ORONO, Maine — Richard Barron talked about how kids nowadays like to Tweet song lyrics.
One accurately captured his emotions on Wednesday after it was announced that he signed a four-year contract extension to continue coaching the University of Maine women’s basketball team.
“We ain’t rich but we got a lot,” said the 47-year-old Barron, who is 78-80 in five years at Maine, including 49-18 the last two seasons during which the Black Bears have shared the America East regular-season championship with Albany.
Maine is 29-3 in America East regular-season play since the start of the 2014-2015 campaign.
Barron’s new deal will pay him $150,000 per year, with an annual increase of $5,000.
His quote referred to the fact that although UMaine has been financially strapped, he has been well-supported by athletic director Karlton Creech, President Susan Hunter, the university, the community and the state.
“This is a great day. I’m really excited about continuing to build the program,” Barron said inside Memorial Gym. “This is a great place. I have a lot invested in the people that are here and they obviously have a lot invested in me.”
Barron admitted that he had inquiries from other schools but he quickly thanked them for their interest and told them he was staying put.
“Who knows what will happen in the future but, right now, we’re very happy at Maine,” said Barron, who would need to pay only $25,000 — two months’ salary — to be released from his contract.
He said things have improved noticeably at the institution since he replaced Cindy Blodgett in 2011.
“There have been a lot of positive changes, beyond wins and losses,” said Barron, referring to the move from Alfond Arena to the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and the $15.65 million renovation of the New Balance Field House and Memorial Gym, including new locker rooms and upgraded office space.
Maine is a “great place to raise a family. We feel connected to the community, with our church, to the university and even to the state,” Barron said.
“(It’s nice) being able to take my son (Billy) to Weatherby’s (at Grand Lake Stream) or going fly fishing with him for salmon, which has become an annual event. Watching “Bill Green’s Maine,” even becoming familiar with “North Woods Law,” I’ve seen some of those guys,” Barron said. “We’re very happy here. It would take something extraordinary for us to leave.
He explained that despite Maine’s mid-major status, it beats some big-time programs.
“People care here. You can’t put a price tag on that,” said Barron.
Barron, the 2015 America East Coach of the Year, said it would have been a bad time to make a move with eight incoming freshmen replacing an exceptional, eight-member senior class.
“Clearly, I wouldn’t want to abandon them,” said Barron, whose teams won just 12 games in his first two seasons. “This is an exciting time based on where we’ve gotten and where I think the ceiling is for the program.”
He has led Maine to three straight postseason appearances, including two consecutive bids to the Women’s NIT. Maine has evolved into a mainstay member of the Mid-Major Top 25 poll, finishing 2016 ranked 16th.
Maine’s home attendance (2,077 fans per game last season) has increased by 63 percent during his tenure and the Black Bears have gone 25-2 at the Cross Insurance Center the last two years.
Barron said he is excited about the fact the early rounds of the America East tournament will be played at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland the next two years.
Maine’s success on the court continues to be matched by its community service and academic excellence.
Academically, the Black Bears finished the 2014-15 season ranked 24th nationally in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Academic Top 25 Honor Roll with a 3.399 grade point average. For 2015, all 16 team members were recognized at UMaine’s Academic Awards night for achieving individual GPAs of 3.0 or better.
Team members also are attached to the community, participating in numerous clinics, school visits and holiday service events.
“We are extremely delighted to have coach Barron staying at the University of Maine,” said Creech in a press release. “Coach Barron’s team has become a model of excellence on the court, in the classroom, and throughout the community. We are happy with the growth and success of the women’s basketball program over the last five years but even more excited about the future of this program under his guidance.”