Joe Nelson said he thought long and hard about his decision to step down as the Bangor High School girls basketball coach after two years at the helm.
“But I think now is the right time for me to get done,” said the 47-year-old Nelson, who is ending a 22-year basketball coaching run at Bangor that included a 17-year stint as a boys assistant and three years as a girls assistant.
“I’m at a time in my life where different things are happening. I’d like to travel and do different activities with my family and people I care about,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s Rams made significant strides this season.
In his first season (2017-18), Bangor went 4-14 during the regular season and was the No. 7 seed in the Class AA North tournament where it lost to No. 2 Portland 62-39 in the quarterfinals.
Last season, Bangor went 11-7 and as the third seed beat No. 6 Cheverus of Portland 50-38 in the quarterfinals before being upset 34-17 in the semifinals by No. 7 Deering of Portland.
“Joe did an outstanding job,” Bangor High School athletic director Steve Vanidestine. “He did everything we asked him to do. The girls got to the semifinals this year with a relatively young team.”
It was a youthful Bangor team that usually had three sophomore starters in the Fleming twins, Libby and Abby, along with Maggie Cowperthwaite. Riley Andrews was another sophomore who received a lot of playing time as did her older sister, junior Rowan Andrews.
Nelson had taken over for Joe Johnson, who stepped down in 2017 after three seasons.
“I’m happy with the strides we made with the program,” Nelson said. “To go from a four-win season to a 12-win season and then winning a playoff game is something I’m very proud of. The program is in strong shape as far as talent of players is concerned.”
He said he will miss the players and working at Bangor High.
“I have the utmost respect for the Bangor School Department, and I loved coaching at Bangor High,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he worked hard trying to develop players and to build a strong feeder system at the lower levels through travel leagues and house leagues. He helped run clinics so youngsters could learn to love the game of basketball and develop their skills.
“Joe is a very high-character guy. He has been very loyal to Bangor High School, and I’ve always appreciated all the time and work he has put into the programs,” Vanidestine said.
Nelson also coached Bangor High’s summer team.
“Now my summers will be freed up,” Nelson said.
Nelson also served as the public address announcer at Bangor High softball and football games.
Vanidestine said he has already started the interview process for the new coach.
Nelson, a 1989 Bangor High graduate, was the baseball coach at Bangor’s John Bapst High School and coached Bangor’s American Legion baseball team. He became the boys assistant basketball coach under Roger Reed in 1995.
Nelson manages Sawyer Arena in Bangor and the athletic fields for the Bangor Parks and Recreation Department.
He played baseball and basketball at the University of Maine at Farmington before beginning his coaching career as a men’s basketball assistant at UMF under Dick Meader. He then assisted Mark Karter with the boys basketball program at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford.