BANGOR, Maine — Adrienne Shibles knows she was fortunate as a youngster to have some noteworthy role models in athletics.
Growing up in Knox, she emulated basketball players such as Emily Ellis, who starred at Mount View High School in Thorndike and enjoyed a stellar career at the University of Maine.
“I was one of those little kids who was asking for her autograph,” Shibles said. “I think that’s special, because back then there weren’t a lot of female athletes to serve as role models for girls like myself.”
These days, Shibles is showing her passion for the game as the head women’s basketball coach at Division III power Bowdoin College of Brunswick.
Shibles has inherited a program that has enjoyed tremendous success during the last several years. The Polar Bears have qualified for the NCAA Division III championship each of the last eight seasons, reaching the “Elite Eight” six of the last seven years.
“Obviously, I realized right away it was a great opportunity, a dream come true in so many ways,” Shibles said. “I did have a sense for the tradition of the program and the legacy that [former coach] Stefanie [Pemper] has left.”
There are usually challenges during the transition between coaches. Thus, Shibles wants Bowdoin to proceed patiently this season.
“I think we’re really approaching this season as an entity unto itself,” she said. “I think we’re focused on taking one day, one opponent, one practice at a time. I think it’s especially important given some of the adversity that we are facing.”
Bowdoin is off to a 6-2 start, including Tuesday’s 77-59 nonleague win over Husson. The Polar Bears have lost senior standout Jill Anelauskas for the season with a knee injury, while senior Alexa Kaubris of Rumford is just now coming back after an injury.
“I think they’ve approached it with a very positive attitude,” Shibles said of those players.
“I think with adversity comes opportunity and some of the younger players have had to step up and have done a really great job of that,” she added.
At Mount View, Shibles played on basketball teams that went 18-0 in the regular season during her junior and senior campaigns in 1985-86 and 1986-87. Coach Allen Downer’s Mustangs, who posted a four-year, regular-season record of 69-3, reached the state final in 1987, losing to Messalonskee.
“Back in the day, we had a strong tradition of excellence at Mount View,” Shibles said. “It definitely serves as a foundation for who I am as a coach.”
Shibles attended Bates College in Lewiston, where she was a 1,000-point scorer and a two-time captain. It was there that she began to consider coaching.
The key influence was Bates coach Marsha Graef.
“All my coaches in high school — I played three sports — they were always men,” Shibles said. “[Graef] was the first female coach that I had. It never occurred to me that I could [coach] until I saw that.”
Shibles built an impressive coaching resume after graduating from Bates in 1991 with a degree in history and American studies. She assisted in basketball at Babson and was a basketball and soccer assistant at Colby College in Waterville.
In 1996, she earned a master’s degree in exercise and sports studies at Smith College. While there, she was an assistant, then the head women’s basketball coach at Elms College.
In 1997, Shibles became the head coach at Swarthmore College (Pa.), where she spent the next nine years. She guided the Garnet to a 138-96 record, including the 2001 Centennial Conference Tournament title and an NCAA tourney berth.
Two years ago Shibles, husband Kirk Daulerio and their daughters Madeline and Elsa, moved back to Maine. She took a job as the dean of athletics and co-curricular programs at Gould Academy in Bethel. She coached the girls basketball team to tourney berths both years.
At Bowdoin, Shibles is working alongside assistant coach Alison Smith, a Bowdoin alum (Class of 2005) and Stockton Springs native who starred at Bangor High School.
They represent part of a significant Maine presence in the program. The Polar Bears feature six players who played high school ball in the state, including starters Katie Bergeron of Bradley, Sabrina Cote of Dexter and Caitlin Hynes of Owls Head, along with Kaubris, Amy Hackett of Bangor and Jill Henrikson of Bath.
“We have an appreciation for the talent in the state, so it is important for us that we have that strong contingent of Maine players in the program,” Shibles said.
Shibles is excited and proud to be part of the Bowdoin program and have the chance to work with the young women.
“This team, they’re a really great bunch,” Shibles said. “They have excellent team chemistry and a good work ethic, so I’m really enjoying it.”