In 1988, Dan Mara attended the initial Connecticut Women's Basketball Hall of Fame induction and watched as a number of the state's greats of the game were honored. A Connecticut native, Dan recalls being in awe. "I thought about their great careers and how far I had to go in mine to reach that status," he said. "I know I never accomplished the things that the legends of our game did. But it is the greatest honor of my career to join the ranks of those who have made our state a leader in women's basketball."
During 10 seasons of coaching the women's basketball team at Mitchell College in New London. At Mitchell, Dan's teams compiled 10 New England championships and reached two National Junior College Athletic Association Final Fours, going 289-16 under his direction. In five different seasons, they reached the No. 1 ranking in the national poll. In addition, Mitchell established the national mark for regular-season victories with 234 straight and Dan coached 10 Kodak All-Americans, one of whom, Rita Williams, went on to play in the WNBA. The nine-time NJCAA New England Coach of the Year, Dan is a member of the Mitchell College Hall of Fame, the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. He is currently the commissioner of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
"Basketball is special because so much of what I have in my life, my friends, my favorite memories, are because of basketball. I think it has taught me many skills - leadership, organization, critical thinking, flexibility - and it has taught me many values - integrity, loyalty, perseverance," Dan said. "Those skills translate to all areas of life and have made me a better administrator, a better coach and a better father. I love the game and it has been very good to me."
Dan became passionate about basketball in 1967, ironically while following the Boston Red Sox "Impossible Dream" season through the local sports pages. He became interested in a minor league basketball team, the Hartford Capitols, and was captivated by their fast-breaking style. Dan began playing basketball and by the winter of 1967-68 he knew he was destined to be a basketball coach.
Dan graduated from Northwest Catholic High School in 1972, Mitchell College in 1974 and Roger Williams University in 1976. He jokes that Doug Yarnall, the athletic director and men's basketball coach at Mitchell, cut him from the team his freshman year but later was the one who allowed him to begin his career in intercollegiate athletics. Yarnall hired Dan as sports information director in 1976 and later as Mitchell's head women's basketball coach in 1984 - "I believe he made all the correct decisions," Dan said with a laugh.
Dan left Mitchell when he was named athletic director at Post University in 1995. He served in different capacities at Post for 11 years, ushering the Eagles from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) to full NCAA Division II membership. He was hired as CACC commissioner in 2006 and in 2016 he was named by the Eastern College Athletic Conference as Conference Commissioner of the Year. Dan has had many honors and achievements in his 40-plus years in collegiate athletics, including his 19 years overall at Mitchell, as well as spending eight summers coaching for the Irish Basketball Association. He currently lives in Waterbury with his son Danny, a sophomore at Sacred Heart High School.