ORONO, Maine — Richard Barron, currently on medical leave as the University of Maine women’s basketball coach, has been named a special assistant to athletic director Karlton Creech for the next seven months beginning Friday.
“We are grateful that Richard is able to return to work in an administrative capacity at this time,” said Creech in a Friday morning news release. “Richard has many talents that will be able to support our community engagement efforts over the next few months to help grow the Alfond Fund and spread the positive message of UMaine athletics.”
In the fixed-length position that runs through June 30, 2018, Barron’s primary responsibilities will be to represent the athletics department at public events and assist with fundraising for the Alfond Fund.
He will earn $53,000, the portion of the head coach’s salary that remained unused this year with the appointment of first-time college head coach Amy Vachon, who took the reins at midseason last year when Barron became ill.
Barron began his appointment as head coach on May 10, 2011. He guided the Black Bears to a pair of America East regular-season titles and three straight postseason appearances.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work and and having a purpose to my day….supporting our student-athletes, our athletic department and our university,” said Barron on Friday afternoon. “This gives me an opportunity to wear a lot of different hats and I’m ready to do that.”
Barron isn’t sure about his future and hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching but he said he will cross that bridge when he comes to it.
“We haven’t gotten that far yet. We will have to discuss it at some point. We’ll see how things are going,” he said. “I have found ways to do some other coaching. I’ve had an opportunity to mentor some college coaches and to coach my son’s (Billy) travel basketball team. It has been fun.
“I definitely miss the games and the practices and all of that but I’m also thrilled with the job Amy is doing as well as the staff and the players,” said Barron. “I’m their biggest fan. There’s no reason for me to go in and disrupt what they’re doing.”
He said his new job is similar to coaching in some ways.
“It’s a lot like recruiting but I’m recruiting donors and friends instead of players,” he said. “The message is the same. I’m bragging about the same stuff. Our department and student-athletes continually impress me with how much they can accomplish. They are able to do more with less.
“They all have my admiration and support. I look forward to being able to connect with them in some way,” he added.
This past January, Barron took a medical leave of absence from coaching the women’s basketball team. He underwent successful craniotomy surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles on July 13.
“I’m in very good health with the exception of my hearing. I’m deaf in my right ear. There’s still a chance for some nerve regeneration but what is going to happen, in all likelihood, is I’m going to have permanent nerve damage in my right ear. My left ear is fine,” said Barron.
He is still working with doctors.
In the news release, Barron thanked the community for its support “during a difficult and challenging time. I am very grateful for the concern shown. I am also most appreciative of the wonderful medical attention I have received literally from coast to coast. I want to thank President Susan Hunter and director Karlton Creech for their support.”
“It’s great to see how much coach Barron’s health has improved in the last five months since his surgery,” said Vachon in the release. “We are extremely happy that he is feeling better and is able to begin contributing to the University of Maine once again. We will continue to support both coach Barron and his family through this journey.”