WATERVILLE — Colby stayed close to home to find a successor for longtime men’s basketball coach Dick Whitmore.

Damien Strahorn, who played and coached under Whitmore, will take over as the Mules’ head coach.

Strahorn, a 2002 Colby graduate and all-New England Small College Athletic Conference player, recently completed his first season as head coach at Plymouth State University. Before that, he spent four years as an assistant coach at Columbia University and four seasons as an assistant at Colby, working closely with Whitmore.

“I don’t think there could be a better mentor. (Whitmore) gave me the opportunity to coach and to really get hands-on involved in the program. That was a great introduction to the coaching profession,” said Strahorn, 32.

Whitmore retired in March after a 40-year career. He had a record of 637-341 and ranks seventh in NCAA Division III men’s basketball in career wins.

“No one can replace Dick Whitmore because, frankly, he is irreplaceable,” Colby Athletic Director Marcella Zalot said. “But Damien has the right mix of terrific basketball knowledge and high level recruiting experience that we need, combined with his knowledge of the traditions and history of the men’s basketball program at Colby.”

A native of Menlo Park, Calif., Strahorn played for two seasons at Colby after transferring from Foothill College. A team captain his senior year, Strahorn averaged 22.9 points per game and earned all-NESCAC first-team honors and was named to the all-New England second team.

Strahorn takes over a team that was 11-13 last season and lost top scorers Mike Russell and Christian Van Loenen to graduation.

Continuing Whitmore’s tradition of keeping alumni active in the program is important to Strahorn.

“Over the last two days, there have been a lot of phone calls, a lot of guys I played with and a lot of guys who played for Coach Whitmore,” Strahorn said.

“Over the next couple of weeks, I have a lot more phone calls to make. Coach Whitmore built something special and I want to keep it going.”