Tony DiBiase, a man synonymous with athletic success for the better part of four decades as a player and coach, is in the midst of new challenges this school year and couldn’t be happier.
DiBiase, a football, basketball and baseball standout at Westbrook High in the early 1970s, who went on to play football and baseball at the University of Maine before embarking on a long, successful coaching career, served as an assistant coach with the Portland High football team this fall, has begun his first season as Gray-New Gloucester’s boys’ basketball coach and in the spring, will take over the Portland baseball program.
DiBiase, who coached the South Portland baseball team for 14 years, making the playoffs every season but one, is very excited for spring to roll around.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said DiBiase, who was on a state championship boys’ basketball team at Westbrook in 1972 and took part in the College World Series with Maine in 1976. “After I got done at South Portland I decided that would be it. We had a great season and the program was strong. The job at Portland opened up and I’d been there before (he coached boys’ basketball in the 1980s and led the Bulldogs to the 1986 Class A state championship). I enjoyed coaching there. It’s one of the top jobs in the state. Great facilities. Great history. I was happy to be selected.”
DiBiase replaces Mike McCullum, who is now the Portland High athletic director. McCullum nurtured a young team into a contender a year ago and DiBiase feels this year’s squad is ready to take the next step.
“It’s a strong young group coming in with great potential of doing very well,” DiBiase said. “Mike did a great job setting the foundation. He got the young kids ready.”
McCullum said that he had several promising candidates, but that DiBiase’s pedigree was the difference.
“Tony’s experience is second-to-none,” McCullum said. “That won us over. He’s a Maine Baseball Hall of Famer. He hits the ground running.”
DiBiase, who also coached baseball at Machias and Gorham, said his experience will enhance the Portland program.
“I’ve had some success in the SMAA,” he said. “I have the ability to build a program to compete with Deering, the top team in the league. We’ll build a strong program all the way through. I think I accomplished that at South Portland. We always had a lot of kids out. I’m very proud of that.”
DiBiase, thinks the Bulldogs are on the brink of something special.
“We’ll compete to not just make the playoffs, but to contend for a championship,” DiBiase said. “That’s what the history of Portland High is. Great players are produced every year. Portland’s a very attractive place to play. I hope to put together a quality staff like we had at South Portland.”
“That sophomore class knows how to win,” McCullum added. “They’ve been winning since Little League. It was important to me in looking for my replacement to find someone who had the same goal as the kids. I think the kids can really shine the next few years.”
DiBiase teaches health and physical education at South Portland High School. He lives in South Portland and has four children.
Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at email@example.com