Changing the Mentality from Mediocrity to Excellence
By Thomas Hill, Mount Saint Joseph High School, 2017
Before Pat Clatchey took over as head basketball coach at Mount Saint Joseph High School (MSJ), the Gaels had never won a Baltimore Catholic League Championship. Since Clatchey’s tenure began in 1992, Mount Saint Joseph has been a consistent threat in both the competitive BCL and MIAA leagues. They have won 20 league or tournament championships, and have remained the team to beat year in and year out.
Before the Clatchey era, MSJ’s basketball program was far from its current state. Clatchey saw them as “respectable”. They were a team that struggled to find consistent success, and this led to a 32-year BCL championship drought. According to Clatchey, when he arrived as the new coach the team was “stuck in quicksand.” As a new coach, he said, “I had to change things, and put things in place that I wanted to accomplish.” He wanted to change the mentality from mediocrity to excellence.
One of Clatchey’s biggest goals was to do a better job of recruiting players. The first player he ever recruited was a 6’7’’ 8th grader named Danny Whye. The eighth grader had never played basketball before, but Clatchey was able to mold him into a league powerhouse. Clatchey said, “He was kind of like the pioneer, he was the first guy to buy in and believe. He was a great example of what we were able to accomplish while he was here.” Whye became an all-league player, and went on to play Division I basketball in college. His story of success hinted at the potential of the program for the future.
Another key turning point came with the arrival of power forward Will Thomas. “In terms of championships he took our program to another level,” said Clatchey. In Thomas’ junior and senior seasons, the Gaels won back-to- back championships. And the highly-decorated forward became the program’s first BCL Player of the Year. In college, Thomas led George Mason University on their famous 2006 run to the Final Four.
With players like Danny Whye, Will Thomas and numerous others, the basketball program skyrocketed to the top. The Gaels went from a 32-year championship drought to being a favorite every year. Since 2003 the team has won 20 league or tournament championships. Clatchey says “we are the common denominator when it comes to competing for championships.” They’ve created a level of consistency that is matched by few others. The Gaels developed what Clatchey calls, “a system and style of play that is conducive to winning and competing for championships.”
Although winning championships may have been new to the Gaels, it was not to Clatchey. Originally the freshmen team coach, he was very successful. He coached for only four years, but during that time his team won the league title each year. Further along in his career he worked as an assistant coach for UMBC, as well as an NBA scout for both the Lakers and the Washington Bullets. When he returned to MSJ, he brought a new winning attitude and perspective of the game that helped him turn around the program.
Clatchey has seen his players and himself receive many awards over the years. What stands out the most to him has been “being able to see so many guys get college scholarships and go to school for free at some tremendous universities.” Over 40 of Clatchey’s players have competed at the Division I level. Most recently, Phil Booth (MSJ ‘14) helped Villanova win the 2016 NCAA championship. In the tournament final, Booth led all Wildcat Scorers with 20 points. Booth is a prime example of the legacy and reputation that Clatchey has created. He has left a mark not only at the local level in Baltimore, but also nationally through players who have gone on to succeed both in college and professionally.
Clatchey is hoping for yet another successful season this year. After finishing first in the MIAA last year with a 33-6 record, MSJ looks to return to the top. With a good nucleus of returning players such as forward Jalen Smith and combo-guard Darryl Morsell (UMD ’21 commit), as well as new pieces to surround them, the Gaels will be one of the biggest contenders for a championship.