How to Win in the “COUNTY”

Noticing that MDI has two important games in the County this weekend against Caribou and PI it got me to thinking and remembering (not to pleasantly) about how tough a place it is to play and win in the County.

MDI and Ellsworth are very smart in going up the same weekend and each playing PI and Caribou. I will explain later below why they are smart.

Not is it only tough to play back to back games, it is still a very long trip and if you stay overnite it makes it even harder not sleeping in your own bed.

I remember when I played at Bangor in the 50′s we made two trips to the county each season. One trip was Caribou and PI and the other was Fort Fairfield and Houlton and we stayed overnight at the Northeastland Hotel in PI.

When I was in college at Husson we traveled north and stayed overnite (Northeastland Hotel) and played Aroostook State Teachers College (now UMPI) and Fort Kent State Normal School (now UMFK).

We also made a trip into Canada to play the University of New Brunswick and then would come back thru Houlton and play Ricker College.

It was much easier as a player to win in the county then it was as a coach, because you could do something actually on the floor to help your team. It was alot harder to help your team as a coach.

When I was coaching at Bangor we made the same trips that I did when I was playing. Caribou and PI and FF and Houlton.

Knowing how tough it was to play there as a high school and college player because of the following reasons:

1. Back to back games
2. Staying overnite and not sleeping in our own beds
3. Saturdays opponents not playing the nite before our Saturday games with them and they scouted us.
4. Officiating difference game called much tigher then Eastern Maine at that Time
5. Usually we had very little fan support, except for parents, because of the long trip. More people came down from the county to Bangor then went north for our games there.

So to counter these disadvantages I did the following after my first year coaching at Bangor.

1. Told the teams that we played on Saturday that they had to play on Friday nites….they understood and obliged…and this evened that playing field some.

I did this because if we played a county team on Saturday at home we always scheduled a Friday nite game. If the county teams stayed over they usually played us on Friday and Brewer on Saturdays. “What was Sauce for the Goose had to be sauce for the gander”.

2. Slowed the game down a great deal to take the crowd out of the game and to take the officials out of the game from blowing the whistle so much.

3. Wanted the scores in the 30′s, if possible, so many times we took nothing but layups and foul shots, and if we got ahead against a zone with the ball and a 6 point lead we would hold the ball until they would come out and play man to man….then it was defintely nothing by layups and foul shots.

These 3 things helped us to be very successful, proving they worked because we were something like 21-6 in those 8 years.

I will tell you a funny story about playing in the county, …My first year coaching at Bangor and we were playing in the county and my Captain came over to me and said to me after the first time out. “Coach, we are in trouble”.

I said “I know we are, I told you this is a very tough place to win” and he replied, “I mean we really are in big trouble”..I asked “why and he said because when the ref got ready to toss the ball up on the jump he said”, “Bangor Captain are you ready? and then he said, “Jimmy, are you ready”?

Interesting though about the county boys teams today. Fort Fairfield is in Class D, Houlton is in Class C and PI and Caribou are in class B.

None of those teams since PI and Caribou dropped from A to B have won a state championship or even an Eastern Maine Title.

I don’t envy the teams having to go North to Alaska (I mean Aroostook County), as it is very tough to win there as I explained.

When PI and Caribou dropped to B, many thought they would dominate the Big East B Conference and that has not happened in boys basketball….like it has for the PI Girls Teams.

If you get a 6 point lead and the ball. you might want to think about slowing it down and going for nothing but layups and foul shots.

Just my suggestion as a former Eastern Maine Player and Eastern Maine Coach who had alot of experience playing and coaching there.

Also, just so you would know a little more about my knowledege of basketball in the county, I spent my first year 1961-62 in high school coaching at Fort Fairfield High School.

That was a very interesting year, to say the least….I learned even more then then I had before as a player. about playing in the county.