BY Jim Fenton
EASTON, Mass. - The first victory in his career as the Stonehill College men's basketball coach was recorded on Jan. 10, 2004.
Brockton native David McLaughlin had just taken over on an interim basis for Kevin O'Brien during the 2003-04 season when Stonehill defeated Le Moyne, 76-72, eight years ago.
McLaughlin got the job on a permanent basis following that season, and the Skyhawks have been winning ever since, putting together eight straight winning campaigns.
On Sunday afternoon, all of those victories added up to a record for McLaughlin, who became the Skyhawks' men's basketball program's all-time winningest coach.
An 85-66 victory over Merrimack College in the quarterfinal round of the Northeast-10 Conference tournament improved McLaughlin's career mark to 172-83. He surpassed the mark held by Ray Pepin, who went 171-141 in his 11 seasons.
When he was a youngster, McLaughlin made a few trips from Brockton to the Stonehill campus to watch Pepin's teams in action.
"I was little, growing up in Brockton when Coach Pepin was doing this,'' said McLaughlin. "I remember coming to the games occasionally and seeing his guys.
"That was the year they were up and down, up and down in transition. I remember going to (a basketball camp) and hearing him speak there. He's kind of a legend in this conference.''
McLaughlin was 29 years old when he took over for O'Brien, who was relieved of his duties nine games into the 2003-04 season.
He has built Stonehill into a consistent program in the competitive NE-10 with four trips to the NCAA Div. 2 tournament and a trip to the national semifinal round in 2006.
"You have a vision and you prepare goal-wise,'' said McLaughlin, thinking back to his first days on the job. "The goal was to not have a winning season or two winning seasons, but to create a program that you have quality young men come in to.
"You're proud of them when they leave. You have alumni coming back for games. You have young men proud of the school and the program they play for and continue that year after year.
"I played for Coach (Dick Whitmore) up at Colby College and he just retired last year after 40 years. I had a great example to go by. I am just real lucky that Stonehill is not (just) a good school, but a great school.''