Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby celebrates during a game against Hampden Academy in the 2017 Class A North playoffs at the Augusta Civic Center. The Eagles won the state title that season.

MONMOUTH — Keith Derosby didn’t end the 2023-24 high school basketball season looking to move on from his job of 13 years. An unexpected opportunity, though, made him think about his future.

The Messalonskee girls basketball head coach has become one of central Maine’s most entrenched coaches since taking over the post in 2011. Yet as the past school year came to close, the same position opened up at Monmouth Academy, much closer to home for Derosby.

“The opportunity presented itself, and I just felt it was the right time to be a little more present in my community and my kids’ development,” said Derosby, who lives in Monmouth. “With our kids growing up, we’ve been to a lot of their sporting events and know a lot of coaches and people in the community there. … It just kind of happened.”

Yes, next year, Derosby will take his coaching prowess from one end of Kennebec County to the other as he takes the reins for the Monmouth Mustangs. In his place, Messalonskee has hired Tatum Welch, a former Nokomis player who also spent time as an assistant for the Winslow girls.

Derosby took over at Messalonskee shortly before the 2011-12 season, replacing Brenda Beckwith. He won 126 games — an average of nearly 10 wins per season — at the helm, including an undefeated 22-0 campaign in 2016-17 that marked the program’s second state title and first in Class A.

Derosby, though, is well-known at Messalonskee for much more than his time coaching girls basketball. Before taking over that program, he had been an assistant for the Messalonskee boys team from 1999-2011. He’s also a guidance counselor at the school, a position he’ll retain even as he coaches at Monmouth.

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“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Derosby said. “Talking with the kids, the seniors always want you to stay one more year. I adored the kids and the community, and everything about the experience was positive. I was fortunate to coach so many great basketball players and amazing young adults.”

At Monmouth, Derosby replaces Molly Menice, who coached the Mustangs for three years. He takes over a program that has enjoyed noteworthy success over the past decade in the form of regular tournament appearances and back-to-back Class C state titles in 2017 and 2018.

“It’s a really strong fan base here in Monmouth, and I’m looking forward to that,” Derosby, who is married to Edward Little softball coach Elaine Derosby, said. “My daughter (9-year-old Emilia) plays in the youth program, and my son (13-year-old Keene) is in middle school, so I’ll be working with kids they know. It’s a different experience, but it’s a cool new challenge.”

As for Derosby’s replacement, Welch played under Earl Anderson at Nokomis from 2003-07, being named a McDonald’s Class A Senior All-Star her final season. She then went on to attend Maine Maritime Academy, where she was the North Atlantic Conference Rookie of the Year in 2007-08.

Welch also has experience on a championship coaching staff from her time with the Winslow girls program, which was under the leadership of her sister, Lindsey Withee, from 2012-18. Welch was officially on staff from 2012-15 but also volunteered in 2017-18 when the Black Raiders won the Class B state title.

“I’m very excited to start,” Welch said. “I was able to go to practice last Friday and sit back, meet the girls and watch them do a little bit of scrimmaging, and they are all absolutely wonderful and so welcoming. I’m excited for this season; I think we have a lot of potential on this team this year.”

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Welch, a pharmaceutical saleswoman, lives in Pittsfield with her two daughters, 13-year-old Addyson and 7-year-old Aaliyah. She’s coached Addyson and Aaliyah on the AAU circuit since leaving Winslow six years ago.

Messalonskee’s passion for athletics, Welch said, was a major factor in her decision to throw her hat in the ring for the coaching job. She cited the winning tenures of Derosby and Beckwith before her as the type of success she’d like to continue with the Eagles.

“Messo is known for their sports, and they have a wonderful program, great staff, great parents and a lot of local support within the community,” Welch said. “I’m in this for the long run, for sure. … I’m looking to move to the Oakland area, so we’ll see when that happens.”

Coaching her daughters at the high school level in just a few years will be an added bonus for Welch. Addyson, after all, isn’t too far off from being a high-schooler, and the prospect of guiding her all the way through the ranks is an exciting one for Messalonskee’s newly minted coach.

“We play together every single day, whether we’re outside on the courts or in the gym,” Welch said. “I’ve talked to a lot of coaches who’ve been able to (coach their kids in high school), and they all say how it’s so exciting to be able to have that. I’m really looking forward to it.”

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