Whether as a player, coach, educator or parent, basketball has been in Terry Spurling’s blood.
After a stellar playing career at Ellsworth High School that led to coaching jobs in Mars Hill and Houlton, Spurling has now taken joy in watching his grandchildren, Kyle Bouchard and Kolleen Bouchard, build storied hardwood careers of their own.
“I’ve never missed one of Kyle’s games; I’ve never missed one of [Kolleen’s],” said Spurling, the father of Karen Spurling Bouchard, who led Houlton to Class B state championships in 1986 and 1988.
Terry Spurling blazed his own path during his playing career, as he was a member of the Bangor Daily News’ first All-Maine Schoolboy Basketball Team more than six decades ago.
That 1956 All-Maine First Team included Ed Marchetti of Morse, Paul Davenport of Houlton, Cape Elizabeth’s Pete Scott, Danny Drinon of Bangor and Dick Bishop of Morse.
Joining Spurling on the second team were Karl Daigle of Bangor, Bob Napolitano of Cheverus, Ron Gagne of Lewiston and Don Sturgeon of Old Town.
Third-team honorees were Barry Tapley of Easton, Dick Gardner of Rockland, Bob Moran of Cheverus, Wes DeCapus of Morse and Bunky Davis of Solon.
Spurling, who was in Glendale, Arizona, for Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game between North Carolina and Gonzaga, said he was fortunate during his time at Ellsworth to have played for such a great role model of a coach as Charlie Katsiaficas — for whom the Ellsworth High School gym is named.
“He was a great, great coach and was very demanding,” said Spurling. “He was a big influence on my life.”
Basketball also paved the way for strong friendships developed off the court.
“Don Sturgeon from Old Town was actually at my wedding,” said Spurling, who also has a longtime friendship with legendary University of Maine player and coach Skip Chappelle, an Old Town native.
Sturgeon, who had an outstanding playing career at Old Town, was inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame last year.
Bangor’s Drinon, who died in 2015, was enshrined that year in the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame’s players category.
The game is different than it was during the era in which the players on the first All-Maine team played.
“We played in old barns, we shoveled the yard [and played], you don’t see that anymore,” said Terry Spurling.
Another major difference is the stars of the era of the first All-Maine team did not have the luxury of the 3-point line.
“The 3-point line makes it a different game,” said Sturgeon, who divides his time between Old Town and Florida. “The other is, today’s players are so much more athletic, bigger and stronger.”
But guard play has evolved to the extent that backcourt players are more well-rounded in today’s game.
“Kids handle the ball so much better,” said Spurling who, along with his wife Jane, divides his time between Houlton and Naples, Florida.
Now, he enjoys his time watching the game as a grandparent, having witnessed Kolleen lead Houlton to two state championships and a third regional title this winter and saw Kyle win a state championship with the Shiretowners in 2014.
Kyle now plays at Division II Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Another difference Sturgeon noted is the evolution of travel basketball, which provide kids more opportunities to play games but perhaps less time to hone their skills.
“Kids don’t take the time to develop fundamentals of the game and you can see it on both offense and defense,” said Sturgeon, who played at UMaine and was a teammate of Chappelle’s at Old Town and UMaine.
Sturgeon also recalled the friendship and rivalry he had with the late Drinon, and the rivalries with teams such as Bangor and Stearns of Millinocket.
“[Drinon] was probably one of the better players in that era at any school,” said Sturgeon, who grew up in Bangor before moving to Old Town when he was in seventh grade.
“We used to play together with Kyle Daigle and Bob Cimbollek and Jim Doughty. Danny was an exceptional player.”
Sturgeon and Chappelle remain close friends.
Update: Corrected Danny Drinon’s Maine Basketball Hall of Fame’s category to players.
Follow Ryan McLaughlin on Twitter at rmclaughlin23