Last summer, Michael Susi took a coaching job, moved, and had to learn the ropes of a new program, community and conference.

This summer, he’s doing it again.

The former Katahdin boys’ basketball coach has been hired to coach the girls’ hoops program at Poland.

After taking a teaching and coaching job at the Stacyville school last summer, Susi was expecting to return there next season.

But Tyler Tracy, a close friend and the Poland boys’ basketball coach, suggested an alternative.

“I really wasn’t looking for anything else,” said Susi, who finished up his final day at Katahdin on Wednesday. “As soon as the opportunity came up, Tyler really said, ‘This is a great group.’ I talked to him frequently about the community there. When that job opened up, it was kind of, ‘Hey this might be meant to be.’ Especially after my girlfriend got her job in Minot.”

Susi replaces Darren Littlefield as the Knights’ coach. Littlefield was with the team for three seasons, and the Knights went 9-9 last winter before losing in the Western B preliminary round. Poland went 5-13 the season before.

When the job came open, Tracy let his friend know about the opportunity and encouraged him to consider it.

“He said there was a girls’ job open and that it was a great group of girls,” Susi said. “He thought it was something I should be interested in. My girlfriend and I had been talking about moving to the area anyway. She was offered a job at Minot Elementary. So I kind of thought I should take a shot as well.”

Susi was finishing up the summer basketball program with MCI last year and was the interim replacement for his father, Mike Susi. Without a teaching job, Susi was offered a job as a social studies teacher and boys’ basketball coach at Katahdin. His team went 8-10 last winter and finished 18th in the Eastern D standings.

“It was a hard decision in some ways and not a hard decision in other ways,” Susi said. “It was hard because I’d only been coaching and teaching at Katahdin for a year. I’d developed some really good relationships with the kids and the school community. On the other hand, with my relationship, we’re where we wanted to be. The opportunity to coach this group of girls, who by all accounts seem to be a wonderful group, in that sense it was an easy decision.”

Susi graduated from MCI and was a multi-sport athlete there. He then went to the University of Maine at Farmington. He initially played basketball but then became a student assistant under Dick Meader for two years. He later was an assistant at Thomas for a season and then joined his father at MCI. He coached the JV team for two seasons and was a varsity assistant with his father for two years.

It was quite a change for Susi going from MCI and the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference to Katahdin, an Eastern D school with an up-tempo style. Now he’ll have to adjust again as he initiates himself to the Western Maine Conference.

“This is where it’s at,” Susi said. “It seems like it’s one tough team right after another. Wells, Greely and Lake Region, they’re great. It’s certainly going to be a challenge for me. I was just getting used to last year’s opponents up in the County. Now I’m going to have to get used to a whole new set of opponents and a whole new style of basketball.”

Susi has never coached a girls’ team, but has worked with girls’ in a camp setting while also being around girls’ basketball growing up.

“It’s certainly going to be a new adventure for me,” Susi said. “However, my father was a girls’ basketball coach before he was a boys’ basketball coach. All of our family friends were girls’ basketball coaches. I’ve grown up around it. I definitely understand it’s a different game, but it’s equally just as good a game and a beautiful game.”

Susi will begin the summer program with the Knights next week. He has had one chance to meet with the team already and is excited about this new start. Poland only graduated two players from last year’s club.

“I met them once, and we had a great meeting,” Susi said. “There was about 32  girls that showed up. That’s good enough for two teams. A lot of them are young kids, freshmen, but there’s also a group of soon-to-be seniors that seem very excited about getting after it this summer and excited about the winter as well.”

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