Aaron Watson, the Mt. Ararat boys’ basketball coach for the past 11 seasons, had wanted for several years to be an athletic director. With a master’s degree in athletic administration, he believed the time was right.

With the retirement of Gray-New Gloucester Athletic Director Gary Groves at the end of the school year, Watson saw an opportunity, applied and was hired. He starts his new job July 1.

“It’s an opportunity to get into a great school system,” said Watson, a physical education teacher at Mt. Ararat.

Watson’s teams qualified for the tournament in eight of his 11 seasons, with two qualifications coming when it was an open tournament.

“I feel I’m leaving the basketball program in a better place than when I inherited it,” he said. “I’m going to miss the daily relationships you forge with the athletes. I will certainly be maintaining those relationships, but it will be on a different level.”

Groves, a pastor at Orchard Community Church in Gorham, is retiring to devote more time to his ministry.

“Our church has grown to a point that it needs a full-time pastor,” he said.

Watson played basketball at Oxford Hills and graduated from the University of Maine. He was an assistant coach for one season at Maine under John Gianinni. Watson coached four years at Orono High before arriving at Mt. Ararat.

Gray-New Gloucester also has a new head football coach in Mark Renna, who has been the line coach and defensive coordinator at Portland High for the last two years.

Renna, 35, said Portland Coach Jim Hartman encouraged him to apply.

“I’ve wanted to be a head coach for a while,” said Renna, a corrections officer at the Cumberland County Jail.

Renna also has been an assistant at Westbrook, Scarborough and Cheverus, where he played football. Renna was a center and Rich Ashley was his quarterback. Renna has hired Ashley as his offensive coordinator. Ashley also is the girls’ basketball coach at Cheverus

“Rich is my best friend. I’ll run the defense and he’ll run the offense,” Renna said.

Renna replaces Jim Hersom, who coached at Gray-New Gloucester for two years. Hersom left to become the head coach at Dirigo.

Renna has been supervising the team in weight-room workouts.

At Kennebunk, Barrett Belanger is the new boys’ basketball coach, replacing John Dube, who had been the coach for the past five years.

“I was the seventh-grade coach in Kennebunk,” Belanger said. “Coaching at the varsity level was always the goal.”

Belanger, 27, works as an educational technician at Kennebunk Middle School.

He sees a big part of his job as reinvigorating interest in basketball at the high school level.

“I want to get the kids interested in playing again,” Belanger said. “I think the interest has been lost a little. I don’t think basketball is a top-level sport at Kennebunk.”

His plan is for the Rams to play an uptempo, fast-paced style. “Hopefully that will be a strength for us,” he said.

Kennebunk Hoops, a youth travel team, has been growing with participants. Belanger will help to continue its growth.

Belanger, Bonny Eagle Coach Phil Bourassa and Biddeford Coach Justin Tardif were teammates at Biddeford High, graduating in 2004. They played together from the fourth grade through high school and AAU. Belanger is a University of Southern Maine graduate.

Bourassa has a well-established program at Bonny Eagle, while Tardif is building a program at Biddeford, as Belanger will start to do at Kennebunk. He said he will tap into his friends’ knowledge.

“Barrett brings a lot of enthusiasm to the job,” said Kennebunk Athletic Director Joe Schwartzman. “He understands what it takes to build a solid program. He’ll continue what John Dube started and build on it.

“Barrett has been the seventh-grade coach and the kids really enjoyed playing for him. He knows the players in the system.”

Schwartzman said there were nine applicants for the job.

Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

tchard@pressherald.com

Twitter: TomChardPPH