Tim Prescott wasn’t a teenager who needed outside guidance to determine his career path.
“By the time I was in the middle of high school, I knew I wanted to be a coach and a teacher, so I started coaching anything I could,” he said.
More than three decades later, the Island Falls native and Southern Aroostook High School graduate is still coaching and teaching — and enjoying considerable success.
Prescott, now in his 25th year as the boys varsity basketball coach at Presque Isle High School, earned his 300th coaching victory Saturday as the Wildcats edged John Bapst of Bangor 43-36 at the Bangor Auditorium.
“I’m proud that we’ve been able to compete at a consistent level for a pretty long period of time,” said Prescott. “But basketball’s a team game, so there’s a hesitation to say anything about individual things because that’s the way we are here at Presque Isle.”
And while Prescott understands the statistical standards by which sports achievement is measured, he also sees the slightly more subtle ways interscholastic athletics contributes to individual growth.
“I see every day the value of sports to the total package of education,” said Prescott. “It teaches discipline, dedication and responsibility. One of the most important things we can give kids is the opportunity to be competitive.”
Prescott, 49, began his coaching career with the youth baseball program in Island Falls while still a student, but once he graduated from college he quickly joined the high school ranks.
He guided the junior varsity basketball team at Southern Aroostook during the 1983-84 season, then joined Butch Shaw’s staff at Presque Isle. He served as junior varsity coach for the 1984-85 season, then became the varsity coach after Shaw was diagnosed with leukemia in July 1985.
“I got hired to replace Butch on a yearly basis, with the hope that someday he’d be able to return to the job,” said Prescott.
Shaw died on Oct. 31, 2005, leaving Prescott to take a job he didn’t want under those particular circumstances but one he has maintained for a quarter-century.
But with support from the school, the community and his players, the program persevered through that tragedy, finishing 14-4 in Prescott’s first season as the Wildcats’ head coach.
Presque Isle has had just three sub-.500 seasons since then, and 20 trips to postseason play. Those runs have included four berths in Eastern Maine championship games, in 1988, 1989 and 1998 in Class A and in 2006 in Class B.
“A lot of coaches have a system that they use,” said Prescott, whose team is 10-1 this season after a 71-37 win over Fort Kent on Monday.
“I look at the group of guys that we have and think ‘what could we be really good at?’ Over the years we’ve had a lot of kids that could put the ball in the basket, and in the last four or five years we’ve still had guys that can put the ball in the basket, but we’ve also been right at the top of the league in being a good defensive team.”
Prescott credits much of his longevity and success at Presque Isle to the school’s administration, his players and his coaching comrades, particularly longtime assistant and close friend Ralph Michaud and current assistant Scott Young, a former team captain during his playing days under Prescott.
“I don’t know that if I hadn’t had those guys with me that I would have been doing this for this long,” said Prescott.
And basketball represents just part of his coaching resume. He also served as the Wildcats’ junior varsity soccer coach for more than two decades and as varsity softball coach for 15 years — and during that latter tenure he coached three sports a year with all the travel back and forth to Aroostook County that entails.
“People told me I had to be crazy to do that all those years,” Prescott said.
Prescott doesn’t believe his sideline demeanor has changed much since securing his first coaching win in 1985, though others may disagree.
“The older guys like Rich Drummond and Scott tell me I’m getting soft, and even [Caribou coach] Chris Casavant, who also played for me here, says that,” said Prescott. “But I don’t think I’m getting too soft, and I’m pretty sure my players now wouldn’t say that.”
Prescott does admit “the losses hurt more now than they used to,” perhaps because his coaching career is now nearer its end than its beginning.
But he has no timetable for ending his coaching run in the Star City.
“I couldn’t think of a better place to be than Presque Isle,” he said. “The school and the community have been very supportive and the kids have been wonderful.
“Coaching has always been fun for me and I still enjoy it. It makes life a lot more interesting.”
Blue Devils mesh on the mat
High school wrestling is among the toughest sports out there, a fact that’s reflected in small part by the fact few schools in the region can fill out all 14 weight classes for a dual meet.
One program getting closer to meeting that goal is Calais, where the largest team in the school’s history is off to a 15-2 start this winter.
“It’s a wonderful thing for the kids,” said coach Randy McCormick of the lofty record, which includes losses only to perennial Eastern C powers Dexter and Penobscot Valley of Howland. “It also helps them understand the team concept of wrestling as much as it is an individual sport.”
McCormick coaches the Blue Devils along with his wife, Therese, who grew up in a family of wrestlers in her native North Dakota, and together they lead an 18-wrestler roster capable of filling as many as 12 weight classes — considerable growth from last year’s nine-member squad.
“We’re just out there doing everything we can to promote the sport here,” said McCormick. “We’ve been trying to get the word out that wrestling is something that can be a great outlet for kids, and also a source of family for some kids.”
Calais features a pair of top individual performers in juniors Scott Carpenter and Spencer McCormick. Carpenter, the defending Class C state champion at 119 pounds, is undefeated against instate competition at 125 pounds this year and is coming off a 6-4 victory over Camden Hills of Rockport’s Zac Fields in the third-place match at last weekend’s Redskin Invitational tournament.
Fields, the defending Class B state champion at 130, had recently ended the 140-match win streak of Gardiner’s Matt DelGallo at the Noble Invitational.
Spencer McCormick, the reigning Eastern C champion at 135 pounds, is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Redskin Invitational after entering that meet with an 18-1 record this winter at 145 pounds.
Other top performers for the Blue Devils include senior co-captain Adam Morrison in the middle weights and sophomore Spencer Bauer, a first-year performer at 135 who is 10-0 against Class C competition at 135 pounds heading into tonight’s meet at Ellsworth against Brewer, Washington Academy of East Machias and the host Eagles.
The program also has benefited from efforts to improve the wrestling facilities at the school.
That includes the purchase of a new wrestling mat, an upgrade of the exercise room used by the wrestling team and the installation of a new spotlight in the gymnasium to highlight the wrestling mat during home meets.
A local electrical business donated the spotlight, and Randy McCormick, the technology education teacher at the school, and his students have done much of the renovation work.
The enhanced facilities have enabled the team to schedule four home matches this winter, twice as many as the previous years. The next home match is Saturday against Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and Old Town.
“We’re doing what we can to build up the image of wrestling here,” said coach McCormick.