Nokomis boys basketball head coach Earl Anderson talks to his team late in the fourth quarter of a Jan. 6 game against Skowhegan in Newport. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel


NEWPORT — In Earl Anderson’s first day coaching the Nokomis boys basketball team, the Warriors were taking on Bangor in a summer game. Anderson had a plan. He was just going to sit off to the side as a spectator, watching, getting a sense for what he was going to be coaching this season.

The plan lasted a quarter. The coach in him couldn’t stay restrained for long.

“I couldn’t help myself. I said ‘Do you mind if I say something?’ And I did the between-quarters thing,” said Anderson, who is also the school’s interim athletic director. “…It gets in your blood. And once it gets in your blood, it never leaves you.”

That was evident this season as Anderson returned to the court for the first time in 14 years and guided the Warriors to the Class A state championship, the first title in program history. The title allowed Anderson to achieve a double feat, as he also led the Nokomis girls to their only state championship in 2001.

Anderson is one of a few Maine coaches to have won girls and boys basketball state titles at the same school.


Steve LeVasseur won five Gold Balls at Schenck High School, including three with girls’ teams (1987, 88 and 89) and two with boys (1994 and 2010).

The Nokomis state titles were 21 years apart, but Anderson — who coached the girls from 1995 to 2007 — said there was a link between them.

“Every opportunity to win a state championship is few and far between,” he said. “This was exciting just like it was 20 years ago. The most satisfying thing to me, the thing I’m maybe most proud of, is that girls championship team has stayed in touch. They were some of our biggest fans this winter. They came to a lot of games. … They were all there at the state championship game. To me, that was really, really special.”

Nokomis boys basketball coach Earl Anderson demonstrates some technique during a practice earlier this season in Newport. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Anderson took the job with the Warriors in June when coach Ryan Martin left to become the assistant principal at Nokomis. Anderson said he wasn’t worried about the decade-plus break.

“I’ve been helping with some teams over the years with practices a few times, and it never goes away,” he said. “To me, it just seems like a natural element, coaching basketball and being in the gym.”

Anderson often says he’s not easy to play for. From the moment he arrived, his players found out why.


“He just expected us to play with 100 percent effort every time we were on the court. And if we weren’t giving that, then we were going to be sitting on the bench,” freshman Cooper Flagg said. “Every day in practice, we were running on the court. You’re never walking off with him.”

Anyone letting that effort slip would hear about it. During the week leading up to the regional tournament, Anderson picked up on a lack of focus and intensity at a practice and chewed out his players. They were on a 16-game winning streak. It didn’t matter.

“He will be purely honest with you at all times,” junior forward Madden White said. “He has expectations for all of us. If we don’t meet those, he definitely lets us know.”

“You’ve got to have tough skin. I’m very blunt, they know exactly where I’m coming from,” Anderson added. “(I told them) ‘You’re going to have to adjust to me.’ And they did. They responded really, really well.”

Nokomis girls basketball coach Earl Anderson hugs Lindsey Welch after the Warriors beat Cony in the 2003 Eastern Class A final. Morning Sentinel file photo

The Warriors also learned the tenets of an Anderson team: Spacing on offense, making the extra pass and tight man-to-man — always man-to-man — defense.

“He hated zone,” White said. “He absolutely hated zone.”


“Players who have played for me, we still joke about it. I don’t say that word, the four-letter ‘Z’ word,” Anderson said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with playing that way … but I think that you have to be great at playing man-to-man if you’re going to win a championship. If you have to, because of circumstances, you can be an excellent zone team. But to be an excellent zone team, I think, you have to understand and be really good at man-to-man principles.”

Anderson also stressed the importance of ignoring the outside distractions and hype that came with Flagg’s arrival.

“He definitely helped us to block out the noise and just keep everything inside,” Flagg said. “That was the biggest thing for us mentally, just helping us block it out and just being there for us.”

“It was one of the first practices, and he sat us down and had a conversation about how we were going to be one of the main focuses this year, and how we were going to have a lot of noise around us,” White added. “At the time, it was that we needed to just focus on ourselves and play within ourselves.”

Nokomis boys basketball coach Earl Anderson, left, talks with freshman Cooper Flagg during a Dec. 8 practice in Newport. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The playing part didn’t completely click right away. Nokomis didn’t fend off Bangor until the fourth quarter in an opening 53-42 win, and was outplayed in a 57-46 loss to Brewer in the second game.

A matchup with Skowhegan loomed next, and Anderson acknowledged wondering with assistant coach Josh Grant how the team would respond.


“That was really a big game,” he said. “I hated talking about a big game that early in the season, but with our youth and just everything, all the expectations put on these kids … that was a big game. And we responded with a really great effort.”

Nokomis won 59-41, and the Warriors were off. The defense tightened. The offense settled into a rhythm. Players got on the same page with each other, and the results bore it out as Nokomis went the rest of the way without a loss, all the way to the state championship game.

Anderson was demanding of his players. But he saw they were just as demanding of themselves.

“All of us love the game, and all of us love the challenge of the game,” he said. “It was a common bond that I really think built the foundation of our relationship. They wanted to establish a winning culture as badly as I did.”

That journey was completed on Saturday, as the Warriors left the Cross Insurance Arena and headed back to a jubilant reception in Newport, Gold Ball in tow.

For Anderson, though, the championship was only part of the joy the season brought.

“It’s rewarding to bring back a state championship to this great school and community,” he said. “But the thing that I’ll always remember is just how fun this group was to coach and be around. … On the court, coaching them was as rewarding as it possibly could be because of the types of kids they are.”

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