1985. Ronald Reagan was beginning his second term as Commander in Chief. Germany was still divided into East and West. A gallon of gas cost about $1.25 per gallon, which was considered high. Microsoft was releasing it’s first version of Windows, with the unveiling of Version 1.0.
For the Bangor Rams boys basketball team, they were making pilgrimages to Presque Isle and Caribou. Stearns, now a class D program, was on the schedule as well. The Rams finished the 1984-85 season with a 14-4 record, seeded fourth headed into the tournament. Bangor defeated cross-river rival Brewer in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual state champion Waterville in the semis.
Fast forward thirty years. Barack Obama is the first African-American president in U.S. history. Germany is once again one nation. The price of gas has more than doubled, and at one point had nearly quadrupled. Windows has released, well I’ve lost track.
Bangor boys basketball is coming off their first losing season since 1986. Brewer will likely be their only remaining common opponent from thirty years ago. A familiar face, although a bit more seasoned, will grace the sidelines as Carl Parker returns to mentor the Rams.
While much has changed in the world since Coach Parker last coached the Rams, so has been the case with Carl himself. Since his previous stint at Bangor, Parker has coached at the high school level at Foxcroft Academy, Maine Central Institute, and most recently, Nokomis. He has served as an assistant under veteran coach Max Good with the prep program at MCI, while also directing the post grad fortunes at Lee Academy.
Perhaps Parker is best known for helping institute A.A.U. basketball in Maine during the early 90’s. Many of Carl’s players have gone on to earn scholarships at either the Division I or II levels.
One characteristic that hasn’t changed with Carl Parker is his ability to inspire young people. How does he accomplish this? First of all, Coach Parker is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever come in contact with. The young people who play for Carl will be challenged, not through fear or intimidation, but because they will know he has their best interests at heart. He has a way of showing that he truly cares about students. I’ve heard a number of coaches say that player’s don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. He relates with kids better than most anyone I’ve dealt with.
Another attribute that endears Parker to his players is his honesty. Bangor High School is getting a coach that won’t sugar coat an answer. Ask him a question and there will be no canned, scripted, politically correct, don’t want to hurt feelings or step on toes response. You may not like the answer given but he will give you his true feelings. Kids, or most people for that matter, detest mind games. With Parker there is no guessing, you know where you stand.
Carl Parker is also honest about who his is. He will admit he has made mistakes in the past, we all have. He doesn’t gloss over his faults, there are no false pretenses here. He certainly does not come across as holier than thou and for that I greatly respect him.
Coach Parker has a presence about him like few people I’ve come in contact with. I knew of Carl and spoke with him a few times casually while a student at Bangor High School during the late 80’s. I really started to get to know him while working Roger Reed’s summer programs during the early 90’s during college break. I remember going into the coaches office during lunch time. In the room would be Reed, Randy Dunton, who was an assistant coach at Liberty University at the time, Jim DiFrederico, who was at Nokomis, and a few others. Holding court amongst them all was Parker. He just had and has that larger than life personality.
I remember how Carl encouraged me to not be bashful about my views during our daily sessions, that I could contribute. This seemed strange to me as I was a twenty year-old college student in a room filled with coaching mentors. Through Parker’s influence I gained confidence not only in that setting, but I would eventually go on to coach myself. In fact, we faced each other on occasion, as I was coaching the freshman boys team at John Bapst while he was in the same role at Nokomis. He has always been gracious to me during our encounters on and off the court.
The players fortunate enough to play at Red Barry Gym for Parker will experience his tough love. They will play for a coach, who is knowledgeable for sure, and will bring out a level of play from them they weren’t sure they could give. They will play for a coach who will teach life lessons. They will learn that failure is not final, to learn from your mistakes and move on, just as coach has done.
Obviously, to be able to coach the game of basketball one must know the game. What separates Parker from many others is that not only does he know the game but he can connect with young people in a way few others can. He has a way of having players believe in themselves with an infectious passion.
Carl Parker is known throughout the state as someone who can develop great players into even better players. While Bangor draws from Bangor itself they also accept tuition students from outlying areas. Hiring someone of Parker’s renown should also help in attracting quality players from those areas. He is also a tireless ambassador of the game and should spark interest in Bangor’s youth, as well.
While Coach Parker grew up in Lincoln and attended Mattanawcook Academy, he has lived most of his adult life here in Bangor. He is a Bangor man. He has finally come home and the good people at Bangor High School are fortunate to have a man of his caliber in charge of the basketball program. Best of luck to my friend, Carl Parker, and the Bangor Rams.