Marian’s Mary Cicerone receives MHSAA's Women in Sports Leadership Award

Mary Cicerone, with 707 wins at Marian, is the winningest woman high school basketball coach in the state’s history. Her teams won six state championships and 20 Catholic League championships. She retired two years ago. (Photo from MHSAA News)

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — It’s been two years since Mary Cicerone retired as basketball coach at Marian High School.

“I was there a long time,” she said. “I look back at it fondly. I had a great experience there with tremendous athletes and wonderful people I worked with and coached. I guess I wouldn’t have been there so long if I hadn’t been doing it well.”

Cicerone did it so exceptionally well that she been named a 2024 recipient of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Women In Sports Leadership Award.

Each year, the Representative Council considers the achievements of women coaches, officials and athletic administrators affiliated with the MHSAA who show exemplary leadership capabilities and positive contributions to athletics.

Cicerone retired from coaching after the 2021-22 season with a record of 707-233 since taking over the program in 1983, making her the fourth-winningest coach in MHSAA girls basketball history, and the winningest female head coach.

She guided the Mustangs to six state championships in 1988, 1992, 1996, 1998 and back-to-back in 2014 and 2015, a runner-up in 1997, and reached the MHSAA semifinals seven times.

Her teams also won 19 Catholic High School League championships and 20 overall Central Division league titles.

Cicerone has been inducted into Halls of Fame by the University of Detroit Mercy (2007), as a player and as a coach by the Catholic High School League (1998), Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan (2017) and Marian (2022). In 2009, she received the CHSL’s Ed Lauer Person of the Year Award.

“Those measurables of her success speak for themselves,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said. “But her commitment to her teams, her sport, and leadership in women’s athletics as a whole contributed just as significantly to her tremendous legacy.”

Cicerone was born 64 years ago in Coopersville, situated midway between Grand Rapids and Muskegon. She was the eighth of 10 children — four boys, six girls — reared by Russell and Joy Lillie.

“We were always looking for things to do, pretty much family things,” Cicerone said. “When I was in high school, there were only two sports for girls: basketball and track. I played both.”

Her aggressiveness, competitiveness and mental quickness paid off with All-State honors in basketball her junior and seniors years and a full-ride scholarship to the University of Detroit Mercy.

She led the Titans to three Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women titles and graduated as Detroit Mercy’s all-time career assists leader while earning a bachelor’s degree in education. She won the 1982 President’s Award as Detroit Mercy’s most outstanding female student-athlete.

“All throughout college,” Cicerone said, “I felt I wanted to continue with basketball in a coaching kind of way. I wanted to stay in sports. When the opportunity (to coach the junior varsity at Marian) came, I quickly jumped at it.” The next year, 1983, “the varsity job and teaching (physical education) job opened. I got it.”

“Get after it,” Cicerone said. “That’s my philosophy in coaching. If you’re going to do something, do it well. Are you working hard or are you hardly working? Mom and dad taught us to do it to the best of your ability.”

Now retired, Cicerone said, “I miss the kids. The girls were always a lot of fun. They always made me laugh. What I don’t miss are the hours, the constant pressure I put on myself, the desire to do well, the hours preparing, watching games on film, the energy to go to practice and motivate.”

Mary married David Cicerone, whom she met during their senior year at Detroit Mercy, in 1988. They have a daughter, Anina (Marian 2009), 33, a neurosurgery physician assistant in Grand Rapids, and Russell (Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 2012), 30, a forward on the Sacramento Republic FC professional soccer team.

Cicerone became a grandmother 18 months ago when Anina gave birth to a son, Sandro.

Seven months ago, Anina was diagnosed with breast cancer. She finished her chemotherapy recently and is scheduled for surgery soon.

“This has helped me not to miss things so much, overwhelmed with worry,” Cicerone said, “going through the stuff people go through when they have cancer.”

Cicerone will receive her award at the Women’s in Sports Leadership Conference, Feb. 4-5, at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West.

She will be the fourth CHSL recipient since the awards were first presented in 1990. The others are Diane Laffey (1991), former athletic director at Warren Regina; Betty Wrobel (2016), athletic director at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep; and Meg Seng (2018), former athletic director at Ann Arbor Greenhills.

Contact Don Horkey at [email protected].


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