Germantown Academy's Sherri Retif retired as coach after 25 seasons. New coach Lauren Power came to GA from the Academy of Notre Dame.
Germantown Academy already had a formidable girls' basketball program when a coaching change was made in the late 1990s. Under the retiring Jim Buckley, the Patriots had won a string of Inter-Ac League championships and had sent a number of athletes on to play at the NCAA Division I level.
The new coach, Sherri Retif, would continue and expand the team's tradition of excellence. This April, Retif announced that she would be retiring from her coaching position after 25 seasons, remaining at GA as a member of the middle school faculty and physical education instructor.
She had begun to coach a dozen years before arriving in Fort Washington, and finished out her 37-year career with a record of 772 wins and 215 losses.
The process of finding a new mentor for the successful Patriots program was thoughtful and deliberate. After more than two months, Director of Athletics Tim Ginter announced in late June that Philadelphia native Lauren Power would head up the Patriots.
Power has held many coaching positions, coming to GA directly from another Inter-Ac League school, the Academy of Notre Dame. In five years at Notre Dame, Power headed the basketball squad and also served as Director of Alumni Relations.
During the COVID-curtailed season of 2020-21 the Irish posted the best record in the Inter-Ac, and Notre Dame also tied for second place in the league three times. For the past two seasons, the Irish shared the runner-up spot with GA, both with records of 9-3.
Retif, a fixture at Germantown Academy, was asked what prompted her
decision to retire. She recalled a specific day during the 2022-23 season and a situation involving her sixth-grade granddaughter, Mikayla, the daughter of one of her two sons.
"She was playing on her school team for the first time," the coach related, "and I realized that my whole family was there with her, and I was at GA. For the first time, I really felt that conflict.
"I've coached 37 years overall," she went on, "and all things come to an end. It's been a great run and a lot of fun."
She will not only have more time to be with her granddaughter; she'll be able to devote more attention to a spiritual companioning counseling service that she has started. While working at GA, she earned a Masters degree in Spiritual Direction from Chestnut Hill College and a Doctorate in Holistic Spirituality from Fordham University.
Retif was an undergrad student and a Hall of Fame basketball player at Tulane University in her native New Orleans, remaining in the area to coach the team at Ursuline Academy. She came north in the mid-1990s and spent four years coaching at Sun Valley High School in Delaware County before taking the GA job.
With the Patriots, she would win 20 Inter-Ac championships, including a string of 14 in a row and a stretch of 109 consecutive league victories.
The Germantown Academy team was ranked eighth in the nation twice and was positioned 13th and 17th in two other seasons.
Retif also coached 13 of the school's 16 1000-point scorers. They include Caroline Doty, a starter on one of UConn's NCAA championship squads, Penn State sharpshooter Maggie Lucas, and Duke recruit Laura Kurz.
She has been inducted into the Germantown Academy Hall of Fame and the Montgomery County Coaches Hall of Fame, and she has coached in the McDonald's All-America Game.
Retif seemed pleased that a former rival coach in the league, Power, is taking the reins of the Patriots.
"It's going to be a great opportunity for her and the girls," she remarked.
Power, originally Lauren Thomer, grew up in Northeast Philadelphia and actually was a grade school classmate of Penn Charter girls' coach Joe Maguire. She played basketball at Archbishop Ryan High School and Rider University, then went on to develop a wide-ranging resume as a coach and administrator.
She was an assistant coach at the U.S. Military Academy and at Yale University, and head coach at Manhattanville College. At Manhattanville, she was named Coach of the Year in the MAC Freedom Conference. Immediately prior to coming to the Academy of Notre Dame, she was Director of Athletics at Convent of the Sacred Heart, a girls' school in New York City.
During her successful run at Notre Dame Power helped produce three NCAA Division I players, including Inter-Ac MVP Maeve McErlane, now at DePaul University.
"I loved Notre Dame," she said, "but when the GA job popped up I found myself looking at what the next 10 to 15 years of my life would be like. GA has been phenomenal in girls' basketball for the past 30-plus years and it was an honor that they were considering me."
She said that wasn't the only draw, explaining "It was the whole package, all the things it would offer me and my family, the opportunity for my kids to go to daycare and then go to school there."
While at Notre Dame, Power gave birth to two children in two years, and during her interview process at GA, she felt she could be joining a new, extended family.
"I really, really liked everybody I met who was involved in their search process," she related. "There was a community, family feel, and that was important to me."
Power will be leading the GA girls forward in a sport that's very different than it was in the time when Retif began coaching almost four decades ago.
"When I started out, we only played 12 games a season," the Patriots' former mentor said. "I remember them painting the three-point line on the court at Ursuline because it had just become a rule and most courts didn't have one.
"The game is faster and the girls are much more athletic now," she continued. "They train outside of practice and some of them have personal coaches and trainers. Things have definitely come a long way."