Barron last week was named the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Maine. He had reached out to Vachon, seeking her insight into Maine basketball.
Vachon, a former star point guard for the Black Bears who coached Catherine McAuley High School of Portland to the Class A state title last season, impressed Barron.
“Through our conversations, it became obvious to me that Amy was someone who filled a lot of needs that I wanted covered on my staff,” he said Monday, when UMaine announced she will join the women’s basketball staff.
Vachon, the daughter of former longtime Cony High School of Augusta coach Paul Vachon, hadn’t been job-hunting.
“I wouldn’t have left McAuley for really any other position,” the 32-year-old Vachon said during an interview at Memorial Gymnasium. “I was happy there, I loved the kids.
“After meeting coach Barron and talking with him, (seeing) the vision to work with these girls and get the program back (on track), it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to,” Vachon explained.
Vachon helped spearhead coach Joanne Palombo-McCallie’s UMaine teams to four straight NCAA tournament berths (1996-2000) and two America East titles. That included the Bears’ 1999 NCAA first-round victory over Stanford at Norfolk, Va.
At Cony, she sparked the Rams to two Class A state championships en route to four Bangor Daily News All-Maine selections from 1993-96 and the Miss Maine Basketball award as a senior.
“Her experience as a player on the high school level, as a player at Maine and then coaching at the high school level (were key factors),” Barron said. “She’s been around Maine basketball all her life.”
Vachon was quick to point out she has been perfectly happy serving as a guidance counselor at Westbrook Middle School and coaching at McAuley. However, with the UMaine program having reached the breaking point in recent years under former teammate Cindy Blodgett, Vachon saw an opportunity to be part of the program’s rejuvenation.
“Everything that he (Barron) said and his philosophies really meshed with what I believe,” Vachon said. “His experiences and his vision for where he wants this program to go is really exciting. When he asked me to be a part of it, I was really thrilled.”
Barron said Vachon will be valuable because she understands the dynamics of the Division I lifestyle. He expects her competitive intensity and easygoing personality to be good fits for the position.
“I think we’ll try to tailor duties around everybody’s strengths,” Barron said of his staff. “We want everybody involved in every aspect.”
Barron said one of the other two assistants will be a recruiting coordinator who has college coaching experience on a more national scale, “but I see Amy being involved in recruiting and scouting and on-floor coaching.”
After graduating magna cum laude from UMaine in 2000 with a degree in elementary education, Vachon maintained ties to the game.
She served as the interim head coach of the Waterville High School girls program for one season (2000-01) before leaving to study for a master’s of education in school counseling at the University of North Carolina. Upon her return, she served briefly on her dad’s staff at Cony.
“She didn’t hurry into the coaching world,” offered Paul Vachon, who celebrated his 57th birthday with Monday’s announcement. “She helped with camps. She watched from the outside. With time, I think she missed the game. I think she learned a lot through that.”
In 2008, she returned to the sidelines as an assistant coach at Greely High in Cumberland Center. Even then, the younger Vachon was a bit on the fence about coaching.
“I reluctantly accepted, because I really wasn’t sure,” she admitted. “Then, I really enjoyed it.”
Last year, she took over the successful program at McAuley and directed the Lions to the Class A title. Vachon thought it would be the first year of many.
“I had planned to be there for a long time,” she said. “That was probably the hardest part of this whole thing was to leave those kids. I couldn’t pass this up.”
A two-time captain at UMaine, Vachon finished as the all-time assists leader in school and conference history with 759, which ranks No. 22 in NCAA history. She also holds the single-season assists mark (234).
Maine compiled a four-year record of 87-35 with Vachon on the team, including a 61-11 league record.
Paul Vachon is proud of Amy’s decision and her success as a coach.
“It’s neat. It’s really exciting for us,” the elder Vachon said. “I think that she can add as much to that program as she did when she was playing. I know the effort and the passion are going to be there.”