Two months ago, the University of Maine made the right decision in giving men’s hockey coach Red Gendron a two-year extension that will keep him in Orono through the spring of 2019.
Last week, UMaine athletics made another excellent decision, this one concerning women’s basketball coach Richard Barron, whose contract had expired after the season ended.
The University announced last Wednesday that Barron had agreed to a new four-year contract, which, like Gendron’s extension, should make Black Bear fans extremely happy.
Barron compiled a 78-80 record in his first four seasons in Orono, but boasts a 49-18 record over the last two campaigns, including a stellar 29-3 mark in America East play.
Barron and the Black Bears were on the precipice of the program’s first conference championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in over a decade this winter, but fell to Albany in the America East championship game.
The extensions of Gendron and Barron show that UMaine administration shows great trust in both coaches as they continue to guide two of UMaine’s marquee athletic programs.
In spite of the departure of a talented senior class, UMaine is bringing in a talented recruiting class that includes Spanish guards Blanca Millan Modia and Naira Caceres Martel, as Barron continues to bring in players from overseas.
UMaine will also welcome back one of the best players in America East in Sigi Koizar.
Barron is a fantastic coach and has done an outstanding job with the UMaine women’s basketball program since his arrival in Orono. Between Barron, Gendron and new football coach Joe Harasymiak, the Black Bears have three fantastic coaches in place, and men’s basketball should continue to improve under the enthusiastic Bob Walsh.
The only question is, which program will win a conference championship first? Yes, summer is coming, but UMaine fans should be looking forward to this fall.
A SPECIAL MONDAY IN NEW ENGLAND
Patriots Day is only observed in two states – Maine and Massachusetts – but all eyes descend on New England’s largest city on the third Monday of April.
Thousands of runners from across the globe will compete in the Boston Marathon, easily America’s marquee 26.2-mile race. The Boston Red Sox will take on the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park at 11 a.m., with the game typically ending just in time to see hordes of runners striding through Kenmore Square, which marks the final mile of the long journey from Hopkinton.
Those two events make for a special day in these parts. It’s also a day to reflect after the unspeakable tragedy of 2013, in which two bombs exploded near the finish line. I can remember being in the newsroom in Bangor, and we all looked at each other with shockwaves of emotion. Of course, my first thoughts turned to people I knew from my running days who had been running in the race, and friends who live in Boston.
I never had the honor of covering the marathon in person, but did get a glimpse in 2008, as the U.S. Olympic Women’s Marathon trials had descended on Boston the day before, with a handful of runners with Maine connections competing, drawing me to the Hub. One of them, Joan Benoit Samuelson, arguably Maine’s most renowned runner and a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, won Boston twice, in 1979 and 1983.
I know I’ll be checking in online every once in a while. There’s nothing like Marathon Monday, even if you’re watching the race from an office cubicle.
NOW WHAT FOR THE BRUINS?
I don’t know what to make of the fact that the Boston Bruins are retaining head coach Claude Julien.
While Bruins management does have confidence in the franchise’s all-time leader in coaching victories, Julien has two strikes in my eyes.
Those two strikes came the last two seasons, with the Bruins bumbling down the stretch and finishing out of the postseason picture. That left Bruins fans once again to pull for whatever former UMaine players are remaining in the playoffs (Ben Bishop and the Tampa Bay Lightning for this guy).
Boston will have some tough personnel decisions to make this offseason, mainly with offensive threat Loui Eriksson and aging captain Zdeno Chara, but getting back to the postseason is an absolute must for Julien next year.
If the Bruins can’t make the playoffs next season, or if they get off to a bad start, a coaching change may need to be made. Julien, for all the great things he’s done in Boston, including a 2011 Stanley Cup championship, is closing in on that third strike. And general manager Don Sweeney cannot be afraid to put the hammer down if expectations are not met.