By Used with permission from the Boston Globe Online.
By John Vellante
It was a big week for University of Massachusetts athletic director Dana Skinner, women's basketball coach Kathy O'Neil , and men's and women's cross-country and track-and-field coach Gary Gardner .
First, Skinner and O'Neil were inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in ceremonies at the University of Rhode Island's Institution for International Sport. A day later, Gardner was named the Division 2 Women's Track and Field Coach of the Year by the New England Intercollegiate Track Coaches Association.
Skinner, now in his 10th year as athletic director, was a standout at Merrimack from 1975 to '78 and was drafted by the Boston Celtics his senior year. He scored 1,746 career points to rank sixth on the all-time Merrimack list, helped Merrimack earn two NCAA Tournament invitations, and was an All-American his senior year. In 1985, he became just the fourth men's basketball player to be inducted into the Merrimack Hall of Fame. Skinner is also a member of the Danvers High Athletic Hall of Fame.
After a brief playing career in the Continental Basketball Association, Skinner coached several years with the New England Gulls of the Women's Professional Basketball League, Bishop Fenwick High, and Salem State College before coming to UMass-Lowell in 1988.
O'Neil has compiled a 328-219 record in 19 years with the River Hawks. During that time, she was named New England Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year in 1991, 1995, and 1997. O'Neil assumed the head coaching role in 1985, and within four years had turned the River Hawks into a consistent regional power. Over the past 14 years, her teams have averaged 20.7 wins and have played in eight NCAA tournaments.
O'Neil played college ball at St. Michael's, where from 1977 to '81, she scored 1,261 points with 357 assists and 475 steals. She still holds the record for points in a game (36), average points in a season (22.1), and consecutive games scoring 25 or more points (10). She was the first women's basketball player inducted into the St. Michael's Hall of Fame and is one of only two players to have their jerseys retired.
The honor accorded Gardner was one of several he earned during the 2003-2004 season. Previously, he had been named Northeast-10 Conference and NCAA Northeast Region Coach of the Year and NE-10 men's and women's track and field Coach of the Year. The UMass women highlighted the season by finishing a school-best second in the New England Outdoors Championship, which includes all three NCAA divisions. UMass also won its third straight NE-10 indoor and second straight outdoors titles. Gardner coached three relay teams the indoor 4x400 and the outdoor 4x100 and 4x400 into the NCAA Championships.