Reluctant farewell to Vagge Gym

It looks like an old airplane hanger from the outside.

But inside, the Mario Vagge Gymnasium on the campus of Daniel Webster College is filled with history and memories.

Saturday will be another emotional day for Daniel Webster College athletics – perhaps the saddest next to whatever the last athletic contest played this spring will be.

The Eagle women’s hoop team wrapped up its final night at the Vagge on Thursday. The men’s basketball team will be playing its likely final home game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

It’s the end of a local sports era. When the Eagles announced way back in the late 1980s that they were going to become an NCAA-
sanctioned athletic program, basketball was the driving force.

They had their ups and downs. Overall it hasn’t been a winning program, with just four above-.500 campaigns in 30 years. But it certainly has been an entertaining one, the talent level so much better now. DWC men’s hoop was never dull.

The only coach of back-to-back winning seasons was John Griffith, who also was a longtime AD at the school but is now the athletic director at Pine Manor. DWC went 15-11 in 1996-97 and 16-10 the following season. Two players from those teams, Alex Morrison and center Steve Willis stand out as seventh and eighth on the all-time scoring list.

Griffith coached the team for seven seasons, the most of any Eagles hoop coach.

"I never would have thought that," he said the other day. "A lot of great memories. I remember those good teams, one year we went to Keene (State) and beat them; they had just dropped down to Division III, I think. That was really a great ride home."

Right behind Griffith in terms of success and longevity was former Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher with six straight seasons. Faucher was brought in by Rowe during his second tour in charge of the athletic program to end 10 years of futility – including an 0-25 in 2005-06 – and he did just that. His first team holds the best single-season record for the the program, going 18-10 in 2008-09, the campaign ending in a memorable packed Vagge Gym against city rival Rivier in an ECAC tourney tilt, albeit a losws.

That, plus the two Midnight Madness games versus Riv, are probably the most memorable. There was also Valentine’s Night some 20 years ago when yours truly was presented before the game with a dozen roses by then-Eagle and Riv ADs Phil Rowe and Joanne Merrill, after a column that said the Raider-Eagle rivalry was too mild-mannered.

Who can forget the 2014 Midnight Game video tribute and online live show of support given to former player Daris Cosby? He was paralyzed in an auto accident the summer of 2014. Cosby was a dazzling player and a fan favorite, sixth on the scoring list with 1,342 points.

There’s others who have been notable players. Ray Farmer, current Eagle forward, will be the final Nashua player to take the floor for the team. He’s 10th all time in scoring, and he’ll add to his total.

So many names. Eagle fans may remember the dynamic duo of Julian Black and JoJoe Stuart from the mid 1990s, or the hard-nosed scoring of the school’s leading all-time point guy, Mike Maggiacomo, who is expected to be on hand on Saturday. Or the program’s first notable, Mark Goodwin, from the early 1990s.

We can’t forget the women’s accomplishments, either. Greg Andruskevich and Cori Hughes each had six years at the helm; the Eagle women’s hoop program made the NCAA Division III tournament back in 2011, an incredible achievement.

The program’s best player had to be Vanessa Bosques, the all-time leading basketball scorer for both genders with 1,754 points. And also thanks for the memories, players like Nichol Dupont, Alycia Gervais, Katie Yeaton, Sheryl Arduino, just to name a few. Remember, former Nashua High School standout Kerry Welch coached the Eagles for their first official NCAA season on record, 1993-94. Ironically, the coach of the Londonderry team Welch’s Nashua Panthers used to torment, Andrea Woodbury, goes down in the books as the final DWC women’s coach.

Thus, we bid the Vagge a fond – and reluctant – farewell.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, or @Telegraph_TomK.