NEWPORT, Maine — Michelle Paradis and Diana Trams could be forgiven for stepping into their new posts as girls basketball coaches with a certain amount of trepidation.
Trams takes over a program at Washburn District High School where the previous coach, Mike Carlos, led the Beavers to the Class D state championship the last two years. He was not rehired because of “politics,” he has said, but no official reason has been provided in the nearly nine months since then.
Paradis returned to her alma mater, Nokomis Regional High School in Newport, after former coach Kori Dionne resigned. Dionne was charged with operating under the influence of intoxicants in early June and later pleaded guilty to the OUI charge.
Paradis wants to keep that behind them and just move on.
Asked if anybody has brought up the subject with her, a relieved Paradis said, “No, thank God.”
The Warriors went through the Eastern Maine Class B regular season undefeated last year but fell to eventual state champ Presque Isle in the East semis.
“It’s not as much nervous, more of an excited nervous,” said Paradis of being back on the floor she played on as a Warrior. “I’m just happy to be coaching again.
“I’m a very happy coach, plus I’m two seconds from school.”
While Paradis, who graduated from Nokomis in 2003, got her feet wet as a head coach at Foxcroft Academy last year, this is Trams’ first post as head coach.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been on the court, playing or coaching,” she said.
Trams doesn’t expect to feel any nervousness until the season begins Friday.
“I’ll have butterflies the first game, maybe the first couple of games,” said Trams, “but practice? No.”
Her last basketball court endeavor was as the JV girls basketball coach at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School in Cambridge, Md., in the 2002-03 season, but Trams doesn’t feel anywhere near overwhelmed.
“It’s been a very enjoyable experience. I’m getting a lot of support, too,” said Trams, who was a star athlete at Ashland High School, helping the Hornets win the 1989 Class D state title in girls soccer and the 1991 Class D state championship in girls basketball.
Because Paradis played in the same gym where she’ll be coaching now, she did admit to an odd feeling.
“It was extremely different,” she said. “I remember walking in as a player, now [as the coach] I’m on the far other end of the spectrum.”
There was something else Paradis noticed when she set foot in the gym.
“There’s always that same Nokomis atmosphere,” she said. “That very special atmosphere.”
Paradis said she notices it every time she’s in the gym.
“We had a faculty basketball game fundraiser with MCI. The gym was filled and the atmosphere was like the [state high school] tournament.”
The game, organized by Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield to raise money to help preserve the sports programs at Nokomis, also benefited Paradis in another way.
Any time she sees a court, especially the Warriors’, she said, “I want to play, I like it so much.”
And she did play, but her focus now is on preparing others to play, and she has a different perspective as a coach.
“It feels like we’ve only had five or six practices,” said Paradis. “When I was playing, it seemed like preseason lasted a month and a half and each practice lasted forever.
“Now, there’s never enough time to do everything I want.”
She said practices have been going well anyway.
“The girls are happy to be starting the season and I’m happy to be coaching,” said Paradis.
Trams is also getting into the swing with the Beavers.
“I think everything has been pretty easygoing,” said Trams, “but they expect to work hard.”
So she has applied herself to the task.
“I would say there are some things that are the same, whether you’re playing or coaching,” she said. “I’m very familiar with the drills we’re trying to implement.”
Because Washburn has won two state titles in a row, Trams doesn’t feel like she’s had to institute a lot of new drills.
“We’ve already had some things they did last year that I’ve been able to incorporate [into her program],” said Trams.
“As the season goes on, I’ll add more drills,” she said.
Trams doesn’t want to overdo it, though.
“I don’t want to make it confusing for them,” she said with a laugh.
Like Paradis, Trams hasn’t hesitated to seek help.
“I’ve been sitting down with a few people,” she said.
One of those happens to be her father, Peter Belskis, a longtime high school coach who is now a basketball official.
“He’s been quizzing me on the rules, going over them a little bit from time to time,” she said. “He’s somebody I trust, and there are also people with Washburn that I’m not afraid to ask questions, [Athletic Director] Ron Ericson and [Principal] Ricky Bragg.”
Trams likes the effort the Beavers are putting into their preparation.
“We’re moving forward at a pretty good pace,” said Trams.
Several of the girls either played soccer or ran cross country in the fall, so Trams thinks they’re in good shape for the season.
Stylewise, Washburn will use a wide-ranging system.
“We’re putting in offenses and defenses, and they have a good start,” Trams said.
Trams is looking forward to the season with excitement instead of worry.
“I feel good about where we are,” she said.