BANGOR, Maine — Luke Hettermann’s relationship with Dave Patterson transcended the typical player-coach dynamics.
And he’s thankful to have had that sort of friendship with Patterson, the former Bangor High School boys soccer coach who died Thursday at Eastern Maine Medical Center after a six-month battle with lung cancer. He was 50.
Patterson, who never smoked, is survived by his wife of 26 years, Lori, and their sons, Sam and Jack.
“His older son, Sam, was one of my friends in high school, so sometimes I’d see coach at practice and then that night I’d see him again, and he’d just be one of my friend’s parents,” said Hettermann, a 2011 Bangor High School graduate who will be a senior at the University of Maine this fall.
“He was just a really good person, and it was easy for him to relate to kids because he was so down to earth,” he said.
Patterson compiled an 81-11-8 record during his six seasons at Bangor, a tenure highlighted by the 2010 Class A state championship and two Eastern Maine crowns.
“He’s the best mentor you could ask for,” said Billy Shannon, an assistant on the Bangor boys soccer coaching staff for the last three years who was named the Rams’ varsity coach after Patterson left the post this spring to deal with his health issues.
“He was very supportive of the rest of the coaching staff and the players. He wanted nothing more than to put everyone in the best position to have success,” Shannon said.
Patterson grew up in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, and at age 15, he captained the Northern Ireland Under-16 soccer team to victory in the 1979 European Schoolboy Championships.
He went on to play at the collegiate and professional levels, and during that time, he also began his coaching career.
After moving to the United States in 1990, he coached at Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina, the University of Maine and Maine Maritime Academy as well as several youth soccer teams.
He became Bangor High School’s coach in 2008. His first three teams went a combined 49-2-2 with an Eastern Maine crown in his initial season with the Rams, a trip back to the regional final in 2009 — when Bangor allowed just one regular-season goal — and the second state crown in the program’s history the following year.
Patterson was recognized as Eastern Maine coach of the year by the Maine Soccer Coaches Association in 2009 and 2010 and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Region 1 (New England) coach of the year after the 2010 season.
“What stood out to me was not only his love for the game but how well he understood it and could tell us what he wanted us to do,” said Hettermann, a senior on Bangor’s 2010 state title team. “He played professionally so he really knew about the tactical side of the game.
“He knew what he was doing, and he loved it, and he knew exactly how to get through to the players what they had to do to be part of the big picture of playing as a team,” he said.
Bangor remained a consistent title contender under Patterson after that state championship season, reaching the regional semifinals twice in the last three years. Bangor finished 12-4 last fall.
“Dave ended up being one of the best hires we’ve ever made,” said Bangor High School athletic administrator Steve Vanidestine shortly after Patterson tendered his resignation. “We got a coach who not only was successful but was as good as it gets in terms of teaching sportsmanship, leadership, commitment and maybe most importantly in giving the kids ownership. He always had the best interests of the kids at heart.”
Like Hetterman, Hunter Boyce played three seasons of varsity soccer under Patterson.
“I remember my first year playing for him, I was really nervous during tryouts,” said Boyce, a 2014 Bangor High School graduate. “But coach Patterson took me aside and said, ‘You’re going to make it, and I see big things happening with this team.’ He really made me feel comfortable even before the team got picked.
“I see him as one of my mentors,” he added. “He taught me a lot about soccer, but he also taught me a lot about growing up and the important parts of life, those things you should enjoy and making the most of the opportunities you get.”
That philosophy was reflected in Patterson’s coaching approach during Bangor’s 3-2 victory over Portland in the 2010 Class A state final.
Rather than use a passive, defensive-minded game plan against the favored Bulldogs, he opted to match Portland’s offensive firepower with an aggressive 3-5-2 formation featuring two strikers, five midfielders and just three defenders.
Not only did Bangor All-American striker Phil Frost score three first-half goals from that formation, but the Rams then withstood a furious Portland comeback attempt that not only secured the championship but provided Hettermann a lasting impression of his former coach.
“The last time I was on a soccer field was at the end of that state championship game my senior year,” he said. “I remember coach Patterson running out onto the field and jumping around just like all the players. He was hugging everyone and kissing us on the forehead, he was just so happy.
“It’s an awesome memory.”