The Rhode Island Interscholastic League (RIIL) Principals’ Committee on Athletics, at its meeting on February 26, 2020, unanimously voted to appoint current RIIL Assistant Executive Director Michael Lunney to the position of executive director starting August 1, 2020.
Lunney will succeed Tom Mezzanotte, who, in November, announced his retirement at the end of the 2019-20 school year after serving 16 years as executive director.
“It has been a pleasure working with Mike for the past nine years,” Mezzanotte said. “He has helped the league grow and expand and develop in many positive ways. Through his leadership, the league will continue to provide educational based athletics and serve the needs of our student-athletes. He will do a tremendous job.”
Lunney has served in his current position since 2011. Prior to that, he served for 16 years as the director of athletics and student activities at Portsmouth High School, where he also served two stints as the Patriots boys basketball coach, from 1995 to 1998 and from 2006 to 2011.
Rhode Island’s first athletic administrator to serve on the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Board of Directors, Lunney was the recipient of the 2016 NIAAA Distinguished Service Award. That same year, he was presented with the Men Who Make a Difference Award by the Women’s Resource Center of Newport.
While an athletic director, Lunney served stints as RIIL Sport Director for golf and baseball and sat on numerous other RIIL committees. He has served on the Officials Advisory Committee and Coaches Education Committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations and has also served as president of the Council of New England Secondary School Principals’ Association.
Lunney’s vast experience in his prior positions proved to be invaluable when he came on board at the RIIL, Mezzanotte said.
With his ability to see different issues through an athletic director’s eyes, “that brought a tremendous perspective to this organization,” Mezzanotte said. “There was no question about that. He stands for what he believes in and that’s the mission of this organization. I’ll be very happy, and I think our colleagues in New England and nationally are very happy that Mike’s taking over . . . They’re very happy about that, and they should be.”
A member of the Bristol High School Athletic Hall of Fame, the 52-year-old Lunney was a three-sport athlete at the former Bristol High School in the mid-1980s, earning All-League honors in football, basketball and baseball. He went on to be a four-year varsity letterman for the University of New Hampshire men’s basketball team.
Months after graduating from UNH, Lunney became assistant men’s basketball coach at Roger Williams University and then in 1992 became the youngest head men’s basketball coach in the NCAA.
While coaching at Portsmouth, he was named the R.I. Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year three times, guiding the Patriots to two R.I. State Championships (the Class B title in 1996 and the Division II title in 2010), three league championships (1997, 2006 and 2010) and two Providence Journal Dick Reynolds Sportsmanship Awards (1996 and 2009).
Lunney lives in Portsmouth with his wife Donna and daughter, Jill, who is a senior at Portsmouth High School and will be attending the University of Rhode Island’s Nursing program as an Honors student in the fall.
“My connection to the League dates back to the early 1980’s as a three-sport student athlete at Bristol High School,” Lunney said. “I’m a product of the RIIL and those participation opportunities had a profound impact on my development as an athlete and person. I believe in our mission, which is to provide educational based athletic opportunities for the more than 36,000 students that participate in our league annually. The role of our office is to work on behalf of our member school Principals to provide them the education, support, and guidance needed to administer their athletic programs. I’m proud of the many accomplishments that the RIIL has made under Tom Mezzanotte’s leadership and share his passion in continuing to adapt, evolve and improve the organization into the future.”