GRAY – After spending his last three winters serving as an assistant coach to Rob Sanicola at St. Joseph’s College, Tony DiBiase is back coaching basketball at the level he likes best.

Tuesday night, he made his first home-court appearance as the Gray-New Gloucester High boys’ basketball coach.

York held on for a 54-48 victory, but the Patriots showed plenty of grit down the stretch under their new coach.

“They have played hard from Day 1,” said DiBiase, in his 32nd season as a high school basketball coach. “We had a little lull there in the third period and we couldn’t get over that hump. But we stayed in the game all the way, and I thought it was a big improvement from Game 1 to Game 2.”

Last Friday night, Falmouth, the defending Class B state champion, opened the season with a 48-30 victory against the Patriots.

That same night, York ran away with a season-opening 64-36 win over Lake Region.

“Today was a step forward,” DiBiase said. “It’s not a positive that we lost, but I see the team coming together as a unit.”

Aaron Todd, a 6-foot-6 sophomore center, had a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Wildcats. Liam Langaas, a junior guard who sank 7 of 10 free throws, followed with 12 points.

Adam Jensen scored 18 points and Josh Farynaz had 16 for Gray-New Gloucester.

Last spring, DiBiase, a Westbrook native and baseball standout at the University of Maine in the mid-1970s, was hired to replace Scott Flagg, who left Gray-New Gloucester after four years.

DiBiase, who coached at South Portland for 17 seasons and qualified for the Western Class A tournament 15 times, is trying to build up a basketball program at a Class B school that’s struggled for years in the highly competitive Western Maine Conference.

“Every coach who comes in has their system, and we’ve been teaching every single day, style and techniques and all that,” DiBiase said. “It’s going to take a while but we’re going to try to get better every game.”

At Gray-New Gloucester, DiBiase, 56, wants to play the same fast-paced style his teams have played wherever he’s coached.

“We’ll do some of the things I’ve tried to do in my whole career, which is try to press when we can and play up-tempo,” he said.

“We’ll try to develop some depth so we can press more.”

DiBiase, who still teaches physical education at South Portland High, realizes the Patriots must learn to walk before they can run.

“We’ve got to really go slow,” he said. “Every job I’ve been involved in, you don’t start out by throwing everything at (the players). We try to make sure they’re good at one thing and then move on.”

The players are enjoying DiBiase’s approach.

“It’s a lot more intense, a lot more up-tempo,” Farynaz said. “I like that pace. I think it fits our game better.”

The hiring of DiBiase, who coached state champions at South Portland, Portland and Gorham, is part of an effort to revamp the program at Gray-New Gloucester.

“They have put together a tremendous feeder program for the first year, all the way down to the third grade for both boys and girls, and it’s going to really pay dividends down the road,” DiBiase said.

“Skills development and everything else has to be built from down below over a period of time. I congratulate everybody for putting it together.”

 

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]