ORONO — From his office overlooking Memorial Gymnasium, Gavin Kane can reflect on the University of Maine women’s basketball past and present and contemplate its future.

Memorial Gym, the Black Bears’ former home court and current practice court affectionately dubbed “the Pit,” is scheduled to undergo a $12.5 million renovation. The improvements will allow Maine to once again play its home games in the 83-year-old building, rather than at Alfond Arena. 

Kane, who left Dirigo High School in the summer after 13 years coaching basketball to join head coach Cindy Blodgett’s staff, is living his dream as a college basketball coach. But there are long hours spent in his office and long days spent on the road, all with the purpose of again making Maine a force in America East when it calls the Pit home again at the start of the 2010 season.

“It’s unbelievable how much there is that goes into this position at this level,” Kane said. “Coming in I thought I might have a decent idea as to what was involved, but I got a wake-up call to that quickly.”

“I’ve absolutely loved what I’ve been doing, but there’s been a tremendous amount of work to it, particularly from the administrative side,” he added.

For Kane and Blodgett’s other assistants, Justin Rees and Caren Fiorillo, 12-hour days are not uncommon. That’s not surprising considering the duties of an assistant coach are wide-ranging, aside from watching film, helping with the X’s and O’s and player instruction. For Kane, they include film exchange with non-conference teams and organizing the annual Dead River Thanksgiving tournament in which Maine will host Penn State, Buffalo and Holy Cross. He has also been following up with recruits for 2011 that the Black Bears want to talk to over the summer. 

Kane took his first big recruiting trip in early October, attending a three-day blue chip event in Philadelphia. During the season, when it fits into Maine’s schedule, he will primarily be recruiting in Maine and Canada. Kane’s vast knowledge and credibility within the state are two of the greatest assets he brings to the program.

“I think coach Blodgett sees the contacts I have here in the state and in the New England area as a plus,” Kane said. 

“What he has is a great reputation,” Blodgett said. “Anyone who knows Gavin speaks immediately of the type of person he is and the integrity he has and his work ethic.”

They also speak of Kane’s record, which was 263-17, 11 straight Western Class C titles and six state championships with the Dirigo girls, 74-10 and a regional title with the boys. He also won a state title coaching the Rangeley boys.

“Regardless of the level. It makes no difference to me. He’s a winner, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Blodgett said.  

The commute from his home in Wilton, nearly two hours, is strenuous, although he can stay with his brother Mike, who coaches women’s basketball at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, when he needs to. The hours and the travel take him away from his family — his wife Carole, son Connor, and daughters Caitlin and Chelsea — even more than when he was coaching both the boys and girls in Dixfield for two years. 

“My family is very, very pleased for me because they know this is a goal that I’ve had for a long time,” he said. “It’s not the easiest of jobs to have with a family, but my wife understands that this is very important to me and is totally supportive of my new position here.”

Blodgett and the rest of the team have made the transition easier, he said. He is excited at the chemistry he has developed with her and the rest of the staff already. 

“Coach Blodgett has been tremendous, not only with all the help that she’s given me to get comfortable with the position but I can sit down and talk hoops with hers for hours and hours at a time,” he said.

The players, especially those from Maine who are familiar with Kane’s coaching resume, said Kane has been content to stay quietly in the background in the preseason. But they expect him to be more vocal when he settles into the regular season. 

“It will be fun when the season comes and we really see him open up, hear him start yelling or something,” said a laughing Kristin Baker, a senior point guard from Bingham.

Kane laughs at the thought of not being the one getting up off the bench to call plays, yell instructions or lobby officials. 

“The one thing I’m anxious to see is having to sit on the bench during a ballgame,” he said. “I’m the guy that likes to be in control, and it certainly will seem a little strange sitting as an assistant as opposed to being much more involved as a head coach. I’ve been curious to see how I react to that.”

Gavin Kane, assistant coach for the University of Maine women’s basketball team.

University of Maine women’s basketball head coach Cindy Blodgett.

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