Michael Pineiro of Perth Amboy, most recently the assistant basketball coach at St. Joseph’s Metuchen, will helm the girls’ squad, while Richard Buckheit, Middletown, former athletic director and teacher at The Patrick School, will coach the boys’ team.
Pineiro is not a stranger to the Mater Dei Prep community; he was an assistant boys’ basketball coach for almost three years during the team’s back-to-back Shore Conference Championship seasons in 2016 and 2017. He also coached the JV team to a 14-1 record during his tenure. While at St, Joseph’s last year he helped the school to the Greater Middlesex County Championship. Prior coming to Mater Dei Prep in fall 2015, Pineiro was an assistant coach at Cardinal McCarrick High School. Pineiro holds a Bachelor of Arts from Thomas Edison State University.
“Coach Pineiro and Coach Buckheit are welcomed additions to our coaching staff,” said Rob Eriksen, the
Mater Dei Prep athletic director. “We feel their experience, knowledge of the sport and positive personality will direct our basketball programs in the right direction. We anticipate a successful season for both programs with a solid core of athletes returning.”
Pineiro said he was drawn to the familiarity and family feel of Mater Dei Prep when accepting the girls’ head coaching position. “When the opportunity arose to coach the girls’ program in a very competitive Shore Conference, I thought it would be a great opportunity to start my head coaching career somewhere that felt like home,” he said. “It also didn’t hurt that the returning team has a very strong core.”
Helping each player improve individually is high on Pineiro’s to-do list for his first season. “If each player improves, it helps them reach their goals of playing collegiately,” he said. Paramount, he said, is managing time wisely. “What makes a student-athlete successful is hard work and discipline in and out of the classroom,” said Pineiro. And improved players mean a greater chance of capturing the division and “making some noise in the Shore Conference tournament as well as the state tournament,” he added.
In the long term Pineiro said he hopes to make the Mater Dei Prep girls’ basketball program a perennial powerhouse in New Jersey.
Richard Buckheit spent two years as the athletic director at The Patrick School, where he also taught math to sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Prior to that Buckheit was a firefighter with the Fire Department of New York for 22 years, most recently as a captain with the Staten Island Tactical Training Unit where he was responsible for supervising members and developing new FDNY training.
Buckheit coached boys’ basketball at Curtis High School on Staten Island for eight years, winning three Staten Island High School Championships, reaching the New York City AA Semi-Finals in 2013 and ensuring a 100 percent graduation rate among his student-athletes. Five years ago he co-founded Elsie’s Corner, an online resource for teachers that provides creative worksheets, test prep and other items. Buckheit holds a Bachelor of Science from Long Island University.
“The first day visited the school and met the players, I knew Mater Dei was the place for me,” said Buckheit. “Mater Dei reminded me of a place I spent the first part of my career, St. Peter’s Staten Island. What I observed was hard-working, dedicated students and staff. The players have a superior work ethic and discipline. I loved the friendships they have and am sure they will last a lifetime.”
Buckheit hopes to build on last year’s 13-10 season, with a goal of making Mater Dei Prep a perennial top 20 team in the state.
“Discipline, work ethic, time management and being a great teammate” are all areas of focus for Buckheit. He plans to challenge the team with a tougher schedule to get ready for Shore Conference play, while encouraging each individual player to reach his potential.
“I want to continue to turn our players into responsible young men,” Buckheit said, and prepare them to compete as student-athletes at the collegiate level. “If the team is successful, each individual will have reached his potential.”
Basketball tryouts for the 2019-20 season will be held Nov. 25-27, with the first official practice taking place Dec. 2. The Seraphs play their season opener Dec. 20.