Also read: Steve Ouellette quits as St. Dominic Academy hockey coach

AUBURN — The nights never got shorter, and even the proximity to home wasn’t enough to offset the hours and stress involved in being a full-time athletic director for Gene Keene.

Keene has resigned his post at St. Dominic Academy. His final day on the job will be Tuesday, June 30.

Keene gave three reasons for his departure Tuesday:

“One of the main reasons I went to St. Dom’s was to be closer to home so that the late nights might be easier,” Keene said. “After two years of it, it’s still late nights, and that type of thing.

“Public education and private education are two different things. Private education does things a little bit differently than public education. I wasn’t always comfortable with those things, but I understood them. That was part of it, too.

“The third thing is, the last few years, I’ve had a desire to maybe get back in the classroom, teach and maybe do a little coaching again,” Keene added, “put the whistle back around my neck. I miss some of that stuff. I miss the everyday contact with kids that I wasn’t getting as an AD. All those things kind of combined came to a head this year.”

Don Fournier, the principal at St. Dom’s when Keene was hired and now the president of the school, said Tuesday the school will miss Keene.

“I would say he’s done a very good job,” Fournier said. “He told us what he was going to do when he came in, and he definitely did it. He was on top of everything, and that’s what we asked. He moved the program forward.”

“He blended right in, became part of our family,” St. Dom’s principal Joline Girouard said. “We’re sorry to see him go and we wish him the best in his next endeavors.”

One of Keene’s biggest goals when he originally took the job was to help change public perception of the school and its athletic programs.

“When I went there, some public school communities didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about St. Dom’s,” Keene said. “When I got there, I found a lot of the things that even I thought before I got there sometimes, just aren’t true. One of the things I wanted to accomplish — and I felt I did — was to change that perception a little bit. I worked hard, when opponents came to St. Dom’s to be there and greet them off the bus, make them feel welcome, and let them know that St. Dom’s works hard, too, to do things the right way.

“Before I got there, you looked in the school’s gym, and you didn’t see one sportsmanship banner from the Maine Principals’ Association,” Keene added. “This past winter, we hung up our first one in boys’ basketball. I think that was a big step to help change that perception. St. Dom’s is a good place. There are good people there. I worked with a ton of good people there. The coaches were great. You have some experienced coaches, some with less experience, but they all work hard for the kids, and I appreciate all the work they did.”

One of the biggest challenges Keen said he faced was dealing with the pressure of being at a privately funded institution.

“(The families) chose to go to a private school and pay that money and to a certain extent, they have the right to question what’s going on,” Keene said. “But at the same time, I sometimes think that, for a small percentage of parents, they feel they have a sense of entitlement, that if things don’t go exactly the way they want, they want change. I understand that to a certain extent. But that makes it hard on the coaches. It makes it hard on everybody there. I have a great deal of respect for the people who work there because of that pressure. And it’s not just in athletics. It’s academics, and the whole piece there. I respect those people. I struggled with that piece of it, I’m not going to lie. Other than that, I feel like things went well.”

The final two weeks of the season this spring were particularly challenging for Keene, who for about two weeks was relieved of his duties at the school when “an issue came up,” according to Fournier.

“There was an issue that came up, but he was basically cleared of doing anything wrong,” Fournier said. “As far as that, it was investigated, we talked with the people involved, and we told them the consequences and everything worked itself out.”

Keene was back on the job in time to watch the Saints’ baseball team capture another Class C state title.

“I’ve been an athletic director for 11 years,” Keene said. “In some quarters, that’s a long time. I’m not sure how some of these guys who go 20 or 25 years do it. A lot of them only go three, four or five years, and they’re burned out. It was a good run. It was pretty exciting to end it with a state championship in baseball. Those kids worked hard all year to really improve at an incredible pace.”

Keene said that despite the late-season time off, he’d been exploring his options well before then.

“I had applications out and had communicated with the administration at St. Dom’s in March that I was going to poke around and see what was out there,” Keene said. “My decision to go was at least thought about long before any issue.”

Keene said that while he has “a few irons on the fire,” he hasn’t yet plotted his next step.

“I’m looking around, poking around at a few things and hoping something will materialize,” Keene said, “And if something doesn’t materialize in education, I may do something outside of education. Time will tell.”

But coaching, he said, is definitely on his radar.

“Just coaching in general,” Keene said. “The level and the sports aren’t specific. I just miss the coaching. I’ve coached junior high, I’ve coached high school, I’ve coached at the college level. All of them were very good experiences, and I miss that.”

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