When the boys varsity soccer coaching job opened up at Bangor High School last summer, Steve Vanidestine did not have to look far to find Garth Berenyi’s successor.
The Rams’ veteran athletic administrator posted the vacancy, but he also made a phone call to a program fixture for the previous 19 years. This time, longtime assistant Don Erb was interested — and now is the team’s new head coach.
“I think it was in middle to late July when [Berenyi] said he was going to get done,” Erb said. “It kind of surprised me but he had some things going that he needed to do so that was an easy transition.
“At that time we didn’t even know what we were going to do [because of the COVID-19 pandemic], but Steve said, ‘Let’s move forward,’ and here we are.”
Erb is not lacking in head coaching experience. He coached the Hermon High School boys soccer team for eight years and also directed the Hawks’ girls varsity basketball team before leaving to take a job teaching mathematics at Bangor High School two decades ago.
He joined Adam Leach’s soccer coaching staff with the Rams in the fall of 2001 and has remained there under Leach, the late David Patterson, Billy Shannon and Berenyi as Bangor grew into one of the state’s top Class A programs.
The Rams captured state championships in 2006, 2010 and 2016 and added a fourth Class A regional title in 2008.
“Coach Erb has done an outstanding job assisting the head coaches here over the years,” Vanidestine said. “He’s been that constant who has had the respect of both the kids and the head coaches he’s worked with.
“I think we’ve won some games and championships because we had a head coach who was very good and with Donnie being almost a second head coach.”
Erb took the head coaching job after conferring with his son Griffin, a senior midfielder and captain on this year’s Bangor team, and the rest of his family.
“I’ve worked with some great coaches since I started here,” said Erb, who last winter also became an girls basketball assistant coach at Bangor under Jay Kemble. “I just figured I’d talk to my son first of all because he’s on the team and he said it would be great, and my family said good, so I said, ‘All right, let’s do it.’”
Erb inherited a youthful club — only seven of this year’s 22 varsity players are seniors — coming off an injury-hampered 2019 campaign that concluded with a 2-0 loss to Hampden Academy in the Class A North prelims. That marked the end of the team’s streak of six consecutive appearances in at least the regional semifinals.
The Rams are 5-0 this season after a 2-1 victory at Hampden last Thursday, part of a 10-game, regionalized slate of games dictated by the coronavirus.
“This is my 20th year with this program and it’s been great to watch it grow and grow,” said Erb, whose club was scheduled to visit Old Town on Monday evening. “I’m just glad we’re getting to play this year.”
Erb and the Rams are striving to make the most out of this abbreviated season that has no championship at stake.
“I think you go in knowing there are no Heal Points on the line, but at the same time once the game starts the competitive juices start flowing,” Erb said. “We’ve said that if we’re going to be out here then let’s play to win every game. What else can we do?”
Erb said another goal for this season and beyond involves a piece of advice he received while working under Patterson from 2008 to 2013.
“One thing Dave said was, ‘I just want to make sure that everybody has a good experience,’” he said. “That’s important to me, as well as the seniors having a proper sendoff and then trying to develop the younger kids and get them into the culture because next year hopefully we’ll be back to normal.
“I think we’ve been able to do those things so far.”