Pictured: Cromwell’s girls basketball program was an eight-time Shoreline Conference champion under Kelly Maher and three-time state champ. (Photo by Paul Augeri)
By Paul Augeri
CROMWELL – Kelly Maher’s hugely successful run as girls basketball coach at Cromwell High is over after the recent announcement that she will focus solely on her job as athletic director.
Maher said Wednesday that her responsibilities as AD will span 12 months and was the “deciding factor” in her decision to move away from basketball after 15 seasons as coach.
“With the job going full time, I have to be at events at the school,” she said. “Our team playing on the same nights (as the boys’ teams) doesn’t work. I feel like if this is what I’m going to do, I have to be present.”
Maher also noted the daunting nature of running high school athletics in a post-COVID world and the time needed to, for instance, figure out transportation for teams and clubs and handling an increase in paperwork.
“This wasn’t an easy decision by any means, especially with everyone coming back” for the 2022-23 basketball season, she said. “But I don’t know when a good time to leave is. The kids are all great. But really with the job and the demands of the job, it’s changed drastically in the last couple of years. That’s really driving it. There are only so many hours in the day.”
Cromwell will close the opening for a new coach on May 6 and begin interviewing candidates thereafter. Sal Morello, who has spent 13 seasons as varsity assistant and the head junior varsity coach, is thought to be a leading candidate to replace Maher.
A Cromwell alum, Maher finishes her coaching career with a 315-65 record, three CIAC Class M championships and eight Shoreline Conference titles between 2007-08 and last season. Last season, Maher won her 300th game in December. The Panthers were 16-4 in the regular season and reached the Class M tournament quarterfinal round.
“It’s been great to watch them in the classroom and then on the court, where they are completely different individuals,” she said. “And then from there, on to their collegiate levels and then later on in life. It’s still great because I keep in touch with a lot of the players. Just seeing the people they have become has really been rewarding.”
Cromwell’s 2015-16 squad was the program’s most dominant. The Panthers won the first of four straight Shoreline titles after an undefeated regular season and rolled through the Class M tournament, beating Notre Dame of Fairfield 43-20 in a one-sided game for the Class M championship and a 28-0 season overall.
The Panthers also beat Notre Dame in the 2013 Class M final and defeated Sheehan of Wallingford for the 2019 championship.
“It’s hard to say if there’s a favorite team for me,” Maher said. “Every year is just so different with the dynamics of the kids. But there’s probably memorable moments form each year as you go, especially with the kids. Sometimes it may not be the wins and the losses. Sometimes it’s just something that happened at practice. It’s those times with the kids, seeing them in a different light, is what I will miss most.”