High school basketball coaching jobs have become an exhibition of musical chairs.

Or maybe a tumbling trail of dominoes. Six degrees of separation, perhaps.

Life in the Mountain Valley Conference lately has escalated those games-within-the-game to a new level. Two accomplished coaches have traded one ship’s rudder for another this summer.

Chris Bessey, most recently in charge of the girls’ hoop program at Jay High School, has been the named the first boys’ coach at newly minted Spruce Mountain High School of Jay and Livermore Falls.

He replaces Travis Magnusson, who originally was named to the Spruce post, but never oversaw a game for the consolidated school. The former Livermore Falls coach has moved to another of the marquee jobs within the MVC at Dirigo.

“It was Travis’s job. He had set up the summer program,” Bessey said.

And that’s when the dominoes started falling, indirectly set in motion by a collegiate job change two hours away.

Cindy Blodgett was dismissed in March after four years as women’s coach at the University of Maine. One of her assistants, Gavin Kane of Wilton, declined a different position within the school and instantly became the trendy candidate for multiple high school jobs closer to home.

Dirigo boys’ coach Rebecca Fletcher then resigned her post after one season and a Western Class C championship, ostensibly to return to her roots as Kane’s assistant. Kane previously won a combined eight regional championships as coach of the Dirigo boys and girls.

That candidacy was grounded immediately, however, by an RSU 10 policy that gives preference for coaching jobs to teachers within the district.

Locked out at Dirigo, Kane subsequently applied for the girls’ position at Spruce.

Another candidate was Bessey, who led Jay to the 2009 Class C state title. He resigned shortly after the 2011 season, citing family considerations and the demands of his duties as University of Maine at Farmington baseball coach.

He then had a change of heart, but the nod went to Kane. That door closed as another opened, with Magnusson — a physical education teacher at Buckfield, partner of Dirigo and Mountain Valley in RSU 10 — moving to Dirigo.

Confused? Well, there won’t be a test … unless you count Jay and Livermore Falls’ first season as a merged entity in Class B.

“A lot of people didn’t realize that,” Bessey said. “I know for the seniors from Jay, their biggest goal was just to make it to that Augusta Civic Center floor. When I told people now that would never happen, some of them said, ‘Why not?’ I had to explain that we’re in Class B and that now we’ll have to play in Portland against Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth and Greely.”

Spruce’s hopes for a playoff push in that inaugural season will hinge heavily on a nucleus of players Bessey knows well.

Jay was poised to return four-fifths of its starting lineup prior to the vote to combine schools.

That includes the backcourt of Jake Bessey (the coach’s son) and Zach Bonnevie. The two have started together at the varsity level since their sophomore season.

“I coached them all in travel team from second grade on,” Bessey said. “I had a lot of the them when I coached varsity baseball at Jay (until 2010). And I coached them in football through eighth grade. It’s a lot of the same kids.”

Livermore Falls gained the edge in the longtime rivalry during Magnusson’s six years with program.

While Jay missed the tournament by one spot each of the past three seasons, Livermore Falls strung together three consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the 1970s.

Dirigo knocked Livermore Falls out of the tournament in 2010 and 2011, including the ’10 Western final.

“Livermore just graduated a pretty big senior group that was part of that,” Bessey said.

Spruce’s summer league is top-heavy with local Class A powers, including Edward Little and Mt. Blue.

Bessey said he would like to see Spruce pursue membership in a more Class B-centric league such as the KVAC. For now, it will join Mountain Valley as the only Class B clubs in the MVC.

Getting the traditional rivals to mesh hasn’t been difficult, noted Bessey.

“I said all along that this group of seniors would be a great one to start with,” he said. “Away from school, they’ve always hung out together and been friends. The adults, it might take a little longer.”

Bessey is no stranger to coaching boys’ hoop, having previously led the programs at both Jay and Livermore Falls.

“The philosophy (of coaching girls and boys) is the same. Girls might have a little less athleticism, but they also have less ego,” Bessey said. “They do something the first time you ask. Boys, you have to repeat yourself a few times.”

Repetition of a different sort has become the rule for the incoming Dirigo senior boys. They’re about to begin an unprecedented quest: Going after their fourth consecutive Western Maine championship with their fourth different coach.

Kane, Dave Gerrish and Fletcher preceded Magnusson, whose credentials as a player and coach are outstanding.

Magnusson was one of the most prolific scorers in Maine high school history at Georges Valley, the former high school in Thomaston. He also starred at the University of Maine at Farmington.

In addition to his exceptional won-lost record at Livermore Falls, Magnusson won an MVC coach of the year award in 2010.

He could not be reached for comment.

Dirigo will return all but two players from the 2011 season, including starters Cody St. Germain, Ben Holmes, Josh Turbide and Caleb Turner.

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