Several people have asked me the reasons for the decline in the success of the Bangor High School boys basketball program over the last four years.
The closing of the Bangor YMCA on Hammond Street and its gym in November of 2010 has been the main reason that I and several knowledgeable Bangor basketball folks cite for the decline of the Bangor High program. It’s sad that kids no longer have a downtown gym available in the city where they can go to shoot, play pickup games or work on their game.
There are certainly other viable things hurting the Bangor High boys basketball program, such as helicopter parents, talent cycles, lack of fundamentals taught at many levels, three coaches in five years, more interest in other sports, and a propensity for more youths to sit at home using their phones instead of bouncing a ball in a gym.
I can identify with the main reason, however, as the Bangor Y was a second home for me growing up. Playing in vacation tournaments, church leagues and other tourneys was the norm then at the Bangor Y. Even when we were on elementary, junior high or high school teams, we still shot and worked on our games in the Y gym during our free team, especially in the offseason.
I also started officiating there with lifelong friend Bob Kelley, a highly successful Bangor High baseball coach.
As high schoolers, we officiated on Saturdays in the Y’s church league. John Coombs, then the Y’s physical education director, paid us $2.50 a game.
The games were in the original small downstairs gym which had a running track balcony above it. In the mid-1950s, that gym was redone and the balcony removed. The Cole gym upstairs was built in the early 1960s.
Bob and I started our coaching careers in the mid-1950s, one in a league for players ages 9-12 and another for ages 13-15. We did this, along with officiating, right through college.
Currently, the Y runs its in-house programs at school gyms but since losing the downtown gym, participation is down.
Several years ago, the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department took over the travel programs and they were held at the Bangor Armory.
Bangor High varsity boys basketball coach Carl Parker is now overseeing the travel programs but they are still sponsored by the rec department.
The travel program is run at Bangor High on Sundays. There are six boys teams, with two each for grades 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8, while there are four girls teams, one each for grades 3-4 and 7-8 and two for 5-6.
It’s good that Parker is involved in those teams because a strong foundation is vital to the success of a high school program.
The foundation for Bangor High boys basketball originally came from the Y programs that were started in the mid-1950s by Coombs.
Such Bangor basketball personalities as Paul Colburn, Galen Cole, Al Frawley, Paul Graffam, Ed Keith, Kelley, Smokey Lawrence, Wayne Lawton, Bill Lollar, Ken Lynch, Keith Mahaney, Walter McCarty, Keith Mahaney, Mel Maidlow, Walt McCarty, Charlie Roberts, Roger Reed, Fred Rice Jr., Al Smaha, Bob Stephenson, Thaxter Trafton, Bill Warner and many others either coached or officiated in those Y basketball programs over the years.
The annual Christmas and February vacation week tournaments at the Y were popular but are no longer held.
With all these changes, the one that hurts the most is losing the availability of a gym, where anyone can go throughout the year.
When I gave individual shooting lessons at the Y gym until it closed, there were usually players using the other hoops, regardless of the time of year.
Bangor basketball really needs an indoor facility that’s open daily, 365 days a year.
When I played at Bangor High in the 1950s and was the boys varsity coach (1969-1977), more than 120 players tried out for the varsity and junior varsity teams. This year Bangor had just 50 candidates for the freshman, JV and varsity teams.
The Bangor Y does have plans to eventually expand and add a new basketball gym that would be a big boost for Bangor basketball, but that seems still several years from becoming a reality.