New PHS AD eager to continue the tradition
PORTLAND—For years, the Portland High athletic director position has been populated by highly esteemed names.
From Jimmy Fitzpatrick, Jordan Corcoran and Lyman Dunnell years ago through Ray Mailman, Gary Groves and Rich Drummond of recent vintage, PHS ADs have been influential and respected.
Mike McCullum hopes to continue the trend.
McCullum, 34, a one-time Bulldogs standout on the diamond and the varsity baseball coach the past two springs, replaced Drummond (who has taken over a similar position in his hometown of Windham) earlier this summer and knows he has big shoes to fill.
"(The appeal) was that it's Portland High and that I was already here," said McCullum, who has worked in management and sales at Rich Aluminum for the past decade.
"Working with the kids and the administration and the facilities got me back into the flow and made realize I loved being around (athletics). I didn't see myself as an AD, but I saw it as a job I would enjoy. I love sports and kids."
McCullum was a standout baseball player for the Bulldogs in the mid-1990s (and also played basketball) before graduating in 1995. He went on to become a Division III All-American at the University of Southern Maine and played centerfield for USM's 1997 Division III national championship squad.
McCullum coached Portland to a combined 18-16 mark the past two baseball seasons.
"I've followed Portland High sports as long as I can remember," said McCullum. "I've gone to games since I was seven. The hardest thing will be leaving the coaching position. I felt I had the program going in the right direction."
McCullum admitted he has his hands full taking on a new job while being in the process of earning his certification, which he expects will be done this year, but he'll benefit from Portland's stable and experienced coaching staff, which figures to help in his transition.
"I know all the coaches," he said. "I played for some, worked with them. That helps. They'll be extremely low maintenance. They do the same thing year in, year out. They'll help me out along the way."
Longtime Portland High boys' soccer coach Rocky Frenzilli, who served a short stint as AD in the mid-1990s, feels McCullum is the right man for the job.
"Having talked to Mike and seeing him coach, he will bring intensity, commitment, fairness and a positive attitude toward all PHS activities and continue to keep the strong tradition of academics and athletics at the center of his tenure," Frenzilli said.
McCullum stressed he won't push for major changes anytime soon. He would like to see a PHS Athletics Hall of Fame, hopes to use his business background to come up with alternative fundraising means in a difficult economy and wants to give students as many opportunities as possible to participate in athletics.
"Kids need a chance to participate, but you have to get it done in the classroom too," McCullum said. "I want kids to have access to tutors. Any guidance you can give is extremely important. The school has become more diverse. You want kids to participate. That's what we're here for. Ultimately, my goal is to get every kid to take part in something. I think participation numbers are down. It will take a collective effort for me, the coaches and administrators to come up with a philosophy to draw kids."
McCullum lives in Portland with his wife Jennifer, a speech therapist with the Gray-New Gloucester school department, and his two-year-old daughter, Lilian. The family will have another addition in October. By then, McCullum hopes to be up to speed.
"I don't typically do things the easy way," he quipped.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com