When Tony DiBiase began his coaching career 32 seasons ago in Machias, winning 400 high school games wasn’t on his mind.

“I was just concerned about getting a program started,” said DiBiase. “The way coaching worked back then was you started at a small school and worked your way up to a Class A school. That’s the road I took. Not many coaches do that anymore.”

Tuesday night, DiBiase won his 400th game, joining a handful of Maine coaches who have reached the milestone.

Ironically, the victory was with a Class B school, Gray-New Gloucester.

DiBiase is in his first year at Gray-New Gloucester and has the Patriots (8-5) contending for a Western Class B playoff spot. On Tuesday, they beat Fryeburg Academy, 57-49.

After a 17-year run at South Portland, where he won the bulk of his games (220) on his road to 400, and three years as an assistant coach at St. Joseph’s College, DiBiase was named Gray-New Gloucester’s coach last May. It’s his sixth coaching stop.

DiBiase worked his way up to Class A, first at Portland in the 1980s, then South Portland. He’s back in Class B, where he was early in his career at Noble and then Gorham. The desire to get back into high school coaching and the opportunity to build a program again led him to Gray-New Gloucester.

DiBiase remembered something the late Leroy Rand, a former Cape Elizabeth coach, once told him before a game.

“Leroy asked me, ‘What else would you be doing on a cold, January night?’

“This is a great way to spend a winter night,” said DiBiase. “Coaching high school basketball is something I’ve enjoyed very much. It keeps you going in the winter.”

While mentioning that “every win feels good,” DiBiase said Tuesday’s was special. He had time to reflect on it as he drove home.

“It’s been a long and interesting journey coaching basketball,” said DiBiase. “I thought of how lucky I have been to go to places where there have been really great players and teams. I’m just thankful for all the players and teams I’ve had, and all the effort they’ve put into those seasons.

“A lot of people say you won this game. No, the players win the games. The job of a coach is to get the players to play to their potential or higher. Talent usually prevails.”

DiBiase remembers his first coaching victory in 1976 with Machias.

“We beat Woodland,” he said.

DiBiase can’t recall his 100th or 200th wins but remembers No. 300. It came against Cheverus.

DiBiase won a Class B state title at Gorham (1982), and Class A state titles at Portland (1986) and South Portland (1992).

“Portland was a perfect fit for me at the time,” he said.

When the South Portland job opened, DiBiase couldn’t pass up a chance to coach at a school that had a great feeder system.

“We had a great group of kids all the way up through. We had so many great games,” he said.

Two-thirds of the way through this season, DiBiase has been impressed with Class B.

“Every team seems to have at least a couple of decent players. The coaching has been good and the league is very competitive,” he said.

“It’s just like when I was at Gorham. Nothing has changed since the 1980s.”

As for his team, which is ranked ninth in the Heal point standings — nine teams qualify in Class B — DiBiase said: “We’ve played pretty tough. Except for a couple of games we’ve been very competitive.”

WITH THE Windham boys, you never know what you’re going to get.

One game, the Eagles (6-5) look like one of the best teams in the SMAA. The next, they look like an also-ran.

Last Saturday they lost 60-39 to Noble (3-10), then on Tuesday beat Scarborough (7-6), 71-59.

The good news for Windham is it can still control its destiny. The Eagles are only one place out of the eight-team Western Class A tournament.

“If I could explain it, I would,” said Coach Kevin Millington. “I don’t know what to expect on a given night.

“With the exception of Nolan Allen, we have a whole new team and with that comes growing pains.”

On a positive note, Millington said his team is playing hard, is resilient and has a good attitude.

“Going into the season I thought we had a better chance of beating Noble and Portland than we did of beating Marshwood and Scarborough,” said Millington. “We haven’t defended very well. We can score 70 but we give up 60.”

In the losses to Portland and Noble, Windham allowed runs of 15 and 18 points, respectively.

Against Noble, the Eagles shot 12 of 52 from 2-point range and 1 of 22 from 3-point range.

“You have to give Noble credit. They made their shots,” said Millington.

Allen, a junior and the leading scorer in the SMAA, and seniors Ben Noble and Drew Gagnon have started every game.

The other starters have been sophomore twins, Shawn and Joe Francoeur, along with Tom McGowan and Matt McLean.

The next four games will determine whether the Eagles make the tournament. They will be at Westbrook tonight, followed by games against Bonny Eagle, Deering and Thornton Academy.

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

[email protected]