Rangeley girls basketball coach Heidi Deery speaks to her team during a Class D South quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center in February 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

Heidi Deery preached sacrifice to her players. 

Sacrificing for the team, for the greater good, or in a specific moment in a game for the betterment of the group. Sacrificing and buying into a mentality and game plan were core principles to Deery, as a player and a coach, and four years after winning a state title in 1984 with Rangeley, Deery took over the helm of the team as head coach and went on to lead the Lakers to three more state titles in 1993, 2004 and 2016. Because of her successes, Deery will be inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame this year. 

For Deery, winning as a player was a great honor, but her coaching titles hold a special part in her heart. 

“I have to say as a coach it’s a different feeling,” Deery said. “To be able to help this group of individuals grow and accomplish and execute a game plan that myself and my coaching staff came up with, I think that’s the biggest thing. We were often the underdogs, so to come up with a game plan and for kids to buy in and execute it, that’s a feeling that, I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I go back to when you’ve sacrificed and everyone on that floor, players, coaches, community members, parents who support our mission and belief of hard work, staying determined, it’s all right there on display and that’s how you get places in life.”

When Deery started, she said people were skeptical of her coaching style, her toughness on players and if she’d make it. 

“At first, when I was building the program, I had a lot of naysayers that didn’t think I could do it and people that questioned me, my basketball knowledge and questioned the discipline that I expected,” Deery said. “‘Why, why do kids have to do this or that?’ I said, ‘Because the kids in this program have a higher standard and that standard is going to weigh into what that lady becomes.’ Some people bought in right away, some didn’t. Building a program, there’s a lot of ups and downs. Some days you question yourself, then other days you connect with a kid and a light goes on for a young woman who can speak for herself, find her way and follow her dreams. It doesn’t get better than that.”

Focusing on the person in the team’s uniform is her No. 1 priority, basketball just comes with it. 

For Blayke Morin, a senior on Rangeley’s 2016 championship team, Deery was more than a coach. 

“She’s just a huge role model to me,” Morin said. “I go to her with advice school-wise, life-wise, she’s always helped me find where I am in the world because basketball isn’t always going to be there. She’s one of the most influential coaches I’ve ever had. I’ve gone to a bunch of basketball coaches, and a lot of successful coaches, but there’s something about Heidi that as long as you buy into the goal you can do anything.”

Rangeley girls basketball coach Heidi Deery watches her team during a Class D South quarterfinal game at Augusta Civic Center in 2019. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

Morin remembers a time where she was close to 1,000 career points but she wasn’t aware at the time. She hit a buzzer-beater shot before halftime in a game against Buckfield and everyone in the crowd and her teammates cheered. She looked up, and there were her parents in the stands. 

“She called my mom and she asked my mom if it would be OK if we made it a surprise because I was just a few points off,” Morin said. “I personally had no clue, I thought I was way off…  I didn’t think I was even close to 1,000 points. She surprised me, and it was as if she knew I would want it to be a surprise and I wouldn’t want to know because I was never that kind of player… When I walked into the huddle she told me that I scored 1,000 points and I looked up and to the stands and my entire family was there and it all hit me, and then I realized that she was right. And I am so grateful that she made it a surprise and she knew me as a person and as a player and I appreciate her for making that moment and so many other moments so special.”

It was players first, and the recipe worked well for Deery. 

“Coaching is tough, you don’t get paid a lot of money,” Deery said. “In some years, the amount of time I lost on work hours and the amount of time I was driving kids to games, it was a losing proposition. You do it because of the connections you make with kids and the influence and the experience you can share with them, it’s just amazing.”

Deery says she still has alumni, especially recently after the Hall of Fame induction announcement, reaching out to relive memories, to check in and just to say hello. 

“There are several, when you think of the number of girls I’ve coached, just so many girls that have reached out to me personally, in an email, at a pivotal time in their life like getting into grad school, or getting married, and I’d hear and they’d share with me how the things they learned in our program about hard work, about being committed to a dream, following your passion, working together with people, some you may like, some may not be your best friend, but there’s a common goal,” Deery said. “I’ve tried to keep those notes because at some point in my life I’m going to want to look back at all that. I’d say way more than the championships and the stats it’s been that influence that I hoped to influence kids in that way.”

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