HOULTON, Maine — When Mike Carlos was not rehired as the girls basketball coach at Washburn District High School in March after leading the Beavers to their second straight Class D state championship, he exhibited no public anger — just a determination to coach the sport again.
The lingering controversy, he said then and again last weekend as the topic resurfaced while he guided the Houlton boys soccer team to its first state title, was merely wasted energy on the part of others.
“I get tired of people talking about it, I’ll be very honest with you,” said Carlos after Houlton’s 2-0 victory over Hall-Dale of Farmingdale in Saturday’s Class C state championship match held at Scarborough High School. “I’ve let it go, now if I could just get other people to let it go. I read MBR [a basketball website] like everybody else. Even [Friday] night they were talking about it still.
“Did I do anything wrong? No. Was it something internally where somebody wasn’t happy with me not doing something? Yes. Did I curse? No. Did I beat up a little girl? No. Did I do any of those things? No,” Carlos said. “It’s just politics, and I accept it.”
Carlos’ basketball coaching career has indeed moved on, back to the future in a sense as he recently was hired to guide the girls varsity squad at East Grand School in Danforth where he started his coaching career more than three decades ago.
“We’re glad to have him,” said East Grand assistant principal and athletic administrator Chris Young. “Everything I heard from people was that he hadn’t really done anything wrong, and between what he’s done with the Houlton soccer team winning the state championship and what he accomplished at Washburn, we feel pretty lucky having him coach our girls basketball team this year. It’s already started to create some excitement around here.”
While his former team will be favored to win a third straight Class D state crown this winter, Carlos is eager to rebuild an East Grand program that comes from one of the state’s smallest public high schools and finished 4-14 last season.
That rebuilding process begins with the mental side of the game.
“I asked the girls what they wanted to do, and they said they just want to win games,” said Carlos, who also is working as a long-term substitute teacher in physical education at the school. “I told them that’s not why I’m coming here. I’m coming here to win championships. And you’ve got to change your mindset.
“Now they’re trying to get that kind of mindset, and hopefully I can help change the mindset of the girls. It’s important that they they think about winning something big and not just a game or two,” Carlos said.
Such a win-oriented approach may have been part of the rub at Washburn. While no one there would speak publicly for the reasons behind Carlos’ dismissal, superintendent of schools Ed Buckley issued a statement at the time that said in part, “we do not measure the success of our athletic teams by the number of contests they win but whether it is a positive experience for all our students.”
Carlos admits he’s a tough coach but insists his style is a positive approach designed to bring the best out of his players.
It is an approach that has enabled the self-described “hired gun” to lead three teams in two different sports from two different communities to state championships in the last two years alone.
“People hear me yell and hear me scream instead of listening to the things that I say to people,” said Carlos, who has lived in Houlton since 1974 and whose coaching resume also includes stops at the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Hodgdon High School.
“If people would take time and listen to what I’m saying they’d hear all the positive things that are really coming out of my mouth.”
Carlos hopes the recent successes of East Grand’s softball and girls’ soccer teams will bolster the girls’ basketball mindset at the school. The Vikings’ softball squad have qualified for postseason play each of the last three years, reaching the Eastern D semifinals last spring and finishing with a 13-3 record after earning the top seed in the final Heal point rankings.
The girls’ soccer team advanced to the preliminary round of the Eastern D playoffs this fall.
And with approximately 60 students in grades 9-12 at the school, many of the Vikings’ athletes play all three sports.
“I’m excited,” said Carlos. “I think there’s some talent there.”