Over the course of the past decade, Ronnie Turner’s life and basketball journey has taken him from Lewiston to Boston to Orono and Lee, Maine, back to Lewiston, on to El Salvador and Philadelphia, and now back to Lewiston.

Lewiston’s Ronnie Turner drives to the hoop for a shot against Lawrence in a game in Lewiston in 2008. Sun Journal file photo

Not long after Turner returned to Lewiston, his boys varsity basketball coach, Tim Farrar, resigned after 11 years at Turner’s alma mater. The 27-year-old, who had taken a break from the sidelines after coaching at some of those stops, took the news as a sign.

“When the job opened up (during last summer), it felt like it wasn’t a coincidence,” Turner said.

Turner eagerly applied for the job.

“I felt like I owed it to my 13-, 14-year-old self, my 13-or-14-year-old brothers and friends,” Turner said. “These kids in Lewiston just deserve having people care about them and want them to get to high places, because those places are attainable through hard work and a tad of guidance.

“I think having someone believe in them the way I plan on believing in these kids, I just feel like the sky is the limit.”

The 2010 Lewiston High School graduate is the Blue Devils’ new boys varsity basketball coach, charged with turning around a program that finished 3-16 last year and 11-61 since reaching the regional final in 2015.

Turner intends to do it by creating a culture of hard work, discipline and caring.

“I think the culture is definitely my most important goal,” he said. “I’ve got to create a culture where we care about each other. It has its challenges, but it’s definitely something I want to attack from the first day we get the team together.”

Turner will be able to attack it as a coach who also has his player’s perspective, because it wasn’t that long ago that he was in their shoes. That was something that made him stand apart from a large pool of candidates, according to Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller.

“We’re excited about what he brings to the program,” Fuller said. “He understands our kids, where they are, what they’re going through. He’s helped out coaching at the college level and worked with elite-level athletes at Lee Academy. He coached freshmen here for a year and stepped away, but I think he was always drawn to come back

“It’s very clear how much he loves Lewiston, how much the community means to him and how much he wants to make a difference.”

Turner’s coaching experience includes one year as Lewiston’s freshman coach under Farrar, who took over at Lewiston before Turner’s junior year.

Turner recalled the state of the program his junior year at Lewiston when Farrar was named coach and said the challenges he will face will be similar to what Farrar had to overcome.

Lewiston’s Ronnie Turner dries to the hoop for a shot against Lawrence in a game in Lewiston in 2008. 2008 Sun Journal file photo

“Coach was coming into a situation where we got into a fight the year before with Lawrence. You had kids with just a lack of guidance,” Turner said. “I came from a home (where) my mom was the only parent I had and my dad was inconsistent, so I lacked self-discipline.”

Turner said he’s prepared for the work and patience it will require to become a guiding force, instill discipline and have it translate to success on and off the court.

“Expecting a coach to come in in one year and two years and be able to say, ‘Hey, this the way you do things. This is how you be successful …’ that’s a job. That’s hard. That’s something that I want to do, but I know it takes time,” Turner said. “My whole thing is I’m focused on the process. The core of that is I care about these kids as much as anything. If I can stick to that and make my decisions based on that, everything will take care of itself.”

Turner acknowledged he will be at a disadvantage having not coached during summer basketball, so his knowledge of team personnel beyond those he coached as freshmen will have to come on the fly, starting with the first day of tryouts, Nov. 18.

“At Lewiston, we’ve always been known to be athletic. We can get out and run,” he said. “To be honest with you, I know three or four of the kids that played last year. Beyond that, I don’t really have an idea of who we’ll have on the team, but we’ll try to get out and defend full-court and just try to be the hardest working team out there.”

Currently an ed technician at Lewiston High School, Turner is working toward certification to become a full-time physical education teacher at the school.

“He’s worked really hard for everything he got, and he relates really well with the type of kids we have in our program,” Fuller said. “They know how good of a basketball player he was, how good of a basketball player he still is, and I think that’s going to help that process of growing trust.”

Lewiston quarterback Ronnie Turner stares down Oxford Hills’ Nate Dubois before putting a shoulder into him as he turns upfield during a 2009 football game. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

A versatile 6-foot-1 swingman who also was the starting quarterback on the football team for two years at Lewiston, Turner went on to play basketball for one year at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, where he averaged 6.7 points per game as a sophomore guard.

After that season, he transferred to University of Maine, where he served as a student assistant under head coach Bob Walsh while he finished up his bachelor’s degree in communications.

Upon graduating from Maine, Turner coached at Lee Academy under current UMaine men’s basketball assistant coach Igor Vrzina.

His year at the private school planted the seed for future coaching aspirations, Turner said.

“We had one American on the team, so every kid was from a different country,” he said. “I met kids with different skill sets, different levels. I think we had eight or nine kids go D-I. It was great being able to pass on my knowledge and work ethic to young kids.”

Two years ago, Turner returned to Lewiston and reunited with Farrar to coach the freshmen team.

“It was a great experience,” he said. “I learned so much about more than just basketball, just about the process of being a coach and dealing with kids in school, their lives, and their moods. It was really an eye-opener into a bunch of things I didn’t know.”

After a year in Lewiston, Turner, who had ambitions to play basketball overseas, signed to play with a team in Apopa, El Salvador, a city located about a half-hour north of the capital, San Salvador. Homesick, he moved to be closer to family in Philadelphia, where he worked as a driver for W.B. Mason.

“I played a few months (in El Salvador). It was just an amazing experience,” he said. “I learned so much, a lot more about life than basketball. It’s an experience that will be with me forever. My workout regimen was extremely rigorous during that time, which I have with me and am able to share that process that hopefully kids can grasp onto and believe me when I tell them if you give yourself to something, good things will happen.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.