June 18, 2018
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Still a coach at heart, former Bangor coach Roger Reed transitions to game of politics

By Ernie Clark, BDN Staff

CARMEL, Maine — The stakes were different as Roger Reed conducted practice Wednesday evening.

Instead of gearing up another team to challenge for a gold ball that represents statewide interscholastic basketball supremacy, the longtime former Bangor High School coach was teaching fundamentals of the sport to a much younger clientele — his granddaughter Lyndsee and the rest of her third- and fourth-grade recreation team.

“I try to teach them how to pass and catch the ball, and how to be fundamental in their skills,” he said. “You want them to have fun and to learn while they’re doing it. They’re going to make lots of mistakes at that age, but as long as everyone’s learning and having fun, it’s good for them.”

The 74-year-old Reed also still has his hand in the high school game, beginning his second season as an assistant under his son Mark, the boys varsity basketball coach at Hermon High School.

But much of Reed’s time these days is spent as a first-term legislator serving District 23 (Hermon, Carmel, Etna and Stetson) in the Maine House of Representatives.

“It’s been a very interesting experience so far,” said Reed, a Republican now retired from a nearly five-decade career in education. “I’ve met some nice people on both sides of the aisle. There are some nice people, some well-meaning people on the other side, they just happen to see things completely different as far as how to grow our state.

“After teaching it for 47 years, I’ve realized it doesn’t work quite the way I taught it.”

It was Reed’s decision to seek that House seat in late 2011 that led to his resignation the following June as the boys basketball coach at Bangor High School, where he had guided the Rams to eight Class A state championships and 10 Eastern Maine titles over 27 years.

School officials had asked Reed to choose between coaching or pursuing a seat in the Legislature amid concerns about whether he could handle the demands of both responsibilities during the winter when the Legislature is in regular session and basketball season is in full swing.

Though Reed was adamant that he could do both jobs effectively, he reluctantly stepped down from the basketball post, concluding a four-decade head coaching career at the college and high school levels that included a combined 571-201 record during his high school stints at Bangor and nearby Bangor Christian.

In the aftermath of that resignation Reed said he was contacted by two schools about filling varsity vacancies, but these days, he’s content with his current mix of coaching and politics.

“I’ve settled into it, and I’m enjoying it,” said Reed, a 2006 inductee into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and a 2013 inductee into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

Reed admits his voting success rate as a member of the minority party in the Legislature doesn’t match his .740 winning percentage as a high school coach.

“I already have lost more votes on the floor than I lost in 40 years coaching basketball,” he said.

Reed also said his approach to each bill under consideration has evolved from the days he followed the Legislature’s actions from afar.

“I used to read the papers about what’s going on down there and would always wonder why they didn’t pass a particular bill,” he said.

“One of the things you learn is that with every decision you make, every vote you cast, you’ve got to do your homework because there are always extenuating circumstances. That vote could have some very large ramifications.

In many cases, Reed says those ramifications involve the associated cost of the legislation.

“We already can’t find $200 million to balance the budget,” Reed said. “Sometimes you have to say we just can’t afford this. I look at how a bill is going to affect business, who is it going to affect and who is it going to hurt. Those are some of the things I have to think about because a lot of people are having a hard time.

“You try to do the best you can to represent your constituents and stand for what you believe.”

And while there may be some frustration with the numerical odds against Reed and his party — Democrats currently outnumber the Republicans 89-58 in the Maine House, along with two unenrolled members and two independents — he seems determined to apply the competitive nature that served him so well on the basketball court to the political arena.

“I feel so strongly about this country,” he said. “Every good thing that has happened to me has happened because of the goodness of this country and its people.

“I’m just trying to make a difference, and hopefully down the road, I can.”

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