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McNichol mother and twin daughters: One family, three coaches

"Hold on, your sister is calling." That phrase - or versions of it - has been said a lot by Mary Beth McNichol recently.

"Hold on, your sister is calling."

That phrase - or versions of it - has been said a lot by Mary Beth McNichol recently.

Such is life with two daughters as head basketball coaches. They tend to ask for advice. Especially when you happen to be a pretty darn good coach yourself.

So McNichol's phone has been ringing a lot recently.

Who can blame her twins - Ky, in her third year at Springfield (Delco), and Kacy, a first-year head coach at Harriton - for wanting to pick her brain? They want to learn from the woman who has spent the last 26 seasons at Notre Dame, where she has compiled more than 480 wins, four Inter-Ac titles, two Pennsylvania Independent Schools state championships and coached 11 1,000-point scorers.

"She just has such a passion. She wants to be better than she was last year," Kacy said of her mother. "She's always watching games, always has her notepad out, is always taking down a play. She's always studying the game."

"We always say that we learned from the best," Ky said. "She's a tremendous role model. Kacy and I aspire to be just like her, as a coach, as a person."

It all started for McNichol after she graduated from Villanova, where she is a member of the women's basketball Hall of Fame. A teammate's father suggested she try coaching Annunciation CYO. What he didn't tell her was that they hadn't won a game in two years, a tidbit McNichol still remembers with a chuckle. She turned the team around and within a few seasons had it in the playoffs.

Ky and Kacy were born during that time, while McNichol's husband, Terry, was also coaching, and so McNichol took her kids with her. At their arrival to the court, women in the stands would exclaim, "The twins are here" and fight over who got to hold them while their mom worked the sideline.

She'd take them to other games, too. Once, at Archbishop Carroll, McNichol couldn't fit the double stroller through the doorway, so a man helped her. He grabbed the stroller, and she took the girls.

"My daughters have been around the game for a long time," McNichol said. "They grew up around the game."

As such, a lot of the McNichol girls' memories involve the Notre Dame gymnasium. Sharing snacks with Sue Phelan's kids. Scooter races. "Torturing" various members of the Irish. Riding the bus to road games.

As for punishment? Ky remembers clearly. If the girls misbehaved they weren't allowed to go to practice with mom.

"It was devastating," Ky said.

Once, the sisters even asked their father to pick them up early from an 8th grade skiing trip so they could go to the game against Germantown Academy. Even at a young age, they understood the enormity of the rivalry and wanted to be there.

"They were like sponges," McNichol said. "They loved being in the gym, loved being with the girls. They loved watching. They loved the game."

Both girls played for Mary Beth in high school before moving on to the next level at Neumann University, but Kacy had to stop due to injuries, a difficult development for someone who had always been around the game.

It was their first coaching gig - as 19-year old sophomores in college - that revitalized her love for basketball.

McNichol's longtime assistant, Linda Genther, convinced the girls to walk across the street from their dorm to the Neumann gym to help with one of her travel teams.

That's all they needed.

"It took a week to fall in love with coaching," Ky said. "Maybe two weeks."

For 10 years, they have coached AAU ball together, balancing each other out. But now as Central League foes, their respective squads face off twice a year.

One night over the summer, the two were on the porch of the house they share in Havertown, minutes from where they grew up.

Naturally the conversation turned to basketball and the upcoming season. When they saw the date of their first matchup they burst out laughing.

It is Jan. 10 - their 31st birthday.

"I keep telling people that I'm not kidding," Ky said. "Because they always say that it's not funny."

For now, Ky and Kacy are watching film, inundating themselves with the early weeks of the season and calling their mom after games for advice on new offenses or box-and-1 defense.

Every once in a while, Kacy stops and thinks maybe they should decompress, watch a Christmas movie.

But it is basketball season. And they've known how to call in a box score since they were 5 years old.

Like most things on the court, it's something they learned from watching their mom.