This story was updated at 8:45 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, to correct the time and location of the funeral.
Brendan Conway, the basketball coach for Deering High School’s freshman boys team, died Thursday night while playing basketball. He was 34.
Conway, a sales agent for Maine Real Estate Network in South Portland, had been a Deering coach for more than 10 years. He also had been a student at Deering, where he was captain of the basketball and tennis teams. He graduated in 1997.
The cause of death was not immediately known. Conway was playing basketball at East End Community School with the Casco Bay Basketball League when he was stricken about 10 p.m. Thursday.
Conway was healthy with no known medical conditions, said his sister-in-law Jo Conway. Results of an autopsy were not yet known, she said.
“Brendan was tender-hearted. He cared about friends and family and youth in trouble. He had a talent for listening to people. People knew he was genuine,” Conway’s family said in a statement. “He was honest, generous, kind, loyal and playful. He had a wonderful sense of humor.”
Deering High teachers were notified Friday morning about Conway’s death, and a statement about his death was read to students at 11:30 a.m., according to Deering Principal Ira Waltz. The basketball players were brought to the gym, where they wrote letters to Conway’s family with remembrances of him and expressions of condolences.
“Brendan was an amazing, positive force in our community,” Waltz said. “He had an amazing positive energy and connection with students.”
Grief counselors were made available at the school Friday for students, teachers and coaches from other schools who knew Conway, Waltz said.
The school does not have plans yet for a school memorial or vigil. Waltz said officials were waiting for Conway’s family to decide what to do before making any plans.
“Our community is shocked and devastated at the loss of Brendan Conway,” Deering High athletic director Melanie Craig said in a statement. “His impact extended far beyond the courts he both played and coached on here at Deering High School. Brendan’s commitment, passion and dedication to our youth is unmatched by most.”
Craig added that “the loss of our family member will leave a long-lasting hole in our hearts. I know our students, our staff and our community will come together to grieve, to comfort and to heal.”
Conway graduated from Bates College in 2001 and majored in psychology. He later earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Southern Maine.
Before working in real estate, he served as athletic director at Deering High and taught students with special needs at the Collaborative School in New Gloucester and at Pond Cove Elementary School in Cape Elizabeth. Conway also had served as the varsity tennis coach at Deering for several years.
“He was very giving to people. He wanted to give back to the community,” said Sarah Delisle, who worked with Conway in the real estate company. “He worked with elementary school students and was a male mentor and role model.
“To have that is so important. He was important to so many people and schools.”
Conway also worked with Opportunity Alliance, a community organization in Portland.
Delisle said Conway was known for his sense of humor and energy. He recently had taken a vacation to California with his girlfriend of about eight years, Lauren Reid, who is the head coach for women’s lacrosse at the University of Southern Maine.
“He grew up in Maine and was just so connected to the community. He was a sports guy who cared about his family. He just enjoyed spending time with his girlfriend and helping people,” Delisle said.
Conway is survived by his parents and his brother, Patrick.
The family will hold a wake from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at the A.T. Hutchins funeral home, 660 Brighton Ave., Portland. A funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Deering High School gymnasium, followed by the burial.
Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]