Portland edition Coaches of the Year

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Coach of the year is another very difficult award to bestow. There are so many devoted and excellent ones out there.

These awards were not necessarily awarded to a man and a woman, but to the top coach of a boys’ team and the top coach of a girls’ team.

Winter 2009-10 Portland Coach of the Year-Boys’ Team

BOB BROWN—Cheverus Basketball

The coaching legend of Bob Brown continues to grow.

If Brown hadn’t already sewn up a spot in the Maine Sports Hall of Fame (he’ll be inducted in June), the job he did this winter would be worthy of inclusion.

Brown took a Cheverus boys’ basketball team that was expected to be in the top three with South Portland and Westbrook and led it to yet another dominant regular season. Before it ended, it appeared as if he would be without his best player, Indiana Faithfull. Faithfull was reinstated for the tournament, but that proved to be a mixed blessing as the program suddenly found itself in the crosshairs of criticism from the public and acrimony from the Maine Principals’ Association. Somehow, through it all, Brown kept the Stags focused and the season ended with a second Gold Ball in three years.

He got his players to believe they could overcome anything, navigated a storm that no previous Maine coach has had to encounter and when the dust settled, led Cheverus back to the pinnacle. In light of his excellence and perseverance, The Forecaster is naming Bob Brown our Winter 2009-10 Portland edition boys’ Coach of the Year.

This marks the third time in four seasons that Brown has been selected.

Brown has been synonymous with Maine High School basketball for over a half-century. He played at Cony (Class of 1956), spent a year playing at Boston University and after college, embarked on a coaching career that has spanned high school, college and even a second continent, Australia. Brown’s coached so long that two of his schools, Belgrade and Williams High Schools, no longer exist.

He coached two powerhouse state champions at South Portland, then went to Boston University as an assistant to Rick Pitino. Brown later coached in college at St. Anselm and the University of Southern Maine, made the jump to Australia, then returned to the Maine high school ranks at Bonny Eagle, before taking over at Cheverus for the 2001-02 campaign.

The Stags have excelled since he took over, winning a regional title in 2003 and a state title in 2008. Cheverus’ bid for a repeat crown ended in agony last winter, with a shocking loss to Thornton Academy in the semifinals.

The Stags were able to get back to the mountaintop this season, but no one could have imagined the twists and turns they would have to endure.

Cheverus quickly established itself as the favorite this winter after a palpitating win over Westbrook. The Stags decimated the rest of the opposition and appeared on cruise control when Brown discovered that Faithfull (who used three semesters his freshman year in Australia) had used up his eight consecutive semesters per MPA decree. The program was devastated, but Cheverus carried on without their leader, improving to 17-0 before suffering a loss at South Portland in the regular season final.

Faithfull was then reinstated just prior to the quarterfinals and the story eclipsed the action on the floor. Brown kept his team focused and while the Stags struggled in wins over Scarborough and Windham, Faithfull was getting back in game shape. He erupted for 22 points against Westbrook in the regional final, as Cheverus came from behind to shock the favored Blue Blazes. Faithfull then capped the run and his tumultuous season with 23 points in a state final victory over Edward Little.

It had been Cheverus versus the world and the Stags, led by Brown, who admitted he’d never been through a season like it, were the champions.

Brown is well known for his animation on the sidelines and ability to teach smothering defense and emphasis on team play. He took the brunt of the criticism following the Faithfull reinstatement and did a stellar job of game coaching during the playoff run.

Brown, soon to be 72, has energy that dwarfs many of his peers, some of whom are half his age or even younger. He and his high school sweetheart, Bonny, are about to celebrate their 50th anniversary (the couple has two children and seven grandchildren). Brown has hinted at returning next winter, which is wonderful news. He’s one of a kind and the sport is that much better with him involved.

Cheverus’ championship season won’t soon be forgotten, for several reasons. A huge reason for this Gold Ball was the man at the helm. Bob Brown, our Winter 2009-10 Portland boys’ Coach of the Year, gave a command performance.

2008-09 winner: Kevin Haley (Cheverus Swimming)

2007-08 winner: Bob Brown (Cheverus Basketball)

2006-07 winner: Bob Brown (Cheverus Basketball)

2005-06 winner: Dan LeGage (Deering Basketball)

2004-05 winner: Jack Lowry (Cheverus Hockey)

2003-04 winner: Joe Russo (Portland Basketball)


Winter 2009-10 Portland Coach of the Year–Girls’ team

J.P. LAVOIE—Cheverus Hockey

You might think that going 21-0 and winning virtually every game en route to a first-ever state championship would be a piece of cake, but in truth, even in perfection there are great challenges for a coach.
Luckily for the Cheverus girls’ hockey team, its coach, J.P. Lavoie, not only put all the right pieces in the right places, he reined in his team as needed and helped get some ice time for the next generation of Stags stars as a senior-laden squad ran roughshod on the opposition.

It all added up to a magical campaign of dominance and triumph as Cheverus confirmed once and for all that it was a premier program and is now a state champion.

For getting the Stags over the hump after a series of close calls, for getting the most out of his talented roster and for winning with class, J.P. Lavoie gets The Forecaster’s nod as our 2009-10 Portland edition Winter Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.

Lavoie came naturally to hockey, growing up in Lewiston. He played goalie at Lewiston High School and went on to play at the University of Southern Maine. Lavoie got into coaching his son Bryan’s travel teams with Casco Bay. His first high school coaching experience came in 2007-08, when he took over the Cheverus girls’ squad.

In Lavoie’s first two seasons, the Stags fell just short of the pinnacle, losing to Biddeford in the playoffs (once in a tier championship game, the other in a regional final).

This year, everything fell Cheverus’ way as it was transcendent from start to finish. Lavoie credited the Stags senior leadership and their hunger after falling short for the team’s success.

At times, his biggest challenge wasn’t Xs and Os, but making sure everyone saw the ice and that scores weren’t too lopsided.

I was focused on how the kids acted off the ice,” Lavoie said. “I wanted to make sure everyone had a good time.”

There was plenty of fun to be had as the Stags won all 18 of their regular season games (only three were decided by two goals or less). In the playoffs, Cheverus was tested. The Stags faced their only deficit of the year when they were down, 1-0, after one period versus York in the regional semifinals, but Cheverus turned it up and won, 7-1. In the regional final versus Falmouth, the Yachtsmen were within a goal in the third period before the Stags put it away, 3-0. Then, in the state game, versus Lewiston in Lewiston, the game was scoreless well into the third period before Cheverus finally got a goal, then another, then one more, to ice the 3-0 championship win.

Lavoie was ably aided by assistants Josh LaQuerre (goalie coach), Kate Quartuccio (defense) and Amanda Rogers (offense).

Lavoie lives in South Portland, works in sales, is married to his wife, Leone, and is the father of Emily and Bryan. He knows that next year’s team will be seriously tested in its repeat bid due to the loss of so many spectacular seniors, but he’s up for the challenge.

Cheverus figures to be in good hands. J.P. Lavoie, our Winter 2009-10 Portland girls’ Coach of the Year, pressed all the right buttons this season and helped the Stags make history.

2008-09 winner: Mike Murphy (Deering Basketball)

2007-08 winner: John Smith (McAuley Swimming)

2006-07 winner: Jan Veinot (Waynflete Basketball)

2005-2006 winner: Kevin Campbell (Deering Indoor track)

2004-2005 winner: Lindsay Reagan (Waynflete Nordic skiing)

2003-2004 winner: Mike D’Andrea (Deering Basketball)

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