Two coaches that made a return to coaching varsity basketball have stepped away once again.

Both Tom Morong and Mark Simpson have resigned from their head coaching positions at Oak Hill and Mt. Abram, respectively.

Morong chose to retire after his fifth season with the Raiders, after one of Oak Hills’ most successful seasons of late.

“It was a really hard decision,” Morong said. “My full intention was to coach next year and give it one more year and then get done because I knew (retirement) was coming.”

Simpson was also planning on returning to Mt. Abram, where the Roadrunners are in the building stage. When hardly any varsity players attended a postseason clinic that Simpson had organized, it made Simpson question his return.

“I was very disappointed and had to think about the time away from family and grand kids and of course, the 50-mile round trip every day all winter,” Simpson said. “I just didn’t feel the player effort was up to the standards they needed to be in order to compete in the MVC.”

The Raiders had just two seniors on a team that went 14-4 in the regular season. The Raiders finished eighth overall in a tough Western B field and lost to York in a tournament preliminary game.

Though Morong had much of the team returning, he decided this was the right time to step away. Morong had already retired once. After coaching for 20-plus years at Morse, he left coaching only to be lured back by the Oak Hill opening.

“I’ve been doing this my whole adult life,” Morong said. “I’m not saying I’ll never do it again. I love the kids. They’re the nicest kids I think I’ve coached. They worked hard. They bought into what I wanted. They tried their best. I think they’re going to be a great team next year. I wanted to walk away when I felt it was the right time.”

Though he had contemplated returning one more season, he decided at the end of the playoffs to retire now. He felt the table was set for a new coach coming in and it would give him the opportunity to be more involved with his son’s coaching career. His son, Andrew Morong, is the women’s basketball coach at Central Maine Community College.

“I coached when my son and daughter came through,” Morong said. “I got to coach my daughter, but I missed out on a lot of my son’s stuff, and I don’t want to miss out on his coaching stuff. He’s doing a wonderful job at CM. I’m probably going to go over and help him out a little bit. I’ll go scout for him and go recruit for him. I want it to be about him and what I can do to help him out now.”

Simpson had also gotten back into coaching by taking the Mt. Abram job. He had coached two different stints at Livermore Falls as well as coaching at Mt. Blue. He had recently coached the Andies to the Western C final, before Livermore Falls merged with Jay to become Spruce Mountain

He took over a Roadrunners program that was rebuilding after the retirement of longtime coach Doug Lisherness. Simpson inherited a team that had just four players returning, none of which had significant varsity experience. Only two of them were seniors.

Mt. Abram went 2-16 this winter. After the season, Simpson had set up a clinic run by former Mt. Blue varsity boys’ coach Jim Bessey and Dave Simpson, Bessey’s longtime assistant and a recent varsity boys’ coach at Skowhegan. It was held at the high school for two days for kids ages six through 11. Transportation was even provided from the elementary schools and included a late bus home.

“I especially wanted my high school kids to get court time and to get some real basics and to hear about the importance of off-season work from two very respected coaches,” Simpson said. “I went up on the second day, just to see how it was going and touch base with the coaches. There were only two high school players participating.”

It was disheartening for Simpson, who was excited about trying to bring the Roadrunners back to their previous prominence. With such a lack of interest, he reconsidered his return.

“There is some talent in that group of freshmen and some good players coming up from the middle schools,” Simpson said. “Hopefully another coach will be able to get the effort needed to improve their game. I wish them the best of luck and hope that they realize their talents.”

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