AUBURN — Andrew Morong says there were only two jobs that could have had his interest.

While coaching the varsity girls’ basketball team at Poland, Morong knew he’d be tempted to take a job at Morse, his alma mater, if the opportunity was there. The other job that might have enticed him was at Central Maine Community College.

So when the women’s job there opened up earlier this year, Morong didn’t hesitate.

“When this came open, I was going to go for it,” said Morong. “I didn’t know what consideration I’d be given, but I went at it like I was supposed to get it.”

Though Morong is young and didn’t have the lengthy resume a lot of candidates boasted, he had a determination that fit right in to what the Mustangs wanted.

“Andrew has tremendous passion and commitment for basketball,” said Dave Gonyea, CMCC’s athletic director and men’s basketball coach. “He’s very much into program building and he fits the culture of our college. He feels like a CM guy now. We really promote the family culture, and he really buys into that.”

Gonyea says he had interest from two Division I coaches as well as many well known coaches in Maine. There were applicants from as far away as Michigan and Florida.

“Andrew stood out heads and shoulders above the rest,” said Gonyea. “I was thrilled to have him.”

With the women’s season just a few games old, Morong is equally excited about his opportunity with the Mustangs. He’s been fully consumed by the job since being hired in April and has loved every minute of it.

“The recruiting, I absolutely love it,” said Morong. “I’m meeting people from all over Canada, New England and our state trying to find that talent that no one else has seen yet. I love seeing all these different people.”

Morong was an assistant under his father, Tom Morong, at Morse. He had been the varsity coach at Poland the past few years and gave that program a boost and stability during his tenure. Making the jump to the college level is new and exciting.

“Working with 18 to 22 year old women is different than working with 14 to 17 year old girls,” said Morong. “There’s a difference in their maturity level. You have less smaller issues to deal with. They handle a lot on their own. There’s less work on fundamentals and more of trying to see what they’re capable of. It’s fun.”

Morong replaces Andy Bridges, who was the only coach the women’s program had ever seen. During his 15 years, the club won eight regional championships and six appearances in the USCAA Nationals.

Morong brings new energy to the squad and with much of the club in new roles, it’s been a transition for everyone.

“What’s different is getting used to what kind of game he wants us to be playing and what roles we should be in and what he expects at practice,” said senior guard Teira Durgin, a former Oxford Hills standout. “Some of the girls are new. So it’s all different. We’re all trying to come together and we have a new coach. So it’s like a brand new team.”

The club has just nine players. Only five return from last year, including Durgin, Jaime Swart, Karlee Biskup, Danielle McCusker and Kailey Martin. Biskup missed most of the year to injury while others were mostly players off the bench.

“This team we have now, we really didn’t play with each other last year,” said Durgin. “So it’s a matter of coming together.”

That gives Morong the chance to mold this squad. His defensive emphasis and up-tempo style is a little different for the Mustangs but might serve the team’s athleticism and talents well.

“I like the go go,” said Durgin. “It’s more of a straight up, man-to-man, let’s go kind of deal. Before, we’d lay back a little. Now we just go go.”

It is still taking time for the club to come around to his coaching style. Morong is confident that the offense will come for CMCC. It is the defense he’s hoping to improve upon from what he’s seen in the early going. The club has had a beneficial week of practice after opening the season with a split at the Can-Am Tournament. The Mustangs produced a winning effort in Vermont Friday night.

“We should be very competitive,” said Morong. “Our first five are as good if not better than any five in our whole league. We come off the bench with some very strong girls.”

Morong graduated from Morse in 2004 and went to St. John’s University and the University of Maine. He’s currently working at John F. Murphy Holmes.

Leaving Poland was difficult choice. He had watched the Knights make great strides the last few seasons and had that program going in the right direction.

“It was tough,” said Morong, who says he still keeps in frequent contact with players and families from Poland. “We went through a lot together. I was sad to leave, but it was such a great opportunity.”

He’s felt welcomed by the CMCC community.  He says he feels as though he’s been there 10 years as opposed to just seven months. He’s been busy recruiting during the summer and is excited about the season finally being underway. He looks forward to seeing where the women’s program can go in the coming years.

“We want to expand on our recruiting base,” said Morong. “We have a great academic institution to sell and a great athletic program to sell. Let’s go get New Hampshire’s top players. Let’s go get kids from Canada, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. We spent all summer long in every New England state and even went to Canada. We’re expanding our horizon and getting a lot of great feedback. We’re really excited about the future.”

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