By Jim Hague
Kim McDonough-Huaranga has been a trend setter, a history maker for most of her life – even as a history teacher.
As a high school basketball player at Harrison High School, graduating in 1998, McDonough became the alltime leading scorer in the history of Hudson County high school basketball – among both boys and girls – totaling an astounding 2,760 points, earning All-State honors twice.
After playing at St. Peter’s College and eventually earning a Master’s degree in administration, McDonough returned home to Harrison to become a teacher and more importantly, to become the first woman to coach the boys’ varsity basketball team at her alma mater.
Now, McDonough-Huaranga has another distinction, another first. She was recently appointed as the new Vice- Principal in charge of athletics, serving as the school’s athletic director, the first female to hold the position.
The 32-year-old Huaranga replaces the recently retired Alan Doffont, who held the position for the last two years.
“I’m very excited for this great opportunity,” said Huaranga, who took over the responsibilities Monday. “I’m happy to come back to Harrison High School and work with the fine student/athletes, as well as working with the other teachers and faculty.”
For the past nine years, Huaranga has been a history teacher in the Harrison school system, working at Washington Middle School.
But when the district posted the position upon news of Doffont’s retirement, Huaranga acted quickly and applied for the job.
“I do love teaching and I had a great experience in the classroom, but I did want to eventually move to athletic administration,” Huaranga said.
After taking a few years away from coaching to have two children – son Anthony, 3, and daughter Giuliana, 1 – Huaranga returned to the coaching duties at Washington Middle School while her friend and teammate Kim Nicosia was on maternity leave.
“I did get back into the coaching field and got a little taste of what I was missing,” Huaranga said.
She said that she never really wanted to be one to be a trend setter.
“It was never really the objective to be the first in anything,” said Huaranga, the niece of Harrison Mayor Raymond McDonough. “I’m proud of what I was able to do and my accomplishments in basketball, whether I was playing or coaching. I just always wanted to do my best. That was the main goal. I’m happy with what I’ve done.”
However, being the first female athletic director – and the lone female administrator in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference – will provide somewhat of a challenge.
“I hope I can bring a new perspective to the program,” Huaranga said. “That we can instill the pride and sportsmanship that has always been a part of the Blue Tide.”
Huaranga, whose husband Alfredo is a Harrison native who played football at St. Peter’s Prep, has not attended a meeting yet as the Harrison AD, but she’s ready to enter the all-boys’ network of athletic administration.
“The gender issue doesn’t bother me at all,” Huaranga said. “Being the only woman in the room won’t be an issue at all. I think we’re all going to work together and help each other out. I’ve received a great welcome from the other ADs.
I’ve received a lot of calls and e-mails, congratulating me and offering me help. I’m really looking forward to working with the other ADs.” Huaranga said that she had a good initiation from Doffont before he retired. The two worked together last week going over the details, making it an easy transition.
“Mr. Doffont was more than helpful,” Huaranga said.
Huaranga was asked if it would be a little funny, sitting in the same seat once occupied by her former high school coach and mentor Jack Rodgers, who was the longtime Harrison AD before he retired two years ago.
“He did reach out to me and congratulate me,” Huaranga said. “When I was at St. Peter’s, I did my internship with Rodg. I had a lot of meetings with him and he made me work. He said that he hoped I remembered everything I learned from him and that internship. I would say that I take the position he had with pride and take the things I learned from him by paying for him and put it in the job. I’m glad I’m able to come back and now do the same with this current group of athletes.”
Huaranga said that she will keep Rodgers’ phone number handy in case she needs some advice.
“It’s a great place and a great opportunity,” Huaranga said. “Harrison is a place where the student/athletes and coaches work well together. I’m just there to hope that they continue to excel in the classroom and in their respective sports.”