The article had been on the bangordailynews.com website for just a few moments, and already the phone was ringing.
The talk show types wanted to know about Roger Reed’s decision to step down as Bangor High School’s boys basketball coach after being urged to commit fully to the program rather than trying to do it at the same time he was beginning — if elected — a new career in the Maine House of Representatives.
As a talk show type myself a few years back, I’m usually sympathetic to their needs but in this case I opted not to share any thoughts because I was still trying to form an opinion.
Now more than a week later, that hasn’t changed.
The overriding emotion remains the same, sadness that one of the most storied coaching careers in Maine high school basketball history has ended in a bittersweet manner.
The 73-year-old Reed, 571-201 with eight Class A state championships during a four-decade coaching career at Bangor Christian and Bangor, had decided to retire from a 47-year teaching career but sought to continue his 27-year coaching tenure at Bangor High while running for the House District 23 seat that serves Carmel, Etna, Hermon and Stetson.
He was assured by friends and supporters within the Republican Party that he could coach and serve his constituents at the same time even though the heart of the basketball season and the Legislature’s regular session run concurrently throughout January and February.
Bangor High principal Paul Butler saw potential conflicts given the geographic distance between the Queen City and the Capital City, the unpredictability of the legislative schedule from day to day and the need to incorporate the basketball team’s practice and game schedules within the structure of the entire winter sports program at his school.
Butler — who played basketball under Reed at Bangor High and considers him and his college coach, Dick Whitmore of Colby College, among his foremost mentors — sought his own input from sources familiar with the issues and became convinced that logistically this wasn’t a tenable situation for the school and its basketball program.
So Butler urged Reed to give 100 percent to the Bangor basketball program, an ultimatum of sorts that led Reed to step away from the sport a day before his primary victory.
So who’s right? There is no definitive answer at this point, only opinions.
Before learning about the school’s desire for Reed to make a choice, I believed Reed would take on both tasks next winter and determine whether he could do both to the standards he established for himself throughout his coaching career. If he could without affecting his team or others at the school while also fulfilling his varied Legislative responsibilities, there’d be no problem. If he couldn’t, he would retire from coaching and further immerse himself in his new political career.
Should he have gotten next season to make that choice, especially given the stability of the Bangor High boys basketball program and its coaching staff?
I’d like to think Reed merited that opportunity, but Butler’s ultimate responsibility is to his school and his students, and setting aside the emotional aspects of the issue I believe his was a call that had those interests at the forefront.
Not exactly the definitive opinion the talk show types want, but I can see both sides.