Gavin Kane is off to chase a dream.
Yes, it’s countless winters overdue. And Maine’s loss is Maine’s gain.
Kane conveyed to his Dirigo High School boys’ basketball team Sunday night and confirmed for the rest of the state’s often-dysfunctional hoop family Monday morning that he is leaving that post.
In this era of scholastic bench bosses being burned out, bum-rushed and otherwise bullied out of the business, here’s a departure I couldn’t be giddier to report. Kane, who captained both halves of the Dirigo basketball ship over a matchless, 15-year tenure, is joining the University of Maine women’s program as an assistant coach.
This, after you can be sure multiple smaller colleges and universities missed more than one chance to hire a gem in recent years in the interest of “keeping it in the family” or under the guise of a “national search.”
So while congratulations are in order for Kane, who is supremely qualified for this promotion on every level, I reserve the real slap on the back for Cindy Blodgett and the flagship university’s staff.
It’s easy to forget how far and how quickly women’s basketball at Maine has plummeted. Only five years ago it was a closer-than-you-think second to hockey in fan support and national acclaim.
Joanne P. McCallie (now at Duke) and Sharon Versyp (Purdue) made a living making a mockery of America East. Then the Black Bears would scare the daylights out of an eventual Final Four team on the road in the NCAA tournament.
McCallie and Versyp were good coaches, as evidenced by where they now pick up their mail. But the best coaches shrivel on the vine without terrific players. It was McCallie who first attracted that talent by making Maine the No. 3 program in New England behind Connecticut and Boston College.
Blodgett, herself, had opportunities as a player to attend Notre Dame, Colorado and other Top 25 schools. She chose Maine, less than an hour from home and with a built-in fan base that already worshipped the hardwood she crossover-dribbled upon.
Both the Black Bears’ esteemed coaches had the benefit of Jody Benner, their assistant and a Wiscasset native with extraordinary connections throughout Maine high school basketball. It was he who primed the pump, shook the hands, tirelessly toured the state’s sweaty gymnasiums and ensured that Blodgett, Amy Vachon, Katie Clark, Heather Ernest and Ashley Underwood didn’t dream about playing anywhere else.
Which transitions us splendidly to Kane.
The most glaring void at Maine in Blodgett’s two years of shoveling up the shrapnel of the disastrous Ann McInerney era is a Benner.
Too much of our homegrown talent has been allowed to swim away for the promise of garbage time in a small pond. Others have stayed only to lose interest in basketball by the end of year one. Easy to do when you’re getting bashed by Binghamton.
Any perceived value of the Blodgett brand name is really for those of us in the 25-to-49 demographic. Most of the 17-year-olds she’s recruiting have zero recall of what we consider her legendary playing career.
Unless they’ve been living in a cave along the banks of the Allagash, though, they know Gavin Kane.
Don’t we all? In 13 years at the Dirigo girls’ helm, Kane won 95 percent of his games, 11 consecutive regional championships and six Class C state titles. All he did in four years as the boys’ coach (the first two while coaching both genders) was prevail 88 percent of the time, land in three straight regional finals, win one and groom the state’s most celebrated big man of this decade in Notre Dame-bound Tom Knight.
Easy to forget that he won a Class D crown with the Rangeley boys back when Blodgett was in elementary school.
Kane’s tasks at Maine will include instruction, recruiting, film evaluation, camp organization and administration.
There’s nobody better within a 200-mile radius at any of those things. Kane is whom he is because of a work ethic that makes this 75-hours-a-week, multi-media wretch dizzy.
At any time over the last decade-and-a-half, I could have been assigned to games in Jay on Wednesday, Rumford on Thursday, Winthrop on Friday and Boothbay on Saturday. Unless Kane had a contest of his own to provide a schedule conflict, I could set my watch to him walking into the gym at 6:45 p.m. with clipboard in hand.
Of course, plenty of men and women work hard and have the people skills of aluminum foil. Kane redeems his time and teaches the game of basketball with the utmost class, treating his people, his opponents and the media horde with equal dignity.
Be thankful in Maine that the dominant personalities in the sport – Kane, Roger Reed, Jim Bessey, Ordie Alley, Dwight Littlefield, Kevin Jenkins, Ray Convery, Craig Sickels Joe Russo, Paul Vachon, Dick Barstow, Mike McGee, and I’d be remiss not throwing in Mike Adams from the next generation – are gentlemen.
If Kane crossed your child’s path over the last three decades, consider yourself blessed. And if I’m fortunate enough to be even more blessed with a daughter, I only hope Kane is still lurking around Orono, breaking down film and making the camp circuit in about 20 years.
Bon voyage, my friend. It’s about time.
Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His e-mail is [email protected]


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