James Philbrook, a 2010 Edward Little graduate, stands in the Auburn school’s new gym earlier this month. Philbrook was hired last month to coach the Red Eddies boys basketball team. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Coaching the Edward Little boys basketball team has been James Philbrook’s dream for as long as he can remember. Last month, his dream became a reality when he was hired to lead the Red Eddies.

“Once I realized that I wanted to get into coaching, this was always going to be a dream job for me,” Philbrook said. “Now that it’s come to fruition, I’m star-struck. At one point, I’m like, ‘Wow, this is actually happening, it’s actually happening.’ It’s just a tremendous opportunity. I’m looking forward to it.”

Philbrook graduated from Edward Little in 2010, and played for former head coach Mike Adams, who stepped down this year after a 23-year run with the Red Eddies. During Philbrook’s high school career, he helped Edward Little reach the 2009 and 2010 Class A state championship games.

“There was a huge field sort of buzz around the community, which was awesome to feel,” Philbrook said. “You felt like you were a part of something bigger than yourself.”

Despite losing to Thornton in 2009 and then Cheverus (who later vacated the state championship for using an ineligible player) in 2010, Philbrook said he will never forget the experiences of those state title games — the excitement in the locker room and on the bus rides, stepping onto the court at the Augusta Civic Center or the noise from the huge crowd during the state tournament.

Fast forward 13 years, and Philbrook is once again wearing Red Eddies gear and will try to lead them to a state championship.


Only one gig could lure him away from Scarborough High School, where he’s been happy as an assistant coach and teacher for the past nine years.

“I said that (Edward Little) would be the only job that I would consider,” Philbrook said. “I wasn’t really hunting for jobs.”

Philbrook said when Adams was decided to step down, his former coach contacted him and recommended he apply for the position.

Philbrook has maintained a close relationship with Adams since graduating, and his former coach’s impact continued beyond high school.

“I think, if it weren’t for (Adams), I probably wouldn’t have played college basketball,” Philbrook, who played at St. Joseph’s College, said. “He’s the reason that I wanted to get into the coaching, because I saw the looks on all our faces and how we would compete, but still be friends off the court. I loved that aspect of the game of basketball, and he had a huge impact on my life.”

Other influences for Philbrook include Scarborough head coach Phil Conley and former St. Joe’s head coach Rob Sanicola, who is now at University of Southern Maine.


“I think you have to adapt as a coach to what you have for players, but just be intense, motivate the guys, make sure that they come every day loving basketball and build connections with them,” Philbrook said.

As for his coaching style, Philbrook said he can be “pretty intense at times” but also likes to find certain ways to motivate the players on each team he leads.

“I’m a huge defensive guy, but that’s sort of how I was as a player and coach, too,” Philbrook said. “I think basketball is a good way to teach a lot of life lessons and build relationships.”

Philbrook’s family has deep roots in the Auburn community, and most still live on the same street as they did growing up. His brother, Kyle Philbrook, and sister, Ellie Philbrook, also played basketball at Edward Little.

“The Auburn, L-A area has given me a lot, and I’m looking forward to establishing myself back in the community and just being a beginner at it again,” Philbrook said.

He also comes from a basketball family. His grandfather, Malcolm Philbrook, and uncle, legendary Lewiston coach Fern Masse, started the Hoop Camp more than 50 years ago, located on the shore of Pleasant Lake in Casco.

“It’s very old school — it’s cabins, it’s right on the lake and it’s a beautiful place,” Philbrook said. “As a little kid, I’m running around and there’s a bunch of legendary future players and legendary coaches out at camp, and I’m just sort of watching (them) and grew up around it,” Philbrook said.

With the last name Philbrook, “basketball is in your blood,” he said.

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