The University of Maine at Farmington conducted a national search for its vacant men’s basketball coaching position.
But the school didn’t have to look far to find a replacement for retired longtime mentor Dick Meader, who recently announced his retirement.
Sam Leal, a 2014 UMF graduate, has been hired to take over the Beavers program.
“Sam has thrown himself at opportunities working with some of the best in collegiate basketball so he could grow and learn while contributing to advancing their programs,” UMF director of athletics Julie Davis said. “He is eager to bring all of that experience to UMF to keep the current momentum going, with a nod to the future and respect for our rich tradition and history.”
Meader coached college basketball for 44 years and racked up more than 500 victories. He spent 37 seasons at UMF, his alma mater.
Leal earned an undergraduate teaching degree at UMF and subsequently spent two years as a math teacher at Greely High School in Cumberland Center.
“I am extremely excited about this opportunity. I want to thank Julie Davis and the UMF community for their confidence in me to lead this program,” Leal said. “Coach Meader has made a positive impact on so many players’ lives, including my own. I feel so fortunate to have played for him and I look forward to carrying on the program’s great success.”
Leal heads back to UMF after spending this year as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Bates College in Lewiston. There, he was involved in game strategy and player development, headed the program’s social media presence and headed fundraising events.
“Sam did a tremendous job for us at Bates. His passion for the game and commitment to the development of our student-athletes, not just as basketball players but as young men, was an integral part of our success this year,” Bates head coach Jon Furbush said. “Sam has great energy and positively influences all people he works with. While he will be greatly missed, I couldn’t be happier for him to start his own program.”
Leal began his coaching career by working under Karl Henrikson at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham during the 2014-2015 season. He also served as a graduate assistant at Springfield College (2017-2018), where he earned a master’s degree in sport and exercise science psychology.
“Sam has a great pedigree, is excellent working with young people, and is adept at recruiting talented players and good people,” Springfield coach Charlie Brock said. “He is, most of all, a student of the game, and an outstanding teacher.”
Leal played four years of basketball for the Beavers and garnered North Atlantic Conference scholar-athlete recognition multiple times before graduating cum laude. He also made the National Association of Basketball Coaches Honors Court.
He played his high school ball at York High School.
Leal earned the endorsement of his former coach and predecessor.
“As a former player, he is one of us. He has the knowledge, leadership ability, and work ethic to be an outstanding coach,” Meader said.