TURNER – Christian Gurney made the most of an impossible situation in his first, brief foray into a varsity boys’ basketball head coaching job.

It was more than enough to earn an opportunity to start from scratch.

Leavitt Area High School has dropped the interim tag from Gurney’s job title, hiring him to lead a promising program that advanced to the Eastern Class A quarterfinals two of the last three years.

“It’s great news,” Gurney said. “It’s nice to be considered the head coach and not just the interim guy.”

Gurney coached the final five games of the 2006-07 campaign and kept the team grounded through a whirlwind of distractions.

Leavitt dismissed fourth-year coach Mike Remillard on Jan. 31 after he admitted to a halftime motivational tactic that school officials deemed inappropriate.

“Christian is a great guy,” said Leavitt athletic director Doug Conn. “He had a rough go of it at the end of last year, but he did a really nice job.”

The Hornets finished 10-10, winning three of their five games under Gurney’s watch.

They played fabulously in the two losses, as well. Only two days after Remillard’s firing, Leavitt led then-unbeaten Edward Little at halftime. Two weeks later, they were in the same position in a playoff game at Augusta Civic Center before running out of steam against eventual state champion Bangor.

In between, Leavitt traveled to Brunswick and knocked off the higher-seeded Dragons in a preliminary game.

“I think it turned out to be a positive experience for all of us,” Gurney said. “It was the players more than myself. We had a lot of seniors on the team, and they wanted to make the best of the situation and end on a positive note.”

Gurney, who teaches physical education at Turner Elementary School, led Leavitt’s freshman program in 2004-05. He coached both freshman and junior varsity in 2005-06 and solely JV last winter until the shake-up.

He embellishes a talented roster of recent high school and college graduates who have jumped into the local varsity coaching ranks in their 20s. Pat Blais of Lewiston, Ryan Deschenes of St. Dom’s, Corey Guilford of Mt. Abram, Edwin Thompson of Jay, Shelby Turcotte of Monmouth and Chris Willer of Poland are also in that club.

“There are a couple of guys I went to school with who already had head coaching jobs,” said Gurney, a Lisbon High School product who graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Standish with a 3.96 GPA in 2003. “Time sure flies.”

His promotion will bring continuity to a young team next season.

Starters Cameron Angell, Matt Nash, Tyler Millett, Brian Taylor and Chris Crosby will graduate this spring along with sixth man Eric Berry. Center Doug Nash is the lone experienced returnee with two years remaining, but Gurney coached almost all the holdovers in JV.

“I actually will have coached some of them all four years,” he said.

Leavitt remains on the borderline of the Class A and B cutoff number as dictated by the Maine Principals Association. Gurney expects the Hornets to remain in the Class A division of the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference with Mt. Blue, EL, Lewiston and Oxford Hills.

“It’s a two-year cycle, from what I’ve heard, and I know there is going to be a lot of movement next year,” said Gurney. “I think we’ll be fine in Class A. We’ll be competitive.”

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