Woodland made a good decision to hire a new girls basketball coach

Woodland's Michelle Ferry (right) and Courtney Cochran cut down the net after beating Southern Aroostook in the Eastern Maine Class D girls basketball final in February 2006. Ferry is Woodland's new girls basketball head coach. (Linda Coan O'Kresik/BDN)

Woodland’s Michelle Ferry (right) and Courtney Cochran cut down the net after beating Southern Aroostook in the Eastern Maine Class D girls basketball final in February 2006. Ferry is Woodland’s new girls basketball head coach. (Linda Coan O’Kresik/BDN)

It’s difficult to argue against the Woodland/Baileyville school board’s recent decision to hire Michelle (Ferry) Ripley as Woodland High School’s new girls varsity basketball coach.

She achieved success as a player, helping lead Woodland to a state title in 2006, went on to play at the University of Maine-Presque Isle, and then returned to Washington County to begin a career in teaching and coaching.

At 27, she should relate well to high school players and has the opportunity to be a good role model for the community’s young women who may be swayed to follow a similar career path.

It’s commendable for the school board to make the decision to provide that opportunity for Ripley because those opportunities for women don’t seem to be increasing in Maine. Only 29 women were head coaches on the state’s 143 high school varsity girls basketball teams last season, compared to 33 women coaches of the 147 teams in the 2003-04 season.

The one unfortunate result of Ripley’s hiring was that veteran coach Arnie Clark is now out of a job. Clark made Woodland a tourney perennial and guided the Dragons to five Class D state titles in his 16 seasons. Before that he was a successful boys varsity coach for Calais, leading the Blue Devils to a 165-96 record and two Eastern Maine titles over 14 seasons in a highly competitive class.

Some may believe that it was time for Clark, who is 70, to step aside, but in his gracious comments of understanding the school board’s decision and giving his 100 percent support to Ripley, he also mentioned that he still wants to coach.

If he feels he can do so, then he should be given the opportunity and hopefully, another school will do so as Clark’s record is an impressive one. For those worrying about his age, they  may want to consider two Maine coaching legends who went on to coach after leaving positions they wanted to keep: former Bangor High School boys basketball coach Roger Reed and the late John Winkin.

Three years ago, Reed, then 73, wanted to keep his coaching  job while also pursuing a state legislator’s post. The Bangor administration wanted Reed to be able to give 100 percent to the basketball program, and, given that reasonable expectation, Reed reluctantly stepped down from the coaching post.

He has stayed in coaching, however, and has since served as an assistant coach at Hermon, where his son, Mark, is the head coach.

Winkin was 76 in June of 1996 when he lost his job as the University of Maine’s head baseball coach. He compiled a 642-430-3 record during  his 22 seasons with the Black Bears but his contract was not renewed when he recorded four losing seasons in his last five years.

He still felt he had a lot to give as a coach and Husson University agreed when it named him as an assistant coach 13 days after he lost his Maine job. He proved his value as an assistant and then as Husson’s head coach for four seasons until he suffered a stroke at age 87.

Many young athletes benefited from lessons given by Winkin and Reed. Ripley now also has the opportunity to do so and, hopefully, Clark will get one as well.

Joe McLaughlin

About Joe McLaughlin

McLaughlin (right) is a Stearns High School and University of Maine graduate who worked for three years at the Aroostook Republican and News in Caribou as a reporter and editor. He has worked on the BDN sports desk for 30 years, the last 18 as sports editor. McLaughlin and his wife, Kathy Schwigan, live in Brewer and have three adult children: Ryan, Matthew and Tess.