From Playing to Coaching: The Rise of Neumann University's Athletic Leaders

“It’s one thing to rep a school, it’s another to rep MY SCHOOL,” said former player and current head coach of Neumann University’s women soccer team, Rosie Kays.

Neumann University has been known for producing successful student-athletes who have gone on to excel in their respective sports. Something that is even more remarkable is that many of these student-athletes return to their alma mater as coaches to give back to the place that helped shape them into the people they are today.

The school has twenty-three collegiate sports, and twelve of those have at least one former player on the coaching staff, including the entire men’s lacrosse team that are all Neumann alumni. In total, there are twenty-eight coaches that played and now are back working for their respective sports.

Kyle Pantalone, or “Pants” as everyone knows him, who is the former goalie and current assistant coach for the men’s ice hockey team, said, “I am excited for this new step in life.”

For many athletes, their sport is not just a hobby or pastime but a significant part of their identity. They may have played the sport for years, made close friends and connections through it, and lived their life around it. Leaving the sport can feel like they are losing a part of themselves.

Jill Tutak played field hockey during her three years as a Knight, and after seven years she came back to coach and become the assistant director of Campus Ministry. Since the second she stepped foot on campus, the Long Island native felt like she was at home. While on campus, she met some lifelong best friends who ended up being bridesmaids in her wedding.

One of those friends happened to be Kays, who in 2022 led the women’s soccer team to their first conference championship appearance since 2014. She will be returning the favor when she has Jill as one of her bridesmaids at her July wedding. Not only did their friends get an invitation to their wedding, but also some of their professors and Sr. Marguerite O’Beirne.

“Neumann is an impactful place,” said Kays. “I feel blessed and lucky to be here at a job I enjoy so much.”

Former player and current defensive coordinator of the men’s lacrosse team, Bryan Capone, had the same feeling when he had some of his teammates and lifelong friends in his wedding.

“Neumann is a family atmosphere,” he said. “I want to inspire the next generation” to embrace the same values.

 Neumann Athletics continues to care for its players even after graduation, providing support and resources to athletes. Both Tutak (field hockey) and Kacy Cellucci (women’s basketball) experienced severe health scares as student athletes. Tutak was diagnosed with compartment syndrome and Cellucci with multiple sclerosis. The athletic department provided support, resources, and guidance as they navigated through the challenges, highlighting the university's dedication to the long-term health and success of its student-athletes.

“Sports makes me a part of who I am.” said Tutak, exolaining why she coaches at her alma mater, “I am blessed to be given the opportunity.”

“Neumann is a special place,” said Cellucci. “The impact was bigger than basketball.”

Neumann University alumni who return to coach have full time jobs but do this on the side not for the money, but for their love of the game. Many of these former players have fond memories of their time at Neumann and recognize the role the university played in their personal and professional development.

David Alvarez, a former baseball player and current assistant coach at Neumann, also works as an admissions counselor for the university. He leverages his background as a student-athlete and his passion for the school to motivate potential recruits to enroll.

“I grew up in Puerto Rico, but came to Neumann because I love baseball,” he said. “Neumann is my community, and I feel lucky.”

Three coaches -- Cellucci, Jack Newswanger, and Pantalone -- also have a strong emotional bond with the school. Cellucci came back to her alma mater to join her mother’s coaching staff, while Newswanger and Pantalone came back to coach their friends and former teammates from their playing days. This is a fulfilling and rewarding experience for all of them, and coaching gave them an exciting and challenging opportunity they could not pass up.

“Neumann is my home,” said Newswanger, former Neumann University men’s lacrosse player and current assistant coach. “It was a no brainer to come back.”

Each and every coach felt a connection to Neumann University when playing and loves being back at the place they used to call home. Although it might feel strange for them to be on the sidelines rather than playing with the team, they willingly do so out of their love for the sport and the desire to ensure a positive experience for future generations.