Resignation of Mt. Blue coach a disappointing sign of the times

Gavin Kane directs a player while coaching Dirigo High of Dixfield in 2009.  (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

Gavin Kane directs a player while coaching Dirigo High of Dixfield in 2009. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

When is it going to stop?

Once again, a successful and well-respected Maine coach got fed up with the interference of parents and the lack of commitment among some of his players — and walked away.

The Lewiston Sun Journal on Wednesday broke the news that Gavin Kane has resigned his position as the head girls basketball coach at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington.

Kane spent only two seasons at Mt. Blue, his alma mater, leading the Cougars to a 20-16 overall record and two Class A regional quarterfinal berths.

Demonstrating the class that has typified his coaching career, Kane did not publicly discuss the reasons for his resignation. He did concede that issues involving parents and some athletes contributed to his decision.

It is a similar rationale given by coaches statewide every year, but we should be asking ourselves how much meddling by parents should be tolerated in high school sports.

Parents who are unhappy with their son or daughter’s playing time or role on a team almost always start by telling their child how good they are and that they ought to be playing more.

That dynamic continues, sometimes for years, with the us-against-the-coach dynamic intensifying over time. It often leads not only to the student having a woe-is-me attitude, it can negatively affect their work ethic and commitment to individual improvement and team goals.

That’s enough to begin eroding the fabric of the team chemistry, but some parents take it a step further. Sometimes, complaints about playing time are made to the coach, although many instead go straight to the athletic administrator and/or the principal.

Hoping to avoid further visits from parents, the administrators might meet with the coach about the matter. Naturally, the coach feels as though his or her authority and decision making are being called into question and both sides hunker down for the long siege.

The interference can be magnified because the student in question comes from a prominent family or is related to someone in a position of power in the school system or in the community.

That kind of pressure can sway administrators to encourage coaches to relent and make sure the player in question feels “more appreciated.”

There are numerous iterations of the player-parent-coach-administration dynamic. Admittedly, I do not know any of all the details surrounding Kane’s situation at Mt. Blue.

But something led a man whose teams have done nothing but win for decades — with more than 500 career victories at Dirigo in Dixfield and Spruce Mountain in Jay — and who was coaching at a school that he attended, to give up the game he loves.

Students and parents should be allowed to approach a coach discreetly and ask about issues involving playing time — maybe once a season. In that way, the coach can explain his expectations and the player’s shortcomings and the student and parents will be armed with knowledge about what he or she needs to do to have a more significant role on the team.

That should be the end of the discussion.

Athletic administrators should scrutinize coaches and hold them to high standards but if those standards are met, then a coach’s decisions in regard to everything involving basketball should be followed and respected.

Those administrators, barring any alleged wrongdoing by a coach, should stand behind the coach’s handling of the team wholeheartedly. They should not intervene on behalf of parents to suggest that someone should receive more playing time.

Ditto for the school principal, who hired his athletic director and recommended the coach be hired for good reasons, or someone on the local school board.

Some athletes are more talented and more driven than others. There are those who will always be role players or may have no on-court role at all unless they do the necessary work to improve.

Men and women become coaches to teach young people and to build cohesive teams. Most aren’t spending all those hours in the gym for their own edification.

That’s why coaching decisions must remain with the coaches. They were hired to do a job and should be allowed to do it.

Kane is a proven winner and a humble man who loves coaching basketball. If someone of his caliber resigns his position, it should give us pause to reconsider how coaches are treated by students, parents and administrators.

Pete Warner

About Pete Warner

Pete is a Bangor native who graduated from Bangor High School, Class of 1980. He earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He has been a full-time member of the Bangor Daily News Sports staff since 1984. Pete lives in Bangor with his wife of 32 years, Annia. They have two adult sons, Will and Paul. Pete is fluent in Spanish and enjoys visiting his in-laws and friends in Costa Rica. His hobbies including hunting, fishing and listening to jazz.