FAIRFIELD, Maine — One of the worst-kept secrets in the Eastern Maine high school basketball world became public Wednesday with the announcement that longtime Lawrence boys basketball coach Mike McGee is resigning from that post at the end of the current season.
McGee has spent 31 years as a basketball coach, the last 28 as the head coach at his alma mater where he has guided the Bulldogs to five Eastern Maine Class A titles and two Class A state championships.
“The last two or three years I’ve been getting a little more tired and a little less enthusiastic,” said the 55-year-old McGee. “Today the season never really ends. Between the weight room and off-season conditioning and the summer program in the Augusta league, it’s 11 months a year. The only month I get off is August and I work a camp that month.”
McGee first indicated several years ago that the 2012-13 season might be his last on the Lawrence bench.
“I’ve never had a Christmas off in 31 years,” said McGee, who estimates he has been associated with the Lawrence basketball program as a player or coach for 43 years overall.
“I think two or three years ago was when I first decided that this year would be it. This year’s team has nine seniors — the most I’ve ever had — and I knew it was going to be a special group back when they were eighth-graders. I thought this would be a great group to go out with.”
During his playing days McGee helped lead Lawrence to its first two Eastern Maine Class A championships in boys basketball in 1974 and 1976. As a senior in 1976 McGee was named to the Bangor Daily News All-Maine first team.
The son of former Colby College football coach and athletic director Dick McGee, McGee went on to score 1,000 points while playing college basketball for the Mules, then transferred to Clark University in Worcester, Mass., where he also scored 1,000 points.
After graduating he returned to his hometown to teach at the middle-school level and coach, and he served as an assistant coach on the 1984 Lawrence team that won the Eastern A championship under head coach Erv Blanchette.
McGee took over for Blanchette in the 1985-86 season, and his head coaching career got off to a memorable start. Lawrence lost its regular-season finale to defending state champion Waterville by 56 points — 89-33 — on Senior Night in Fairfield, but when the teams met again in the Eastern Maine final at the Bangor Auditorium two weeks later, Lawrence scored a stunning 56-53 overtime victory over the Purple Panthers to capture the regional title.
“We were down two at halftime, and I remember leaning over to my assistant coach Lenny Cole and saying if we could end the game right now I’d take it,” said McGee. “I’m glad we didn’t. I think that one gave me a few years of a honeymoon here.”
Lawrence went on to win subsequent EM championships under McGee in 1989, 1990, 1994 and 1999 and won state titles in 1990 and 1994. The Bulldogs defeated Oxford Hills of South Paris 51-44 in the 1990 final and topped Westbrook 65-58 in the 1994 gold ball game.
McGee also has guided Lawrence to three Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A championships, and he has been named coach of the year 16 times by various organizations.
McGee’s 2011 Lawrence team was named the Maine Red Claws/Maine McDonald’s Team of the Year based on its community service, sportsmanship and academic excellence.
McGee also was featured by USA Weekend in 2008 as a winner of the Most Caring Coach in the Country award, which resulted in his induction into the World Sport Humanitarian Hall of Fame in Idaho.
This year’s Lawrence team currently is ranked third in Eastern A with an 8-1 record, giving McGee 342 varsity coaching victories with the Bulldogs.
McGee’s coaching career will be honored during a ceremony just before the tipoff of Lawrence’s final home game of the regular season against Skowhegan on Feb. 6 at Folsom Gymnasium.