By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/12/20
The Philly lacrosse community is mourning the passing of Hall of Fame player and coach Anita Deasey, 67, who died Friday from a brain tumor surrounded by her family at her Ardmore home.
Anita was a standout in lacrosse, as well as field hockey and basketball at Lower Merion High School and Ursinus College and played with the US National Lacrosse Team while at Ursinus. She was head lacrosse coach at Harriton High, then Ursinus (as an assistant) and Episcopal Academy and closed her career as an assistant at Swarthmore College. She won over 200 games and eight league championships as a head coach and three National championships as an assistant.
Anita was a 2015 inductee into the Eastern PA Chapter of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame. She is also is in the Harriton Wall of Fame and Ursinus College Hall of Fame.
Anita graduated from Lower Merion in 1971 and was a three-sport standout at Ursinus. While in college, she played for the US National Lacrosse Team in 1973-74 as a defender.
Anita began her coaching career at Harriton in 1976 when she guided the Rams to the first District 1 girls’ lacrosse title while also coaching field hockey. She won four Central League lacrosse championships.
Anita was assistant lacrosse coach at Ursinus from 1984-90, helping the Bears win three NCAA Division III championships (1986, ’89, ’90) in six trips to the Final Four.
From 1992-2002, Anita was head lacrosse coach at Episcopal Academy, winning four Inter-Ac League titles (1995, 2000, 2001 and 2002). She was an assistant coach at Swarthmore College from 2005-2013. She also was assistant coach of the US National Team in 1990-91.
Anita, who coached under fellow Hall of Famer Betsy Meng Ramsey at Ursinus, was known for helping build first-time lacrosse players into starters on a perennial national championship contender. One of these players was Connecticut native Kim Piersall, a goalie who had never played the sport – until she met Anita Deasey.
“She was forever patient, and firm,” said Piersall, now a teacher and assistant lacrosse coach at Episcopal Academy. “She had this sort of guiding way about her. We all wanted to please her. The vibe out there was that this was a fun team to be on; they were great people with a vision.
“I had never played the sport; she was patient and persistent and showed me the ropes. Since she coached basketball, too, she was able to take our passion and skill and transfer it to the lacrosse field. She made it easy for kids who wanted to come play a new sport.”
Piersall said Anita’s vibrant personality was another of her assets.
“Anita was fun to be around,” she said. “I remember taking van rides to tourneys at William & Mary – you wanted to be in Anita’s van. She created this camaraderie; it was what being a part of a team was about. She also set high standards for us. We knew when we could have fun and we knew where the line was, and when we had to stop joking around and do our business.”
US field hockey Hall of Famer Gina Buggy served as the Episcopal Academy Athletic Director for 27 years and previously as assistant AD for seven years before retiring last month. She convinced Anita to come to EA in 1992 as lacrosse coach at a school that had only gone co-ed 8 years earlier and was just becoming competitive with the boys’ programs in the Inter-Ac.
“When I begged her to come to coach at Episcopal, I knew it was critical to get an impactful female coach,” said Buggy. “She was a superstar coach.
“She was very patient and very calm, but fierce-fully competitive. And she always had very high standards. Even after an important victory, she would always focus on how the girls were playing and how they were behaving.
“She focused on the right way to play; being a good teammate or being unselfish. Winning wasn’t enough. If someone was gloating or not sharing the ball, that was addressed. She wanted to make them a better person.”
Buggy also mentioned Anita’s infectious personality.
“Anita had best sense of humor,” Buggy said. “To this day, even when I saw her a few months ago, I would be hysterical laughing. It wouldn’t matter who you talk to, we are all going to share the same thing.
“She just made everyone else feel comfortable and she was always looking out for every person in the room.”
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at Saint Colman Church in Ardmore at 10:00 on Thursday, July 16. Social distancing will be observed. A celebration of Anita’s life will held at a later date. Contributions can be made in Anita’s name to Alex’s Lemonade Stand or The Ronald McDonald House .