A look at the bottom line within the Nokomis of Newport boys basketball program in recent years suggests Carl Parker faces a major challenge as he takes over as the Warriors’ new varsity coach.
Nokomis is coming off back-to-back 0-18 seasons and has gone just 16-92 since making its most recent postseason appearance in 2003.
But Parker, who previously spent 13 years at Nokomis as a teacher, coach, athletic administrator and dean of students, prefers to dwell on the possibilities rather than the past.
“I choose to look at the positive side,” said Parker, who was named to the Nokomis post Tuesday night by the Regional School Unit 19 board of directors.
“These are communities with hard-working people, but sometimes the communities get on islands and they don’t connect. But when they do connect, there’s no community that gets behind their kids more than this one,” he added.
Parker brings to the job a long basketball coaching resume at several levels. The Bangor resident is a former boys varsity coach at Bangor High School and Foxcroft Academy, as well as an assistant coach for four years under Max Good with the Maine Central Institute postgraduate team in Pittsfield.
He coached at several subvarsity levels during his tenure at Nokomis, then coached the Lee Academy postgraduate team for two seasons.
He perhaps is best known in recent years for his work at the forefront of the state’s AAU basketball movement, where he has been active since helping to establish it in 1991.
Parker has coached numerous teams to AAU national tournament appearances, and currently is coaching two teams that feature some of the state’s top high school players. His MBR 17-and-under and 16-and-under teams recently won 2009 state championships and will be competing at their respective national tournaments in Orlando, Fla., in late July.
His success in the AAU ranks also helped land Parker a berth as an assistant coach at the third annual USA Basketball Men’s Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2000.
The 58-year-old retired educator spent last winter providing individual basketball instruction as well as coaching at the AAU level.
When the Nokomis job opened up earlier this spring, Parker saw it as a good opportunity to get back into the high school ranks.
“I had a lot of fond memories from the 13 years I was at Nokomis from a lot of people in the community and a lot of people I worked with at the school that I like and care about a lot,” he said.
“It was just the perfect time and the perfect setting for myself to get back into it.”
Parker is hopeful his experience can serve as a stabilizing influence as he seeks to help the program regroup and improve while it shifts from Class A to Class B beginning next winter.
“Is it going to be a challenge? No question,” said Parker, who met Wednesday with Nokomis athletic administrator Jason Tardy and then visited area middle schools “to ask what I can do for them to get kids involved.
“Everyone wants to have hope,” he added, “and when people don’t have hope or aren’t sure about things they tend to go in different directions. Maybe they can look at me at someone who’s had a little success and is a little older, and it will make it a little easier to start believing and start to have hope.”
Parker replaces Bill Brooks, who wasn’t rehired after coaching the Warriors for the past two seasons.
Friendship Series draws near
The 25th annual Maine-Nebraska Friendship Series, which pits top high school wrestlers from the two states in competition each summer, is set to begin June 22 at York High School.
That will mark the first of four meets around the state featuring a Nebraska all-star squad against different teams of standouts from the Maine high school ranks.
Other meets are set for June 24 at Oak Hill of Sabattus, June 26 at Cony of Augusta and June 28 at Morse of Bath.
Among the Eastern Maine wrestlers slated to compete are Steve Desjardins of Brewer, Ryan Botting of Hermon, Brandon Rich of Camden Hills of Rockport and Mark Heathcote of Central of Corinth at the Oak Hill meet; Scott Carpenter of Calais, Brian O’Connor of Dexter and Brandon Corson and Jake Sylvain of Skowhegan at the Cony meet, and Brandon Wright of MCI, Zac Fields and Jack Simpkins of Camden Hills and four-time state champion Travis Spencer of Belfast at the Morse meet.
Pride enthused about recruit
Brewer High outfielder Billy Bissell’s recent decision to continue his baseball career next year at Gallaudet University in Washington, has at least one veteran of the sport excited — his future coach, former major league outfielder Curtis Pride.
“I am extremely excited that Billy Bissell will be coming to Gallaudet this fall to play baseball,” said Pride, whose 13-year career included stints with the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Montreal Expos. “I was impressed with his baseball abilities when I saw him play in Maine a month ago.”
Bissell figures to be part of a rebuilding effort at Gallaudet, which won its last six games this spring to finish 8-23-1 overall as a member of the Capital Athletic Conference.
“Billy is someone [who] will help us greatly both offensively and defensively,” said Pride via e-mail. “I am counting on him to be the starting right fielder and he will also pitch. He will be the centerpiece that we will build around and eventually place Gallaudet among the elite Division III baseball programs in the country.
“The type of players I am recruiting are the guys who know how to play the game hard and the right way. In other words, I am looking for ‘gamers’ who are willing to take the extra base or run through the wall to catch a fly ball. He definitely fits that mold.”