Obituary: Francis E. "McGee" Mannion / Former basketball coach at Bishop Boyle High School
Jan. 12, 1925 - Aug. 16, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Francis E. "McGee" Mannion coached athletic teams at Bishop Boyle High School and St. Mary Magdalene Grade School in Homestead for more than four decades, achieving an extraordinary level of success, but it's not the wins that most of his former players will remember.

"The simplest word I can use to describe McGee was kindness," John "Buddy" Hobart, a standout forward on Mr. Mannion's 1977 WPIAL Class AA runner-up basketball team, said. "He was the kindest man I've ever met. And it didn't matter who you were. He treated everybody like that."

Mr. Mannion, 83, a West Homestead resident, died Saturday from complications following a stroke. He leaves behind a legacy of winning and a legion of appreciative former players.

A World War II veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in the European Theater, Mr. Mannion began his coaching career at St. Mary Magdalene School after his discharge from the Army in 1946.

He assumed the basketball coaching duties when Bishop Boyle opened in 1962.

A graduate of Duquesne University, Mr. Mannion stayed on the job as a history teacher and the only head basketball coach in the school's history until it was closed by the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh after 1986-87 due to declining enrollment.

In the early years at Boyle, Mr. Mannion also was the head coach of the football and baseball teams, giving up the football job in 1967 after four seasons.

It was on the basketball court, however, where he enjoyed his greatest success.

Early on, Boyle competed in the old Pittsburgh Catholic Class A League. Although competitive in that league, its teams under Mr. Mannion enjoyed far more success once they joined the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League in 1973. Competing against schools closer to its enrollment size, Boyle became a perennial WPIAL playoff contender, winning six section titles as well as the league and state Class AA championships in 1982.

But it wasn't just the success on the court that stuck with his players.

"Let me put it this way, he was the best man at my wedding and he was the godfather for both of my children," said Pat Mulligan, a standout player on Mr. Mannion's first varsity basketball and football teams at Boyle and a 1966 graduate.

"I met him when I went out for the basketball team at St. Mary's in fifth grade, and he's been close to me ever since. A day wouldn't go by that we didn't talk."

Mr. Mulligan moved from Western Pennsylvania to southern Indiana nine years ago "but we still talked every day. I never made a move without checking with him."

Known to most people around the Munhall-Homestead area simply as "McGee," after old-time radio character Fibber McGee, from whose closet, when opened, all sorts of things would come tumbling.
Mr. Mannion's equipment closet had a similar organization to it and the nickname stuck for the rest of his life, said one of his sisters, Sister Mary Vincent Mannion, a member of the religious order of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

Mr. Mannion never considered himself a great strategist.

"As a coach, he just wanted it to be fun for us," Mr. Hobart said.

The closing of Bishop Boyle High School in 1987 marked the end of Mr. Mannion's formal coaching career, but his effect on the district high school sports scene didn't end then. He was hired as a teacher and athletic director at Oakland Catholic and was responsible for the hiring of Suzie McConnell Serio, who is now the women's head coach at Duquesne University. Mrs. McConnell Serio turned Oakland Catholic into a perennial state basketball powerhouse after she was hired in 1990.

"What a great guy he was," she said. "He gave me my first big chance and I'm forever grateful to him. He was just a wonderful man."

Many of Mr. Mannion's proteges at Bishop Boyle went on to become coaches at various levels, the most famous of which is Mike McCarthy, head coach of the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League.

"I can honestly say he was the best coach I've ever been exposed to on any level," Mr. McCarthy said.

"You don't realize that when you're a high school kid. But he had his teams so well prepared and ready to play. He preached toughness and discipline.

"Plus, as a guy he'd do anything for you. He'd let us use his car -- I'm talking about a bunch of high school kids. He was all about loyalty ... of course, he expected that loyalty in return. He was one of a kind and we were blessed to have him."

In addition to Sister Mary Vincent, Mr. Mannion is survived by two other sisters, Sister Kevin Mary Mannion and Sister Philomena Mannion, both of the Sisters of Charity of Greensburg, and a brother, Lawrence.

Visitation will take place today and tomorrow from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. at R.V. Anderson Funeral Home, 315 E. 10th Ave., Homestead. There will also be a viewing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1028 Benton Ave., Brighton Heights, followed by a Mass to be celebrated at 11. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.

Terry Shields can be reached at or 412-263-1989.
First published on August 18, 2008 at 12:00 am