“I remember one time, a parent and I were having a conversation and they were shocked I wasn’t some great athlete,” McGunnigal said. “We were having a discussion about understanding their child as a bench player and I could totally sympathize.”
While McGunnigal may not describe himself as a great athlete, he did play two sports at St. Bede and his experiences with the Bruins – and with athletics before and after St. Bede – influenced his decision to get into coaching.
McGunnigal played basketball and baseball for the Bruins and served as the video manager for the football team for four years after breaking his arm as a freshman.
McGunnigal played center and was named the basketball team’s most improved player as a senior in 1988.
He was a first baseman and pitcher on St. Bede’s 1988 Class A state championship baseball team.
McGunnigal said his players are probably aware he was on St. Bede’s state title baseball team, but he doesn’t talk much about his own career.
“I only use (stories and examples from my career) as a ‘I was there once’ thing,” McGunnigal said. “I prefer to compare what technical skills they use in their other sports to teach basketball and why and what it looks like. I feel that is more impactful.
“If I try to bring anything forward (about my career), it’s the closeness and camaraderie of being teammates and truly connected as a group. Absolutely, my best friends in life are my classmates and teammates from our athletic experiences together.”
After graduating St. Bede, McGunnigal went to IVCC where he became – with encouragement from then SBA athletic director Don Carlson – a referee and umpire working high school and grade school games.
McGunnigal continued to serve as an official while attending college in Missouri.
“Missouri did a great job with the technical aspects of being a basketball official with their clinics,” McGunnigal said.
Before he started coaching at St. Bede, McGunnigal worked grade school, high school and some IVCC games after graduating from college.
McGunnigal was coaching boys basketball at Dalzell Grade School when he went to work at St. Bede and long-time Bruin football and baseball coach John Bellino asked him to join the football coaching staff.
“John was incredibly instrumental in my development as a young coach in the behind the scenes details of practice planning and game preparation when I joined the football staff,” McGunnigal said.
“Those experiences carried over to coaching basketball. Working with John and Bernie Moore, remembering both of them as my high school coaches, along with Ken Anderson, I had a ton of influences on being in coaching. Even my dad as a Little League baseball coach had an influence.”