Maggie Doogan grew up on Philadelphia Big 5 basketball. She scored her first basket at Tom Gola arena, and the first basketball games she watched were the classic battles that helped make the informal association into a bona fide regional conference.
Chrissie (Donahue) Doogan played in those gritty Big 5 contests and was a force in the league from 1993-1997, when she was a part of the La Salle women’s basketball program. She left La Salle as one of the school’s most decorated players, and her 1,818 career points are still second-most in program history. Her on-court accomplishments helped her earn a spot in both La Salle’s Hall of Athletes and the Big 5 Hall of Fame.
After her playing career ended, Chrissie remained with the program, joining La Salle as an assistant coach. From there, she continued to coach college basketball, mostly at her alma mater, for over a decade. And it was over the course of that decade that her daughter, Maggie , came to love the sport.
“I kind of grew up in La Salle gym because that’s where [my mom] coached,” Maggie said. “So, I would always sit and watch their practices and hang out with the team. I think that’s where my love of basketball kind of grew.”
In the time since those formative years spent in Tom Gola Arena, Maggie has become a local basketball star in her own right. The 6-foot-2 forward is now a senior leader on a Cardinal O’Hara squad playing for the Philadelphia Catholic League championship on Monday at the Palestra and pushing for its second consecutive PIAA 5A state title. She has also signed to play Division I basketball at the University of Richmond next season.
As Maggie has advanced through her high school career, Chrissie has been there for it all. Before Maggie’s freshman year, Chrissie took over as O’Hara’s head coach. At the time, Chrissie had already spent five years as an assistant under longtime O’Hara coach Linus McGinty, and with her daughter about to start her high school career, the decision to make the jump to head coach seemed like a no-brainer.
“I just was excited to get back into coaching,” Chrissie said. “The high school level was new for me, so that was fun. And then I knew I had Maggie coming along to eventually come play there.”
In the four years since, Chrissie has been able to watch Maggie transform from a freshman role player to a senior capable of driving the O’Hara offense.
“She’s grown so much,” Chrissie said. “She will probably be one of the most improved players ever out of O’Hara from freshman year to senior year. In her freshman year, she was like our eighth or ninth [player in the rotation] to start the season. She had a good basketball IQ, and her body just hadn’t caught up to her at that time. But once it did, she has shown she’s a pretty special player.”
During those early years, when Maggie was struggling to turn her high basketball IQ into on-court results, those around her wondered if basketball was still the right choice. While others may have had second thoughts, she remained committed to the sport, buying into the “trust the process” slogan that has become synonymous with Philadelphia basketball.
“A lot of people asked me if I really wanted to play basketball or if I should stick to volleyball,” Maggie said. “I just think playing against older people kind of helped me realize that I could become stronger or be more versatile. And then when COVID hit, that gave me so much time to really focus on my game [and] kind of grow off the court physically.
“My whole family was a basketball family, [and] I didn’t really want to do anything else, so I just kept working at it.”
Maggie’s commitment paid off last season, when she played a large part in O’Hara’s state championship run. With defenses focusing their attention on the Lions’ leading returning scorers at the time, Sydni Scott and Amaris Baker, Maggie was able to take advantage of mismatches and score from inside the paint.
That junior season proved to be special in another way, as it helped Maggie attract interest from Big 5 schools in La Salle and St. Joseph’s. She had also attracted interest from Division I programs outside of her hometown, leaving her with a choice.
Fortunately for the senior forward, she had a resource to lean on. For part of her time as an assistant coach with La Salle, Chrissie served as the team’s recruiting coordinator. That experience, as well as those she had as a player, allowed her to help Maggie determine what the important factors were in her search.
“She had to balance what level she wanted to play at,” Chrissie said. “She said from the start she wants to go somewhere she can play. … She wants to be able to contribute right away. … She wanted to be able to play in a situation where we could see her still play, and could still kind of get away a little bit.”
Richmond proved to be a fit for Maggie as she looked to stay somewhat close to home while also branching out. The school’s campus is just four hours from Philadelphia, and Richmond’s membership in the Atlantic 10 Conference will allow for road trips to both Tom Gola Arena and Hagan Arena for games against La Salle and St. Joseph’s
“The recruiting process was kind of difficult for me because I obviously grew up around here, grew up going to all the Big 5 games, seeing people from local high schools go to local schools,” Maggie said. “So, it would have made sense of me to stay home. But I think I’ve been Chrissie Donahue’s daughter for four years, and I’m ready to create my own path.
“I love Philly. I love all the schools here. But I just think it’s time for me to go out and kind of do my own thing.”
Next year, Maggie will take her basketball career outside of her hometown for the first time while Chrissie will spend her first season as O’Hara’s head coach without her daughter on the team. But before that, the mother-daughter duo have their sights set on making the most of their final season together and taking this O’Hara team to Hershey for another state title.
“Obviously winning is the main goal,” Maggie said. “But I’m just going to take in every moment I have with my friends. … [and] just take in the last moments of high school basketball.”
Said Chrissie : “We’re trying to make this the slowest season ever … we don’t want it to end … we’re just trying to keep [the team] focused on its goals and also enjoy each other’s company and enjoy being in the gym with each other.”