WINSLOW, Maine — There was a time when Ken Lindlof couldn’t have imagined crossing the Kennebec River from Waterville to Winslow to coach a high school basketball team.
That was the 1980’s, when high schools from both communities were Class A powers and Lindlof was matching his coaching wits from the Waterville bench against the likes of Chuck Underwood and Jim Poulin at Winslow as well as the late Erv Blanchette and Mike McGee at Lawrence High School in nearby Fairfield.
But times have changed. Longtime schoolboy hockey powers Waterville and Winslow are in the process of establishing a cooperative team in that sport to address shrinking enrollments, and the two communities also share a school superintendent.
Now Lindlof, who coached varsity basketball at Waterville for 21 years and still teaches part time at the school, will start driving across the Kennebec much more frequently after being named the new boys varsity basketball coach at Winslow.
“I think this job made sense,” said Lindlof. “I didn’t have to uproot myself or move, it’s a quick commute over the river so the timing was good, the fit was there, and I kind of missed the competition from the basketball side of things.”
Lindlof interviewed for the vacancy on Thursday, then accepted the job offer Friday morning.
“We’re excited to have a coach with that much experience join us,” said Winslow athletic administrator Jim Bourgoin. “He’s going to bring a lot to our program.”
Lindloff coached Waterville from 1981 to 2002, compiling a 245-163 record highlighted by a run to the Class A state championship in 1985.
The Purple Panthers went 57-8 during a three-year period that began with the 1984-1985 season when a team featuring brothers Dick Whitmore and Kevin Whitmore, center Scott Saft and guard Todd Hanson — the longtime boys varsity basketball coach at Brunswick High School — won the school’s first state championship in the sport since since 1949.
Waterville advanced to the Eastern Maine final again the following season before being upset in overtime by Lawrence, then bounced back to win another regional championship in 1987.
Lindlof’s Waterville teams qualified for postseason play in 15 of his 21 years on the sideline. The Purple Panthers also reached the Eastern A championship game in 1992.
Lindlof later served as an assistant coach for the former Maine Central Institute postgraduate men’s basketball program, and he continues to work as an assistant football coach, for many years at Waterville and for the last three seasons at Lawrence.
Lindlof also is a longtime color analyst for Maine Public’s high school basketball tournament broadcasts.
“I’ve not stopped coaching but I’ve been more on the football side,” said Lindlof. “I’ve been on the sidelines, but a lot of my good friends and former players are coaches and they kind of encouraged me when this (Winslow) opportunity came up.
“Maybe it’s because they want to see me suffer, I’m not sure,” he joked.
Lindlof replaces Jared Browne, who guided Winslow to an 85-34 record over six seasons before resigning in March. Brown told Central Maine Newspapers at the time that his resignation was influenced by a difference of opinion with Winslow officials about the future of the program, but he did not elaborate.
Winslow went 15-5 last winter and reached the Class B North quarterfinals and qualified for postseason play in each of Browne’s six seasons, including a trip to the 2015 regional championship game.
Winslow will graduate only four players off its 2016-2017 team.
“They’ve got a good core group of kids and coach Browne had an outstanding record while he was at Winslow,” said Lindlof. “They were always competitive so I feel like the foundation is there. Coach Browne did a good job of continuing the success that Winslow has had.”