Longtime high school and college basketball coach Gavin Kane will be inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday. Sun Journal file photo

Gavin Kane’s lifelong friendships that he forged on and off the court mean more to him than his numerous victories and titles he has compiled during a remarkable basketball coaching career that spans well over three decades and continues to this day.

His achievements are just a few of the reasons why Kane will be inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday. He doesn’t mind saying that he is a little uncomfortable being center-stage with those talented players and coaches.

“Well, I am incredibly humbled to be part of such a talented group of women and men who will be inducted into this class,” Kane said. “I have always just considered myself a small-town Maine guy, who has been blessed for doing something I love for so many years.

“Personally, I am not comfortable with the recognition. I am certainly thankful to the Hall of Fame for all they do for Maine basketball and include me in their small organization.”

The venerable coach looks forward to the ceremony despite feeling apprehensive being in the room with such talented players and coaches, which he said “will make for an amazing Sunday afternoon.”

Kane, 61, can’t stay away from the game and his resume remains a work in progress. He wears many hats at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, holding down the jobs as assistant athletic director and head coach of the men’s golf and women’s basketball teams. He joined the Owls in 2017.

His high school coaching accomplishments include 17 conference championships, 12 Western Maine championships, seven state championships and an overall head coaching record of 522-117, according to UMPI’s biography of him.

“The regular-season wins, all the tournament wins, the state championships that I have been able to share with so many people certainly are memories I cherish,” he said. “In all honesty, throughout my career, the most important thing for me is the lifelong relationships developed with so many players, coaches… and referees over the years.”

When a former player visited Kane and said his life lessons on the court got the athlete through difficult times, that kind of conversation reinforces Kane’s belief in his coaching philosophy of work ethic and dedication.

Kane’s father, a former teacher at Wilton Academy, introduced him to basketball, which eventually led to his calling to become a coach.

Dirigo boys basketball coach Gavin Kane, right, argues a call with a referee during a game. Kane coached the Cougars from 2005-09.  Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal file photo

“My dad would always get my brothers and I, along with some of our neighbors, into the gym during the cold winters and (my interest) evolved through the rec programs,” he said. “I loved golf and baseball as well, but basketball has been my greatest love. I started coaching very early. I knew from a young age I wanted to coach young people.

“I had my first head coaching job at 17 years old coaching Babe Ruth baseball and a little league football team.”

Kane’s reputation as a dedicated coach grew as he made the rounds at several high schools and colleges in Maine. He began his career coaching the boys basketball team at Rangeley High School in 1985, and it was a “baptism by fire” experience for the young coach. The struggling Lakers were 1-35 in two previous seasons before Kane turned around the program and eventually left in 1994 with a 1989 Class D state title and overall record of 110-68. 

He spent the next two seasons as head coach Dick Meader’s assistant for the University of Maine at Farmington men’s hoops team — and divided this time between UMF and Dirigo High School, where he coached the girls team to record-breaking seasons.

Kane’s next 13 seasons at Dirigo proved to be one of the most dominant stretches in Maine high school basketball history. The Cougars amassed a 263-17 overall record, including state championships in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005. Dirigo also broke a state record, winning 11 consecutive Western Maine championships from 1995 to 2005.

One of Kane’s Dirigo players, Rebecca Fletcher, who is a teacher at Dirigo High School, became a longtime assistant for him, and when she can, Fletcher still helps Kane recruit players for UMPI.

“I think (his induction) is so well-deserved,” Fletcher said. “It is something he deserves over many years of coaching. I did play for him when he first came to Dirigo in ’94, ’95. I was a junior so I had him my junior and senior year. 

“I loved playing for Coach Kane. He knows how to get the best out of his players and pushes you and has high expectations for himself, but obviously (for his players), too.”

Fletcher said Kane knows the game of basketball, but there are a handful of other reasons why he has been a success on and off the court.

“Any coach that I have been associated with or saw how they coached, he knows how to be a tactician,” she said. “There are so many examples of that when I look back at his years at Dirigo … So there is that, but also I always felt as a player, he just instilled a belief in yourself.” 

She added that Kane’s positive attitude gave his players an air of confidence. Fletcher also noted there was a strong loyalty and appreciation that developed between Kane and his players, and many of those relationships continue today.

“There was no game that you went into thinking that it wasn’t possible (to win), I guess, is a better way to say it,” she said. “You always feel like you have a chance because he is going to find a way to figure out what to do to help us be successful.”

Dirigo teams certainly thrived under Kane’s direction and tenacity.

From 2005 to 2007, he coached both the Dirigo boys and girls teams before he moved on to exclusively coach the boys team for the next two seasons. Under Kane’s tutelage during those four seasons, the Dirigo boys program compiled a 74-10 record — including three consecutive Mountain Valley Conference championships (2007-2009), a Western Maine championship in 2009, and a state runner-up. Kane was instrumental in the development of center Tom Knight, who went on to play at the University of Notre Dame.

In 2009, Kane headed north to the University of Maine in Orono to become an assistant coach for the women’s team for two seasons, leading recruiting efforts across the United States and Canada.

He returned to high school coaching after leaving the Black Bears in 2011. He oversaw the Spruce Mountain varsity girls — leading the Phoenix to a combined 55-4 record — including back-to-back MVC titles in 2013 and 2014. He then moved on to his alma mater Mt. Blue High School. Kane coached the Cougars for two seasons from 2014 to 2016 before stepping away from coaching for a season to watch his daughter Caitlin play college basketball at Maine Maritime Academy.

Amia Pelletier looks up and smiles at her coach as a picture is taken with the Spruce Mountain girls basketball team after then-head coach Gavin Kane achieved his 500th career win in 2014. Sun Journal file photo

Kane said coaching the UMPI women’s basketball team provides him with the opportunity to make the program more competitive, but recruiting might be his toughest challenge to lure talented players to this remote area of Maine.

“I enjoy the opportunity to coach and especially to step in and try to build a program up here at UMPI,” he said. “I’ve grown fond of the Aroostook County area since I have been up here. It is a pretty heavy task as far as recruiting …  but I have enjoyed that challenge as well as my desire to building a very consistent, successful program here.”

Kane admitted he misses coaching at the high school level, even though he is grateful to be the skipper of two collegiate sports teams.

“I wouldn’t be totally be shocked if I finished my coaching career at the high school level — maybe somewhere back down in the Wilton area where I live,” he said. “That is definitely in the back of my mind for sure.”


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