After spending five years as an assistant, Marisa Kelley has landed her first head coaching job.
The former Hermon High School three-sport athlete has taken over for Chris Woodside as the girls basketball coach at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor.
Kelley, who played basketball at the University of Maine at Farmington, assisted Woodside last season after spending four winters as Chris Cameron’s assistant at Hermon High.
Woodside, who coached John Bapst for three seasons, is teaching sports management at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, where he is an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team.
“It’s surreal. I’ve been given an incredible opportunity,” said the 28-year-old Kelley, whose Crusaders have their first practice on Monday.
Her first season leading a program will be different than most. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of regional tournaments and state championship games.
“With the COVID aspect of everything, we’re going to be really focused on fundamentals as a team,” said Kelley, who teaches math at Hermon Elementary School.
Woodside was quick to praise Kelley and her readiness to be a head coach.
“She was involved in everything with me last year. She helped plan practices, she scouted [opponents],” he said. “She was a real positive influence on the girls.”
Kelley said she was impressed last season with Woodside and the team environment he created at John Bapst.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with and play for a lot of different coaches on a lot of teams. And when I walked into the gym for the first time, it was totally different,” she said. “They had so much natural energy and they were so self-motivated. They were excited to be there. They were so passionate. I’m so excited to be a part of that and I want to continue that energy and passion.”
Kelley knows there will be challenges. First and foremost, John Bapst is a private school that attracts students from several towns, which leaves it without a true feeder system.
Next season, John Bapst’s new practice gym will be available for use, which may help attract more students. Kelley called it a game-changer.
The Crusaders, who practiced and played games at several sites last season, will practice in the school gym but play all of their games on the road this winter.
Kelley is looking forward to a challenging schedule this year that will include games against local teams in higher classes. The Class B Crusaders will take on Class AA Bangor and Class A programs Hampden Academy and Brewer.
“We will be able to compare ourselves to teams at different levels. We will learn a lot,” she said.
Rather than dwelling on the negativity and challenges created by the coronavirus, John Bapst is embracing the fact it is going to have a basketball season.
“We are so grateful to be able to play together with a basketball in our hands,” Kelley said.
John Bapst went 10-8 during the regular season last season. As the No. 9 seed, the Crusaders beat No. 8 Oceanside of Rockland in the preliminary round before losing to top seed and eventual state runner-up Hermon in the quarterfinals.
Woodside, who led the Calais boys basketball team to the Class C state title in 2015, said he loved his time at John Bapst but has always wanted to be a college professor. He also is finishing up his doctorate.