Some great coaches have graced the hardwood in the state over the past decades and we’re fortunate to have some outstanding ones coaching today’s players.
Who are currently the top high school basketball coaches in Eastern Maine in each class for boys and girls?
Several weeks ago I wrote a column about how to determine successful high school basketball coaches.
Because I am not at team practices or meetings, I cannot evaluate how organized the practices are, how good the scouting is, are the coaches teaching life lessons, and are they fair with their players. These things cannot be determined by just watching a coach’s team play.
Given those factors, I have used the following criteria from that previous article to select the top coaches:
— Positive role model, discipline, rapport with players;
— Not yelling or screaming at players or officials;
— Game preparation: do they win when they have the best team, do they give their teams a chance to win when they do not have the talent, are they usually no worse than 9-9 during the regular season;
— Would I want my son or daughter to play for the coach.
Based on those factors here are my selections:
BOYS: Class A, Russ Bartlett, Hampden; Class B, Jeff Hart, Camden Hills; Class C, Ed Leeman, Calais; and Class D, Tim Brewer, Central Aroostook.
GIRLS: Class A, John Donato, Lawrence; Class B, Jeff Hudson, Presque Isle; Class C, Jody Grant, Dexter; and Class D, Larry Gardner, Fort Fairfield.
All these coaches have many things in common. They have been coaching for a lot years, they have coached state championship teams, they have well over career 100 wins, and they have hardly ever been below 9-9 during the regular season regardless of the talent available.
Leeman’s Calais team upset heavily favored Dirigo, which featured future Notre Dame player Tom Knight, in the 2009 Class C state final.
Bartlett’s ninth-seeded Broncos upset No. 1 Bangor in the opening round of the 2005 tourney and went on to win the regional title.
Gardner’s No. 1 Fort Fairfield boys team of 1988 came from way behind to defeat both Woodland and Central and then went on to win the Eastern Maine C title.
Hart has more than 400 wins, six state titles and 10 Eastern Maine crowns, Hudson has three state titles and Brewer has four state titles and four EM crowns. Teams coached by Hart, Hudson and Brewer are the ones that always need to be beat if a team expects to win a title in that class.
Donato, who has four state titles and nine EM crowns, has been very successful in building basketball programs while Grant gets the most out of the least of any of these coaches and is one of the hardest working coaches in the state.
All but one of these coaches have been at their current schools during their run of success. They have not chased gold balls, and have instead built their programs and won championships when they had the talent. Their teams have been very competitive when they have not had the best talent and they usually make the tournament each season.
Most of them have pulled major upsets in the tournament.
This column was the hardest assignment for me so far this season as there are many other outstanding coaches out there today. It was very difficult to make the picks .
Who are your picks?
Note: Thanks to Bob Beatham of Bangor for his help in researching this column.