Richard Barron spent some long hours doing his homework.
When he was introduced as the University of Maine women’s basketball coach, he made it a point to tell the gathering that he intended to do whatever he could to keep the best in-state players on his roster.
The hiring of Amy Vachon as an assistant coach is a step toward doing just that.
Vachon was the head coach at Portland’s Catherine McAuley High School this past season and guided it to the state Class A championship.
She was a guidance counselor at Westbrook Middle School.
She was completely content.
But Barron came calling and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: a chance to resurrect a once-prominent program that has fallen on hard times.
In fact, former Black Bear point guard Vachon helped elevate it to that position along with former Maine coach Cindy Blodgett.
This is an intelligent hire.
The name Vachon has instant recognition and that will be a valuable tool in the recruiting of in-state talent. Her dad was a legendary girls basketball coach at Cony High School for 23 years, leading the Rams to 11 Eastern Maine Class A titles and seven state A championships before retiring after the 2008 season.
His daughter graduated from Maine as the all-time assists leader in conference and school history with 759. She led two of her father’s Cony teams to state championships while being named an All-State selection all four years. She won the title of Miss Maine Basketball her senior year at Cony.
A point guard is like a coach on the court and runs the offense and helps organize the defense.
As a two-time captain at Maine, Vachon also learned how to act as a liaison between the players and coaches.
And, as a coach, she knows she will always have a valuable resource to call upon in her father.
It’s a win-win situation.
She will help Barron recruit in Maine and he will help her develop as a coach.
Maine went 24-94 in Blodgett’s four seasons including a program-worst 4-25 mark this past year.
University of Maine fans are hungry for a winner. And they would love to have an in-state player playing a significant role in it.
During Maine’s College World Series days in the 1980s, players like South Portland’s Billy Swift, Augusta’s Eddie Pickett and Mark Sutton, Portland’s Stu Lacognata, Pete Adams and Marc Powers, Waterville’s Dick Whitten, Danville’s Rick Lashua, Hebron’s Kevin Bernier, Auburn’s Billy Reynolds, Orono’s Jeff Paul and Eddie Hackett, Bangor’s Tommy Vanidestine and Winterport’s Mike Bordick were fan favorites.
Blodgett and Vachon were household names during their four years as they led Maine to four straight NCAA tourney appearances.
They put people in the seats.
Rumford’s Andy Bedard gave the men’s basketball program an image boost after transferring from Boston College. And Auburn’s Troy Barnies and Gardiner’s Sean McNally created some interest recently.
Lisbon’s Greg Moore and Bangor’s Derek Damon helped lead the Maine hockey program to four consecutive NCAA tourney berths from the 2002-2003 season through 2005-2006.
Barron knows he can’t have a roster top-heavy with Maine players but he wants to make sure that the ones who can help his program wind up in Orono.
He won’t get all of the best Maine players but I believe he will get most of them.
Maine’s recent struggles will prove to be a recruiting obstacle but Barron’s charisma and Vachon’s presence will help keep the best Maine players here.