DIXFIELD — Dave Gerrish's dream of returning to the sidelines came true recently when he was named the new boy's basketball coach at Dirigo High School.
"I did a little AAU coaching in the spring and had planned on going down that path," Gerrish said. "When the Dirigo job opened up I started to realize how much I was going to miss full-time coaching. Through conversations with family and friends, I decided to apply."
Gerrish, the former coach at rival Mountain Valley,has big shoes to
fill. He replaces Gavin Kane, who resigned after last season to become
an assistant coach at the University of Maine.
In the previous four seasons, the Dirigo boys were 74-10, including three straight appearances in the Western Class C championship game. In 2009, the Cougars won their first regional championship since 1983.
Gerrish recognizes the challenges to rebuild the Cougars. In addition to Kane, Dirigo also had a Division I player leave the building. Tom Knight accepted a scholarship to play at the University of Notre Dame.
"With that said, I think there is still a very good foundation to build onto," Gerrish said. "With the players and experience coming back, there is great potential to be successful. All we can try to do is be the best we can be. A little luck doesn't hurt either."
Gerrish, who was once the junior varsity coach at Dirigo several years ago, is well known in the River Valley. His rapid return to the hardwood might produce mixed feelings. He resigned as head coach at Mountain Valley in March, having sensed that the team needed a new direction.
"We had very good candidates for the position, so it was a hard decision," Dirigo athletic director Charles Swan said. "But, in the end, we felt that Dave was the best person for the job. I know that some will be upset that he moved from one school to another, but the reason he gave us made us feel better about the situation."
The Cougars and Falcons belong to the newly established Regional School Unit (RSU10), but the athletic teams are independent. Every game is intense and each school, their students and their fans relish the competition.
"We have a lot of talent on our team this year, and I believe that Dave will do great job of taking them as far as they can go," Swan said.
Gerrish coached Mountain Valley for four years and qualified for the playoffs each year. After winning the Western Class B regionals in 2006, the Falcons claimed the Gold Ball as the 2007 Class B state champions.
"It is the passion that keeps coaches coming back. I enjoy being in the gym," Gerrish said. "They say the hardest thing about coaching is watching from the sidelines. I think that is it for me. I enjoy being involved."
Gerrish, who works in the process control department at New Page, has developed three simple philosophies — play hard, play smart and play together — which he believes will be successful at Dirigo. He hopes to employ the same type of tough man-to-man defense and up-tempo offense.
"We will spend the preseason learning what type of team we are," Gerrish said. "If we defend, rebound, and run, I think we will be successful. Dirigo has a great (senior-laden) group returning, who have tasted success."
The Peru native is quite familiar with winning programs, beginning when he was a player for Rumford more than three decades ago. He was a sophomore guard on the 1977 Class A state championship team.
Gerrish said hiring a JV coach at Dirigo will be the next step in the process.