It’s hard to believe nearly a month has passed since gold basketballs were awarded in various locales throughout Maine. While the Red Sox begin their World Series title defense, local teams are eagerly awaiting the absence of snow on the diamonds in their quests to claim state supremacy.
The late arrival of spring has managed to keep high school basketball in the forefront of our minds, however. With the recent proposals by the MPA’s classification committee, to the announcement of first inductees of the newly formed Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, Maine high school basketball is still king. After all, with all due respect to our spring athletes, few spring events have drawn crowds and cleared out communities for the big game like basketball does. Throw in the number of school basketball coaching openings and the topics of discussion are endless.
As was recently reported by the Bangor Daily News’ Ernie Clark, a survey has been sent out to MPA member schools concerning two proposals which would affect Maine high school basketball. The first proposal would divide the state’s basketball playing schools into five classes. With the state’s school population dwindling, the smaller school ranks have swollen over the years. The largest region is Eastern Maine Class D with 24 schools.
The second proposal concerns Heal Points. Without getting into how the points are calculated, the survey asks whether or not the difference in the preliminary indexes between schools in different classes should be reduced or eliminated. At present the difference stands at five, having been lowered from ten at one time.
In looking at the five class proposal the biggest question would be what to do with the tournament format. At present, the three statewide sites would not be able to host two additional regional tournaments during February vacation week. A logical five class tournament would have the smallest three classes in Eastern Maine at the Cross Insurance Center and Class A in Augusta during the traditional tournament week. Class B could then be played at the CIC in Eastern Maine and in Portland for Western Maine in the format used by the Class A schools prior to 2006.
The proposal also mentioned dividing east and west, or north/south among the four largest classes with a statewide class E. I’m not sure a statewide class E would be feasible given the large geographical area of the proposed class. The new proposed class would literally cover the entire state of Maine, whereas class A for example only covers Bangor south, with the majority of schools in close vicinity of Interstate 95.
Another factor to consider is the issue of consolidation. Will a number of the current schools in Class D consolidate in the next few years, making this an almost irrelevant issue?
In looking at altering the Heal Point system, the main consideration involved is travel. With ever tightening school budgets, all costs need to be factored in with regards to all programs. The rationale behind eliminating or reducing the difference in the preliminary index is to encourage larger schools to schedule schools of smaller enrollments in their geographical area. Where this proposal falls short is in the realization that scheduling is a two-way street. By eliminating the difference in Heal Points, the incentive is eliminated for a smaller school to play a school of a larger enrollment. Under the proposal, why would a small school play up, so to speak, if there was not an extra incentive to do so?
By all estimates, the current Heal Points system works fine. Take for example, class B in which teams from the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference play solely a Class B schedule, while the Big East teams play four of their eighteen games versus class C opponents. This past season in the boys ranks, the Big East sent seven of their eight teams to postseason, while six of the eight girls teams advanced to the play-offs. The Big East and KVAC split the top eight seeds in boys, while in the girls three of the top five seeds were Big East teams.
While it is possible these changes could take place as early as the 2015-16 season, my prediction is for both proposals to be tabled until the next classification cycle, which would be 2017-18. If the process to have four classes in football is any indication, these changes should prove to be slow to implement.
Kudos go out to the selection committee for the newly formed Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. Selection committee members Tony Hamlin, Jamie Russell, Paul Cook, and many others have done yeoman’s work in carefully selecting the first class of inductees. Think about it: trying to whittle over a hundred years of history makers down to approximately thirty inaugural honorees. While originally I balked at the notion of a player having to wait twenty years to be inducted, I consider the number of people who have made their mark on the game during the past century. With each subsequent class, as more and more people are inducted, it will be interesting to see if this rule is relaxed.
This time of year generally brings with it a number of coaching vacancies and a lot of scuttlebutt regarding who will fill those roles. Some of the most notable openings in Eastern Maine are the girls varsity basketball positions at Bangor and Brewer. If I was an athletic director at either school, I would look very closely at former Nokomis girls basketball coach, Kori Dionne.
Coach Dionne has been out of coaching the past two seasons, having done color commentary for WZON radio in Bangor. It’s been well-documented that she made a poor decision two years ago, which she has paid dearly for. She proved at Nokomis that she can motivate kids and was very successful in her time there, having won two Eastern Maine crowns. It is time for her to have another opportunity to coach, if she so desires.
While the weather starts to heat up and we will be outside before we know it, thoughts of the hardwood never seem to leave. While baseball may be considered out national pastime, there is no question basketball remains king throughout the state of Maine.