Maeve Parahus knew what she wanted to do as far as a career was concerned from a very young age.
Obsessed with basketball, she knew she wanted a career that would not only match her love of the game, but also her ambition to be a teacher.
So after a highly successful four-year stint as a basketball player at Manhattan College — where she finished her career as one of just 12 players in program history to knock down 100 career three-pointers — Parahus left Riverdale for Ireland. There she joined the program Sport Changes Life, working with kids in an underserved community, teaching them the fundamentals of basketball and how sports can lead one to a brighter future.
It was there Parahus, while checking employment websites, found the job that would make her future considerably brighter — teaching physical education and coaching basketball. And she found that job just up the block from Manhattan College, at Ethical Culture Fieldston School.
“At Manhattan, I was a (physical education) major, and in my senior year, I did my student teaching in the Fieldston lower school, so I made connections there,” said Parahus, who graduated from Manhattan in 2017. “Then last year when I was in Ireland, I saw that there was an opening here for a phys ed teacher. So I came back and went for an interview, and it just so happened that they were also looking for a girls varsity basketball head coach. It couldn’t have worked out better.
Gus Ornstein, Fieldston’s athletic director, was one of the school officials who handled the interviews, saying hands down, Parahus was the easy winner in a field of qualified candidates.
“We knew we had a PE opening back in May or June and we were also looking for a basketball coach at that time,” Ornstein said. “So we started interviewing candidates, and when she came in to interview, she really, really impressed people.”
Most recent graduates Parahus’ age spend several years looking for that perfect job, if it exists at all. But Parahus — barely past the legal drinking age — is living the dream already.
“I always wanted to coach,” Parahus said. “It’s always been my dream. I got addicted to shooting basketballs when I was 10 years old, and ever since then I knew I wanted to be a phys ed teacher, and I wanted to coach high school-level basketball. So it’s amazing to me that now, at 23 years old, my dream is a reality, and I’m actually doing it.
“I’m so excited. I’m blessed everything has been working out for me.”
The Fieldston girls basketball program has been down the past several seasons, so when Parahus’ first game as head coach versus York Prep on Nov. 30 ended with a last-second 33-32 win, Parahus could barely contain her enthusiasm.
“I was so excited,” the coach said. “I felt like I was playing. I got the same jitters as if I was going to play in the game. And it ended on a buzzer-beater win, which was pretty awesome, and I was so happy for my girls. I was almost in tears I was so happy.”
Though Fieldston is off to an impressive 3-1 start, Parahus said her biggest contribution to the team this year will be about bonding with her players.
“Every coach I’ve ever had I had a great relationship with them, and I still have a relationship with them,” Parahus said. “I think that’s huge.”
Parahus also wants to make participating in her program an enjoyable experience as many of her players will see their basketball playing days end after high school.
“I want to be a positive role model for them,” Parahus said. “No knock on Manhattan, but there is nothing like high school basketball. I just think high school basketball is so important because a majority, if not all, of these players are not going to play after this. This is their last experience, so I want to give our seniors the best basketball experience ever.”
After just four months on the job, Ornstein believes Fieldston hit a home run with the hiring of Parahus.
“She’s been fantastic,” he said. “She has been everything that this program needed. She’s energetic, she’s enthusiastic, she’s positive, she’s upbeat, and the kids have responded to her in a great way. I love her energy on the sideline, and I think her enthusiasm has been contagious with the kids.”
Basketball has taken Parahus from Riverdale to Ireland and now back to Riverdale. And it’s a place Parahus hopes to call home for a long time.
“This is my dream, and coming to work every day, I feel like it’s not work,” Parahus said. “I’m having fun, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”