A coach’s lessons can extend off the court, away from the classroom

In this profession, it can be easy to develop close professional relationships with coaches.

Over the course of my journalistic career, I’ve been spoiled to be able to work with numerous sideline generals who have made my job extremely easy.

Some, like longtime Bangor High School girls basketball coach Tom Tennett, would be outside the locker room, ready to share his thoughts on a game, regardless of the outcome. Others, like Bangor softball coach Don Stanhope, have had me in their classroom. Heck, I’ve even talked to my old Brewer track and cross country mentors, Dave Jeffrey and Glendon Rand, numerous times for stories. I could go on and on.

On Wednesday morning, news broke that a true class act on the basketball court and in the classroom, Brewer boys basketball coach Clayton Blood, would be retiring from coaching and teaching at the end of this school year.

I’ll have to admit, I was shocked at first. Having covered high school girls sports in the early part of my professional career, I rarely dealt with Blood on a journalistic level. But even after I switched from sports coverage to news coverage, I still followed my alma mater on the hardwood, and when Blood returned to the varsity post in 2013 after a one-year stint over the 2008-09 season, I knew the Witches would be in great hands.

Blood not only coached varsity basketball for 20 years at four different Maine high schools, but he was also an outstanding English teacher. And this writer was fortunate to be in his classroom for two years, as a freshman and as a junior.

My first impression of the man affectionately known throughout Brewer High’s hallways as “Mr. Blood” was not a great one. My first session in his English class my freshman year ended with homework. On the first day. Which had never happened. My first thought was, is he going to be that teacher who gives out busy work for the sake of giving out busy work?

I came to learn that Blood was not like that at all. He turned out to be an enthusiastic educator who made learning fun. While he was serious about molding his students into great young people, he was always there when you needed a few minutes to talk. He was just one of many educators who helped mold me into the man, fitness instructor, husband and father that I am today. His door was always open anytime you needed any sort of assistance with an assignment.

Ohh, in addition to coaching basketball, Blood coached the outdoor track team at Brewer in 2002, my junior season. Even though he was only our head coach for one season – and I spent more time under distance guru Rand’s tutelage than Blood’s – Clayton knew how to motivate his athletes. He did so in an old-school fashion but not an overbearing one.

Blood, an All-State player at Searsport High School in 1976, leaves behind an outstanding coaching and teaching resume that includes 36 years behind a desk, and more than 200 victories on the basketball court. His final season at Brewer was a great one, leading the Witches to a 14-4 record and a berth in the Class A North semifinals. Anybody who has come through his classroom or suited up for him over the years should consider themselves very lucky. Blood noted in a BDN story published in Thursday’s paper that it was the right time for him to hang up his whistle, as he had a heart attack last fall.

Mr. Blood, you were much more than an educator and a coach. You helped mold a 14-year-old freshman into the writer that he is. Your picture would pop up in the dictionary under the word “class.” You did a lot of great things with Brewer’s basketball program, and I’m not referring to wins and losses.

You will be missed, Mr. Blood. On behalf of the Class Of 2003 – the first class you taught at Brewer – thank you. Enjoy your retirement. See you on the golf course sometime.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.