BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Basketball Hall of Fame is following a predictable growth pattern.
Its first classes, beginning in 2014, inducted the most obvious influences on the state’s most popular sport.
Subsequent classes — including Sunday’s fourth edition that was inducted during ceremonies at the Cross Insurance Center — are bridging the divide between more historical figures and standouts from recent eras.
“Maine basketball is amazing,” said former Erskine Academy of South China and University of Southern Maine standout Tim Bonsant, one of 18 inductees in the Class of 2017. “The camaraderie you see between all the coaches and players, whether you’re 45 or 85, it’s just a connection that’s unbreakable.”
Bonsant, the 1991 Little East Conference player of the year at USM who now is back home at Erskine as boys varsity basketball coach, was one of the younger inductees in this year’s class.
Sharing similar sentiments was one of the older members, 79-year-old Terry Spurling of Houlton.
Spurling played for Ellsworth in the 1954 New England championships, then went on to the University of Maine before embarking on a coaching career with stops at the former Aroostook Central Institute in Mars Hill and Houlton High School.
He sees community support for basketball as an enduring quality during the different generations that comprised this year’s hall of fame class.
“You don’t go to many states where it’s as important as it is here,” said Spurling. “People save all year long to come to the tournament for a week.
“When we went to Boston when I was a sophomore and a freshman, (Ellsworth) was deserted. There was a picture of it and nobody was there. They were all down in Boston.”
Joining Spurling and Bonsant in this year’s induction class were Terry Carr, who led Stearns of Millinocket to the 1963 New England championship and starred at UMaine; the late Bernard “Bunny” Parady, an Old Town product who coached teams on Mount Desert Island to four state titles; Bangor’s Bob Cimbollek, who guided teams to five state championships and six Eastern Maine crowns after becoming the first 1,000-point scorer in Husson University history; and Kissy Walker, who has led the Husson University women’s basketball program to more than 425 wins in 26 years after her playing career at Cony of Augusta and UMaine.
Also honored were Wally Russell, the All-Maine point guard from Penquis Valley of Milo who led UMaine in assists in back-to-back seasons during the late 1970s and later coached for two decades; Diane Nagle Linde, a two-time All-Maine player while leading Houlton to the 1985 and 1986 Class B state championships; former Lubec star Paul Cook, who went on to lead Maine Central Institute of Pittsfield to a New England prep championship before a playing at UMaine; and Gary Fifield, who coached the University of Southern Maine women’s basketball team to 660 victories and 26 NCAA Division III tournament appearances, including five Final Fours and three national championship games.
Also, former Morse of Bath and University of Maine star Derrick Hodge; former Portland High and UMaine point guard Cathy Iaconeta; longtime Morse of Bath coach Tom Maines; 1978 NCAA Division III scoring leader Cam Brown of the University of Maine at Farmington; Kelly Butterfield, a four-time state champion from Gorham High School who went on to star at the University of New Hampshire before playing professionally in Ireland and Australia; Rick Clark, who coached the York girls basketball team to 509 victories, four state crowns and six regional titles; Dick Giroux, a two-time All-Maine player from Lewiston who went on to score 1,510 points and grab 964 rebounds at Husson from 1967 to 1970; and Jim Stephenson, who set UMaine records for points in a game (54) in 1969 and highest career scoring average (22.7).
Honored by the hall as legends of the game were former Bangor boys basketball coach Frederick “Red” Barry, former Jonesport-Beals star guard Dwight Carver, one-time Fort Kent standout Tom Pelletier, longtime Augusta sportswriter and junior high basketball coach Gary Hawkins, basketball official Chick Marchetti of Bath; and well-known central Maine broadcaster Bob Woodbury.
Two teams earning induction were the 1980 Westbrook girls squad led by All-Mainers Lisa Blais and Gail Jackson that won the third of the school’s four consecutive Class A state titles; and the undefeated 1979 Class A state champion South Portland boys squad coached by Bob Brown and led by his son, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown.
Both Browns were 2014 Maine Basketball Hall of Fame inductees.
“I come at this from a different vision line because I grew up the son of a coach and have been around this sport my whole life,” said Brett Brown, one of 14 team members to appear at the induction ceremony. “To follow this game both from the people who played it and the coaches who coached it, and now to come back and start reconnecting with some of those faces when they are rightfully honored, I think is just a tremendous reflection of how we view our sport in a very unique state.”