The girls’ basketball openings at both Edward Little and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School have been filled – with a little help from each other.

Edward Little has hired former Viking coach Craig Jipson. Oxford Hills replaced him by hiring Nate Pelletier, the former EL junior varsity girls’ coach.

“It was a short-lived retirement,” said Jipson. “I’m way beyond excited. When I got done, I was hoping to get closer to home, and this does that.”

Jipson had coached at Oxford Hills for six years, but said the commute back-and-forth each day during basketball season took away too much of his family time.

He stepped down in March, expecting to coach at some level, if something opened up a little closer to home.

When the job at EL became available, it was the perfect opportunity.

“Once it came up, it was my No. 1 priority,” said Jipson. “It was a chance to come home.”

Jipson is an EL grad and feels like this job is an opportunity of a lifetime. Even had he not already resigned at Oxford Hills, this opening might have been too tempting to pass up.

“I hope to have this job for a long, long time,” said Jipson. “One thing they haven’t had at EL is continuity. I hope it’s the last varsity job I apply for.”

Because of his connection with the local YMCA, Jipson coached many of the EL alumni in youth programs. He hopes to help reestablish that connection between the current Red Eddies and their alumni.

“I want to get the alumni excited about the program,” said Jipson.

Prior to his tenure with the Vikings, he coached at Gray-New Gloucester and was an assistant with the Lewiston girls and the EL boys. During his six years at Oxford Hills, he went 68-40 in the regular season. That included a pair of 15-win seasons and four quarterfinal appearances.

Moving to another KVAC team makes for a unique scenario. Jipson says his tenure at Oxford Hills was nothing but positive. People he has encountered that have learned of his new job were understanding and supportive.

“I think people are really happy for me,” said Jipson, who inherits a team that went 4-14 last year and loses just three seniors. “It’s kind of a different situation. I love the kids, and I love the people up there. They all understand that I wanted to spent more time with my kids. The people that I talked to about it have been awesome.”

Pelletier was also interested in the EL job, but the Vikings program offers a great fit. Pelletier lives in South Paris and likes the style the promising Oxford Hills program boasts.

“I’m an energetic coach,” said Pelletier. “I like to get the ball up and down the floor.”

He says he likes a fast paced game where his team is the best conditioned squad on the floor. The Vikings only graduate four seniors and have a solid nucleus of talent returning from a team that went 13-5 before losing in the Eastern A quarterfinals.

“I’m excited,” said Pelletier. “Looking at the program last year, they’re a very young and energetic team, and they play great defense.”

Pelletier graduated from Brunswick and St. Joe’s. He coached at the eighth grade level for a year at Westbrook before coaching the Red Eddies JV girls’ the last three seasons.

“After three years, I felt that I was ready to step it up to the varsity level,” said Pelletier. “I’ve got a lot to offer. Craig did well with the program, and I hope to continue that.”

Having seen the Vikings play last year while coaching at EL, it helped affirm Pelletier’s decision to pursue the Oxford Hills’ position. Between the Vikings athleticism and close proximity to his home, it had all the right ingredients. Pelletier has already begun setting up the summer program and getting things going at the youth levels.

“When push came to shove, it was the right move,” said Pelletier. “I’m really excited. I’m glad I’ve got the opportunity to do this job.”

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