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PORTLAND—One of the most successful girls’ basketball programs in the state named a former Miss Maine Basketball as its new coach last week.

Amy Vachon, who won the award in 1996 after starring for her father, Paul, at Cony, will replace Wil Smith as the coach of the McAuley Lions, who figure to be the preseason favorite for the 2010-11 Western A crown.

“I’m excited,” Vachon said. “I wasn’t looking for a head job, but this opportunity came up and I felt I needed to check it out.”

“Amy’s basketball background and personal characteristics made her the ideal choice for our school,” said McAuley athletic administrator Joe Kilmartin, in a press release. “I believe her overall experience will insure that McAuley basketball and its student athletes will continue to prosper and grow.”

Vachon, 31, has served as a varsity assistant to Billy Goodman with Greely’s girls’ program the past two winters, helping the Rangers reach the Western B Final in each season. She also previously served as an assistant to her father and coached the Waterville program for one year.

“I think it’s good for (Amy) and I think it’s a good name for (McAuley),” said Goodman. “She’ll be a good fit. She’s a good coach who’s good with the kids. Obviously, she was a great player and her father was a great coach.”

Vachon played on two state championship teams at Cony in both basketball and field hockey. She was a four year All-State basketball selection, twice was selected as Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year (1995 and 1996) and along with earning the Maine Miss Basketball award in 1996, was named High School Athlete of the Year.

Vachon played for Joanne Palombo McCallie (now the head coach at Duke) at the University of Maine, where she helped the Black Bears reach the NCAA tournament four straight times. Vachon was a two time All-Conference selection and is the all-time assists leader for both the University of Maine and the America East Conference.

Vachon earned a graduate degree in school counseling at the University of North Carolina. She is currently employed as a guidance counselor at Westbrook Middle School and is the eighth grade field hockey coach. She lives in Saco.

Vachon said several factors convinced her to apply for the McAuley job.

“The tradition the program has, the competitiveness and the kids who go there make it a good fit, I think,” she said. “I think it’s good to start fresh. It’s good for me and the players.”

Paul Vachon is arguably the most storied girls’ coach in Maine history, coaching Cony to 11 regional crowns and seven Class A state championships. He won over 400 games and was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. He no longer coaches, but is now the athletic director at Cony.

Amy Vachon said that she won’t hesitate to tap into her father’s wealth of knowledge.

“He’s been a big influence on me,” she said. “It would be silly for me not to consult with him. He’s the master at molding a team.”

Vachon also said that she learned from Goodman the past two seasons.

“Billy’s awesome,” she said. “He’s so different from my dad or coach Palombo. He’s so good at breaking down the game and how he teaches the kids. He has a passion for the game.”

Vachon will start working with McAuley during the summer. She doesn’t mind that her team will wear the bulls-eye next winter. She’s worn it for years.

“I expect to win and every year my goal is to win the state championship,” Vachon said. “I was always on teams that were expected to win. It’s not really a change for me. It’s a challenge.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at mhoffer@theforecaster.net

Sports Editor of The Forecaster since 2001. Find detailed game stories at theforecaster.net. I tweet prodigiously at @foresports.