Migneault admitted maybe it was time anyway.
Guertin went 7-15 last year and the last couple of seasons there, Migneault said, something was missing.
"I miss the kids," he said. "We had a lot of good years. I miss my old assistants. When we had Marty (Edwards) and Pete (Smilikis) and Clyde Boykin, we were a good staff for a long time."
But Smilikis reduced his involvement, Boykin went to North and Edwards took over at Berwick Academy in Maine.
"It just wasn’t the same synergy the last couple of years,"
He doesn’t have to worry about synergy at Rivier, where he seems to be a superb fit.
"It’s something different," Migneault said. "It’s keeping me in the game. (He and Bisson) actually talked that week in July. It was right away."
Migneault actually had a couple of opportunities elsewhere. He could have coached, he said, at New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI), and a couple of other spots helping out, but then Bisson called.
"Lance is a good young coach," Migneault said. "He’s got a lot of fire. He reminds me a lot of me when I was young. He’s got it in him. He wants to be a winner, he wants to teach these kids how to be winners. I think he’s going to be very good down the road."
Coincidentally, Migneault coached against his benchmates during his high school coaching stops.
Both Bisson and the other Raider assistant, Troy Bowen, were Nashua North standout teammates.
"This is a lot of fun for me," Migneault said. "I’m getting to work with both Lance and Troy. Those are kids that I coached against, so it’s fun for me, I enjoy it."
Migneault is a valuable pickup for Rivier. He’s well-connected, and although he doesn’t have to drive to all parts of the eastern region like a lot of college assistants, he has a local influence.
"You know I know a lot of kids in the area," he said. "So kids that are coming back from different schools, I’m talking to. It’s always nice to talk to the older kids, ones I’ve coached against or I coached. So I’m getting to talk to them, too, which is nice. We’re going to bring a few of them (to Riv)."
The guess here is Migneault will coach another high school team before all is said and done. He interviewed for the Manchester Central position (after longtime coach Doc Wheeler resigned) that eventually went to former Trinity coach Dave Keefe.
"If something were to open up," Migneault said, and he didn’t need to finish. "But if nothing opens, this (Riv) is really nice. My daughter still goes to BG. I’m working down on Elm Street. It’s a very, very good situation."
But Migneault still looks out of place in his quiet role. You know he must still have that coaching fire burning inside, waiting to come out again.
"Oh definitely," he said. "There’s no doubt about that. That’s not going to go away, not for a while. …
"It’s really hard for me to sit on that bench."
Hard to see him do it, too, but for now we at least still get to see Jim Migneault remain active in the game he loves.
Albeit a kinder, gentler, quieter Jim Migneault.
Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Telegraph_TomK.