Matt Johnson knows he has a monumental challenge this coming basketball season, but the new Machias High School girls basketball coach is looking forward to it.
Johnson inherits a team that went 0-18 last season and is struggling for numbers. He won’t have enough players for a JV team.
He replaces Logan Wood, who moved out of the area, according to Machias High athletic director Bob Sinford.
“I’m extremely excited about it,” said Johnson, who is an assistant manager at the Hannaford Supermarket in Machias. “Coaching is something I’ve always wanted to do. I want to give back to the community through the game I love. I enjoy working with young students and helping them grow as individuals as well as basketball players. Hopefully, winning will be a by-product.”
Sinford said there are only 39 girls enrolled at Machias High School. During the winter, the school also offers cheerleading.
Last winter, there were nine girls on the basketball team and nine on the cheerleading squad.
Johnson conceded that not having a JV program will test the Bulldogs’ ability to provide playing time for less-experienced players.
“I need to develop a good relationship with the junior high program and encourage the girls to continue playing when they get to the high school,” Johnson said. “And I’m going to make this a students-first [environment]. If I can make it a fun and rewarding experience, our participation numbers will increase.”
Machias last qualified for the Class D North tournament in 2015 when it was the fifth seed and picked up wins over Woodland and Central Aroostook of Mars Hill before losing to eventual state champ Washburn in the semifinals.
The 45-year-old Johnson is a 1992 graduate of Stearns High in Millinocket, where he played basketball. He was the middle school boys basketball coach in Jonesboro for several years.
“I think he can do the job. I like his energy, excitement and passion,” said Sinford, who hopes participation increases.
Johnson was one of three applicants for the job, according to Sinford.
Machias returns six of the players off last year’s roster including Johnson’s daughter, Kendra, who will be a sophomore guard.
Johnson attended the University of Maine at Presque Isle and the University of Maine at Augusta, and earned a degree in business management.
He knows it is going to take time to turn the program around, especially with the low numbers.
“They did their best last year, and all I’ll be asking from them this year is to help me build a culture that will sustain for the foreseeable future,” Johnson said. “We’re going to work real hard on the court. I think the community will get behind that.”
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