March 18, 2018
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Experienced hires could spur growth


Many coaching changes call for new blood, an infusion of instant energy designed to take an athletic program in a vastly different direction.

But just as often experience is the crucial trait sought in a new hire, that combination of accumulated knowledge and wisdom and the maturity and stability to handle both the norm and the unexpected with equal discipline.

Two hirings on the Eastern Maine college scene this week will seek to draw upon the experience of two veteran coaches to help their programs grow.

Most of Gavin Kane’s experience has come on the high school level, but he nevertheless should be a valuable addition to Cindy Blodgett’s staff with the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

Kane’s time at both Rangeley and Dirigo of Dixfield produced more than 400 victories and seven state titles — six with the Dirigo girls between 1996 and 2005.

He’s also been an AAU coach as well as an assistant college baseball and basketball coach, giving him exposure to recruiting and other duties that will come his way at Maine.

Perhaps most important, Kane isn’t just another recent college graduate who will use the job as just a quick step up the coaching ladder, and one of his primary roles likely will be as a sounding board for Blodgett as she seeks to revive the Black Bears’ fortunes in her third year as head coach.

Many coaches find comfort in having an experienced presence in the next seat on the bench to lend support and, on occasion, provide a different perspective on a given situation.

Johnny “Swisher” Mitchell, the longtime assistant to Colby men’s basketball coach Dick Whitmore, is one example that quickly comes to mind on the college scene. Veteran high school baseball assistants John Tennett of Bangor, Dana Corey of Brewer and Al Wilson of Skowhegan are similarly valued in their dugouts.

At Husson University in Bangor, meanwhile, Dr. Niles Nelson was hired as the school’s head football coach Wednesday, two weeks after Gabby Price resigned after building the Eagles from scratch to an ECAC Northeast Bowl berth last fall.

Nelson, Husson’s defensive coordinator for the past five years, was one of three in-house candidates considered.

Given his experience from several previous college stops at The Citadel, University of Rhode Island, Nichols College and Methodist College, as well as his familiarity with the Husson program, Nelson should provide a smooth transition as preseason practices for the Eagles loom just seven weeks away.

And that may be just what Husson needed in its next coach as the program seeks to build on the momentum generated from last fall’s 7-3 effort.

It is unlikely, however, that the 71-year-old Nelson — whose coaching resume also includes stops at Orono and Bangor high schools — is Husson’s long term coaching solution, so perhaps the Eagles have hired an interim coach without using that particular label.

There also was considerable support for another Husson assistant, offensive line coach and special teams coordinator Nat Clark, who seemingly was being groomed by Price as his heir apparent.

But Clark’s close relationship with Price may have been more of a negative than an asset as he sought the head job, given the grumblings that Price’s resignation was not a completely amiable undertaking.

One hopes that wasn’t the case, but Clark will continue to be a valuable coaching commodity whether he remains on Nelson’s staff or opts to go elsewhere.


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