Arnie Clark was the Downeast Athletic Conference Coach of the Year last season.
He guided the Woodland High School Dragons to five state Class D girls basketball championships in 16 years after spending 14 seasons coaching the Calais High boys basketball team.
But the Woodland/Baileyville school board has decided to replace him with his assistant coach and former player, Michelle (Ferry) Ripley.
Clark is taking the decision, which was made last month, in stride.
“The superintendent, [William Braun], recommended me, but the school board chose Michelle,” said Clark. “She coached with me for two years. She’ll do a tremendous job for them.
“She’s a very good coach. She understands basketball. She’s also one of the finest people you’ll ever meet,” added the 70-year-old Clark. “She has a very nice family, and we have some talent coming in. I’m happy for her, and I support her 100 percent.”
“I feel like I wound up on the good side of an unfortunate situation,” said Ripley. “When the decision was made, [Clark] was very supportive, and I’m appreciative.
“I’ve known him my whole life. He taught me a lot about playing and coaching. I owe a lot to him,” added the 27-year-old Ripley.
Clark said he bears “no hard feelings” toward the school board.
“I’m not the first coach in the state of Maine not to be rehired,” he said. “That’s the way it is in small towns. School boards change. It’s not their fault, it’s not my fault.
“I’ve been lucky. I’ve coached a lot of good kids, and there have also been a lot of good parents,” Clark added.
Clark said he was never given a reason for the decision.
Woodland went 7-10 during the regular season before losing a 69-43 Class D preliminary game to Machias.
Clark, who is in his 43rd year teaching math and grammar at Calais Elementary School, said he would still like to coach.
Woodland has moved up to Class C under the new realignment.
Ripley led the Dragons to a state championship in 2006, earning the Owen Osborne Most Valuable Player Award in the Eastern Maine Class D tournament.
She played basketball and volleyball at Maine Maritime Academy before transferring to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, where she played basketball.
She earned a degree in education and returned to her native Princeton where she is in her fourth year as a teacher at Princeton Elementary School.
Ripley coached the Princeton Elementary/Middle School girls team for two years and coached the Woodland Elementary/Middle school team for one season before joining Clark at Woodland High.
“I’m really excited. I’ve coached these kids [in the lower grades] and have built a good relationship with them,” said Ripley, who will be assisted by Michealene Spencer. “We’re going to be young, very small and very fast.
“We’re going to build good relationships, learn how to set goals, and we’re going to be determined and motivated,” she said.