Joe Johnson has led the Bangor High School girls soccer team to four consecutive Eastern Maine Class A championships and a state title, and now he is hoping to guide the school’s girls basketball program to the same success.
The 50-year-old Johnson has replaced Katie Herbine as the girls basketball coach. Herbine resigned after four seasons during which she compiled a 43-36 record that included the Rams’ first EM girls championship (2012-13) since 1982.
Bangor struggled to a 6-12 campaign this past season and didn’t qualify for the regional tournament.
Johnson has been the girls soccer coach for six seasons, and over the past four, he directed them to a 65-5-2 record. They captured the 2011 state championship.
Excluding indoor and outdoor track coaches, he will be the first head coach of two varsity sports at Bangor High since Roger Reed coached the boys soccer and basketball teams in the early 1990s.
Bangor High athletic director Steve Vanidestine said he knew there would be questions about Johnson’s ability to coach two sports.
“In a perfect world, you’d probably like to have coaches coaching single sports,” said Vanidestine. “In this case, I couldn’t be happier to have a coach that brings the quality and knowledge Joe brings.
“I looked at it very carefully. Our student-athletes in the girls soccer program have had great experiences with Joe, and we have 65-70 girls try out every year. So why should I penalize a person who has had this type of success and provided a great experience for our girls,” explained Vanidestine.
Vanidestine said there were other intangibles that sold him on Johnson, who teaches health at the high school.
“He has been very successful at every level he has coached for us; a lot of our girls play both sports and he teaches at the high school,” said Vanidestine, who added that Johnson was one of three finalists from a pool of more than 10 applicants.
Johnson feels he can successfully juggle coaching two sports.
“I have a lot of support in the school system. I have a super staff on the soccer side. I’ve been coaching soccer and basketball since I got here so I know the hours involved. I knows the ins and outs of the basketball team and what I’m getting into,” said Johnson.
Johnson served as the junior varsity boys basketball coach under Reed beginning in the 1999-2000 season, when he moved to Maine from Virginia and he also began serving as the girls assistant soccer coach.
He spent one year as the JV boys coach under current coach Ed Kohtala but spent last season watching his son, Garrett, play for the Rams.
“This past year was the first year I hadn’t coached basketball in around 25 years. I enjoyed watching my son play but I missed coaching,” said Johnson, who is a Searsport native and a George Mason University graduate
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve worked with a lot of good coaches,” said Johnson.
He will have a hard-working team like he does in soccer and said he will take a page out of Reed’s book.
“I will stress defense first and a motion offense,” said Johnson. “We have talent. There’s no doubt about it. We’re going to be very athletic and fast and it wouldn’t surprise me if we pushed the ball up the court.”
Bangor had just two seniors on this past year’s team and will regain the services of 6-foot-3 shot blocker/inside presence Cordelia Stewart, who missed the season due to knee surgery. The Rams also feature two other 6-2, 6-3 players in the Butler sisters, Mary and Katie. All three play soccer, too.