ORONO, Maine — Gary Fifield is going to add a new chapter to his already remarkable resume.
Fifield, who compiled a 660-137 record in his 27 seasons as the head women’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Maine, will join Amy Vachon’s staff as a temporary assistant at the University of Maine beginning Oct. 1.
He is replacing Jhasmin Player, who left late last month to accept an assistant coaching position at the University of Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.
The 65-year-old Fifield will coach through the end of the season and will earn $45,000 plus housing. He lives in Gorham but will have a suite in Orono.
“When you look at his resume, you don’t have to really say anything more than that,” said Vachon. “In talking with coach Fifield, coaching is still in his blood, he still loves to coach and he wanted to be able to help in any way he could.
“It works for all of us,” added Vachon. “His demeanor is great, he’s a great person. He will be easy for our girls to get to know and vice versa. The biggest thing for our players is trust and loyalty. That’s huge for them and he fits right into those things.”
Vachon said Fifield will be involved in all aspects of the program although he will have a limited recruiting role.
“He won’t do as much recruiting out of state or internationally but I’m sure people will see him around at high school games in the state,” she said.
Vachon is in just her second full season as the head coach and she has a youthful staff so she said, “having someone come in with his experience is going to be beneficial.”
Fifield is looking forward to the challenge.
“Opportunities like this allow you to not only stay in the game, but to grow as well. As a coach and an educator, you’re always looking to grow,” said Fifield. “I look forward to working with young adults. You can help shape them not only as basketball players, but also as adults.
“It keeps you young, it keeps you enthused. You can see their growth,” he added.
He has followed the program and knows its importance in the state. He said former UMaine men’s basketball coach Skip Chappelle once called him and “told me that I really understood (its importance).
“If UMaine basketball is good, it helps the rest of the state. All the little girls coming up in the state will want to be Amy Vachon, Cindy Blodgett or Rachel Bouchard and, consequently, the talent in the state gets better and better. And that helps all the other small colleges in the state,” said Fifield.
“I have followed them enough to know what they’ve been doing offensively and defensively and I know some of the personnel and the whole coaching staff,” Fifield said.
Fifield has coached at the Division I level. He was a men’s basketball assistant at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and, two years ago, was an assistant at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, under former USM player Angel Elderkin, who also lost an assistant coach right before the season.
“I had retired in June and she called me around Labor Day and asked me if I was bored yet,” grinned Fifield.
He spent last season as the head coach of the Cheverus High School girls basketball team in Portland, guiding the Stags to a 12-8 season and a berth in the Class AA North semifinals.
During his 27 years at USM, Fifield guided his teams to 20 shared or outright Little East Conference regular season titles and 18 LEC tournament championships.
His teams earned 23 NCAA Division III Tournament bids, advancing to the Sweet 16 fifteen times and to the Elite 8 nine times while making five Final Four appearances and playing in three national championship games.
Fifield was named the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year in 2005. He has earned numerous Hall of Fame honors including the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, the Little East Conference Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
One of the most distinguished individual honors of his coaching career came in 1993 when he was the lone Division III women’s coach selected to serve on the staff for the West team at the Olympic Festival in San Antonio.
A 1974 graduate of the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, Fifield also earned his master’s in educational administration in 1982 from Vermont.
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