Tim Prescott estimates that the longest Christmas vacation he’s enjoyed as an adult has lasted three days.
But that figures to change next winter with Prescott’s recent decision to end his 26-year career as the boys varsity basketball coach at Presque Isle High School.
“It’s just time,” said Prescott, a native of Island Falls. “I started thinking about this back when Marty Clark first got done coaching at Old Town, because he had coached there a long time and was just a couple of years younger than me.”
Prescott guided the Wildcats to a 321-186 record during a tenure that began during the 1985-86 season after initially being promoted from the school’s boys junior varsity coach to interim varsity coach by then-athletic director Frank Keenan while head coach Butch Shaw was battling leukemia.
Shaw died on Oct. 31, 1985, leaving Prescott as a young coach in charge of one of Eastern Maine’s traditional basketball powers — a run that became a labor of love for more than a quarter-century.
“I work at a great school with a wonderful coaching staff that really looks after each other,” said Prescott. “And I have the same superintendent now [Gehrig Johnson] that I did when I started. He hired me, and it’s been great because he really values athletics as an important part of education. I’ve also had great ADs over the years, and two great assistant coaches in Ralph Michaud and Scott Young for the last few years. I’ve been as spoiled as you can get.
“Plus the kids at Presque Isle are special. We’re so far removed, and Presque Isle is still an agricultural community so they’re still kind of country, squared-away, hard-working kids, and I’ve just loved working with that kind of kids.”
Prescott guided Presque Isle to 22 winning seasons and 22 postseason appearances, including four trips to the Eastern Maine championship game in 1988, 1989, 1998 and 2006.
He also oversaw the program’s transition to Class B in 2004, the result of a steadily shrinking enrollment base.
“When I started at Presque Isle we had 850 or 900 kids, we were one of the big players in the Class A ranks,” said Prescott, whose team went 17-1 last winter before being ousted by Gardiner in the Eastern B quarterfinals. “But unfortunately we’ve experienced a steady decline enrollment-wise, and that’s definitely made it more difficult.
“We’re at about 550 now, so we’re not even one of the biggest schools in Class B.”
One of the greatest challenges faced by Prescott and his teams over the years has been the travel required, initially to maintain a Class A schedule and more recently to compete successfully in Class B, given that Presque Isle and Caribou currently are the only schools north of Lincoln currently in Class B.
“Being a basketball coach at Presque Isle or Caribou takes an enormous amount of time because you spend all that time traveling,” said Prescott. “You don’t have any of those easy Tuesday and Friday weeks, you always play on Saturdays and have those long trips. I’m not complaining, but it is what it is.
“It definitely takes a lot out of you, and for the last few years it’s become closer and closer to the beginning of the season before I’ve really sunk my teeth into the fact that I was coming back.”
Prescott will remain at Presque Isle as a physical education teacher, but after coaching “66 or 67 different sports teams” there he’s looking forward to having some free time during the winter months.
“I was telling someone the other day that the longest Christmas vacation I’ve had in my adult life has been three days,” he said. “This gives me a chance to take stock and see what’s out there.
“But I don’t suspect I’ll be very far from basketball. I love the sport, I love being around the sport, I love watching the sport and I’ve got nieces and nephews who are playing now and I’m looking forward to watching them.”