Sometimes life comes at you really quickly.

A week ago, Amy Vachon was very content with her life as a Westbrook Middle School guidance counselor and head basketball coach at McAuley High in Portland. Today, she is the first addition to Richard Barron’s new coaching staff at the University of Maine.

The Black Bears announced Monday that Vachon, a 2000 UMaine graduate, was hired as an assistant women’s basketball coach.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Vachon on Monday. “Coach Barron contacted me a week ago and we talked for a while, then we met again and talked for a little longer. He offered me the job and I accepted it.

“Not on the spot. I had to think about it. I love McAuley, (becoming a college assistant) was not on my radar screen. It’s not something I had planned to do. If I had, I would have never gone to McAuley for a year. But this was an opportunity I could not pass up.”

Vachon, 32, had a storied athletic career in Maine, first as a point guard at Cony High in Augusta under her father, Paul Vachon, then as a point guard at UMaine, where she helped the Black Bears to four consecutive NCAA appearances and the program’s signature victory, a 60-58 decision over Stanford in the NCAA tournament.

Then she turned to coaching. She spent one year at Waterville a decade ago, then was an assistant at Greely High for two before taking McAuley’s job last May 19. She led the Lions to a Class A state championship and a 20-2 record.

“I don’t think there’s another position out there that I would have left for,” she said. “UMaine’s my alma mater, it holds a special place in my heart.

“This is not something that I took lightly. It’s a life-changing thing for me. I’m leaving my condo, I’m leaving my job. I’m leaving everything behind. But it’s something I’m really excited about. I’m thrilled to be going back.”

And Barron, hired a week ago, is thrilled she’s joining him.

“My initial conversations with Amy and her father weren’t about being on the staff, but ‘How can we get it back,’ ” Barron said in a phone interview from a charity golf event in North Carolina. “It was evident that they could both be great resources, and I could tell it would be very positive having her on my staff.

“She has a great coaching pedigree, as a player and a coach and a daughter, she’s been around it all her life. She was successful at the high school level as a player and a coach, she was a point guard at Maine during its heyday. She made four straight trips to the NCAA tournament. That’s what we want Maine to get back to.”

Barron was most impressed with Amy Vachon’s personal skills. Like all assistants, she will be asked to recruit high school players.

“She’s a good person, an easy person to be around,” said Barron. “In this business you live and die on first impressions. She made a good one on me and that’s a good sign for a recruiter, who’s going to be working with parents, going into their homes.”

Vachon hopes to use those skills to bring the best in-state players to Orono. “We have a ton of talent here in Maine,” she said. “We need to get those kids to the university.”

Leaving McAuley was not easy for Vachon. The Lions lost only three seniors from the championship squad — one, Rebecca Knight, is heading to UMaine — and return two of the state’s best players in center Alexa Coulombe, a junior who has already verbally committed to Boston College, and point guard Allie Clement, a freshman who played a lead role this year.

“Selfishly I wish she was staying,” said Clement, who was told of the decision Sunday night. “But with that being said, we had an awesome season and we all wish her the best up there. This is the next step in her coaching career and we wish her well.”

Clement said Vachon helped the Lions maintain a steady course during a season in which they were predicted to win it all.

“She always kept positive,” said Clement. “She kept us strong and knew what to do to keep us on track for what we wanted to do.”

Joe Kilmartin, the athletic director at McAuley, called Vachon’s departure “a significant loss.”

“She had the knowledge,” he said. “But she also seemed to have the right personality and fit. The kids took to her and the parents did too. She represented the program so well, and the school.”

Paul Vachon said his daughter learned a lot at McAuley.

“I think that McAuley was right for her at that time,” he said. “And I think this is the right time for her to make this move.

“She was enjoying what she was doing. After she met Coach Barron, I think that solidified the deal. She liked what she heard and it inspired her.”

Barron said he has two more assistant positions to fill, but that this first one was very important.

“The whole state has been very welcoming and encouraging and even optimistic,” he said. “They realize we have challenges ahead but over time we can overcome them.

“Hopefully hiring one of Maine’s own as my initial move shows that I’m invested in the state.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]