MADISON – They try to play summer basketball as if nothing has changed.
But that’s not easy for the Mt. Blue girls’ basketball team. The Cougars are in a state of limbo, still missing the coach they had while waiting for a new one to be named.
“The last game (in February), we were like, ‘See you next season. It will be great,’ and then, no,” said senior guard Michelle Oswald. “It was very shocking. Nobody really knew how to take it.”
Jeannine Paradis resigned only a week before the summer season began.
After six seasons in which the Cougars made the playoffs every year, Paradis stepped down, citing family reasons and other factors. She finished with a career record of 61-47 and advanced to the Eastern Class A quarterfinals three times. Her last four seasons included 49 regular-season wins and four straight winning seasons.
“It’s been extremely tough,” said senior forward Meaghan Robinson. “Just the thought of knowing that we’re not going to have Coach Paradis back is really hard.”
Many basketball team members are also field hockey players for Paradis in the fall. She has been their coach for two sports for their entire careers. They were comfortable with Paradis’ coaching style and expectations.
“It’s disappointing knowing that we were supposed to have her in our senior year, and we go all the way (to the end of our careers) and we don’t have her,” said senior guard Amanda Deschenes.
While the players are still coping with the loss of their coach, the program itself scrambles to move forward.
Paradis drew up all the summer plans before her resignation, but Larry Donald and Rob Olsen were brought in at the last minute to fill in during the summer. Donald is the JV coach, while Olsen coaches the freshman team.
“They called us in and said, ‘This is what’s going on, and can you take the summer program?’ ” said Olsen, who coached the team last weekend at a tournament.
The team plays in a league in Waterville twice a week and has a handful of tournaments scheduled, including one in Skowhegan next weekend.
“We run some of the stuff we had in place and some different stuff that we’re trying,” said Olsen. “So we can finish out the season.”
Typically, the summer season is a time to integrate younger players and get teams accustomed to working together after graduation losses.
That’s something the Cougars need after losing five seniors. Still, it is hard for a club to move forward when the uncertainty of a new coach lingers.
“We’ve really tried to make it fun,” said Olsen. “We’ve gotten the girls together and said ‘We’re kind of in a bad spot. Get here when you can and practice when you can.’ “
More than 16 players have shown up regularly. Olsen had 14 playing at Madison on Saturday. They’ve even done some splitting of the squad and scheduling some games with some local JV squads.
Meanwhile, the girls can’t help but wonder who the new coach will be.
“I’m definitely anxious,” said Robinson. “I’m wondering who it is.”
One thing Paradis brought to the team was a knowledge of her players as athletes and as people. That is something they currently miss and hope to establish with a new coach.
“She was definitely someone you could talk to,” said senior forward Amelia Allen. “You have to have a friendship with someone that is coaching.”