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Mary Louis hoops coach Lewinger retires but continues role as athletic director

Maura and Joe Lewinger hold their twins Jack and Madison for a photo with Santa. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Joe Lewinger has retired as Mary Louis girls basketball coach to focus on his duties as the school’s athletic director. Lewinger, who spent 11 seasons on the Hilltoppers bench, informed the team earlier this week that he would be stepping away and assistant coach JoAnn Arbitello would take over as coach.

“As time went on it became apparent it would not be possible to do both jobs at 100 percent,” Lewinger said.

He saw his role as an administrator expanding the last two years as he took on the job of CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens JV girls soccer commissioner and intersectional girls soccer coordinator along with presiding over the school’s 29 teams. He felt the organization needed him to give the administration job his full attention. Lewinger said he enjoyed the privilege of coaching in CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens Division I, arguably the nation’s top league, but didn’t struggle with walking away.

“It just seemed like it is time.” Lewinger said. “That’s what I said to myself, ‘It is time.’”

He took two leaves of absences during the last four seasons to attend to the health of his twins Madison and Jack as they battled cancer. Both of them are healthy now. Assistant coach Kevin White, who left TMLA after last season, took over at the time.

Lewinger returned to sidelines full time last season and began working with the team during this preseason. He was excited about the current group of players. He said last season’s disappointing finish and the transfer of sophomore Mei-Lyn Bautista, Jordan Agustus and McKayla Hernandez to St. Mary’s (L.I.), had no bearing on his decision. Arbitello, also the director of the Positive Direction travel program, was shocked when he called her.

“I said, ‘What?’” she said of hearing the news. “I forgot half the stuff I had to get in BJ’s because that’s where I was.”

Lewinger had been preparing for a long transition with Arbitello, a Mary Louis alum who had limited time because her father Joe was recovering from a partial leg amputation. But when she returned last weekend he reconsidered his own situation. He couldn’t think of a better person to turn the reins over to. Arbitello, who spent five seasons as the school’s junior varsity coach, is coming off leading TMLA to its first ever CHSAA JV city title.

“She is a championship-caliber coach,” Lewinger said. “As an athletic director it is a luxury to have someone of her level and her pedigree in house.”

When Lewinger took over a program it was one of worst in the division. He turned it into one of the city’s most successful and respected during his tenure. Lewinger recorded more than a 100 wins and won a Class D and Class A State Federation title. He said he enjoyed his run and didn’t open the door for a return. He told Arbitello he was sure.

“When she called the next time and asked, ‘Are you sure this is what you want?’ I said 1,000 percent,” Lewinger said. “I don’t know how high I can count.”

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