Deering High School in Portland mourns death of basketball coach

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PORTLAND — A veteran high school basketball coach died suddenly Thursday, Nov. 7, of an undiagnosed heart condition.

Brendan Conway, 34, served as freshman boys basketball coach at Deering High School for 10 years, according to Athletic Director Melanie Craig. His death, which happened while playing basketball at East End Community School on Thursday night, came as a shock to the school community.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Craig said. “How are you supposed to explain this to students when you don’t have any words as an adult? Everyone is just shell-shocked and devastated at this point.”

Craig said the school administration became aware of Conway’s death early on Friday and “immediately mobilized our crisis response team.”  The team, comprised of coaching staff, administrators and social workers, met with student athletes at the start of the school day.

“We had the tough duty of sharing that with the boys and making sure they’re aware of the resources that are available to them,” Craig said. “Obviously, our job, at this point, is to make sure we’re taking care of our kids and taking care of our coaching staff. This is a very, very close coaching staff.”

In addition to coaching the Deering freshmen boys team, Conway served as an associate broker for Conway Realty of Maine. According to his biography on the company website, Conway had deep roots in the state.

He was born and raised in Portland, and graduated from Deering High School in 1997, where he served as captain of his basketball and tennis teams.

Afterward, Conway attended Bates College in Lewiston, where he earned a degree in psychology in 2001. Later, he earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern Maine in 2004.

He taught special needs students at a the Collaborative School in New Gloucester and at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth. He also served as a family counselor with Opportunity Alliance and founded a summer camp for low-income families in Portland.

Craig said Conway was genuine, likable and a “Deering boy, through and through.”

“Brendan’s just one of those guys who lights up a room,” she said. “His commitment and passion for youth was evident anytime you had conversation with him.

“He was just full or life, full of energy and just a positive presence. This is a tremendous loss on a lot of levels.”

A wake was held Monday morning at A.T. Hutchins Funeral Home, Portland. A memorial service is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, at the Deering High School gymnasium, followed by burial at Evergreen Cemetery.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

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