BANGOR – After so many difficult and probing questions Thursday, Cindy Blodgett had to answer one more. Did her dismissal as Maine’s head coach taint her legacy as a player?

She paused for a second and the Blodgett smile flashed. “Today I would say it’s tainted.”

Wrong. No player before she arrived on the scene as a Lawrence High freshman or after she left the University of Maine as a graduate electrified a crowd like she did. As long as people live who witnessed her shooting and passing in small high school gyms or large college arenas, Cindy Blodgett is golden.

No taint, no tarnish. Today, Cindy the player is separate from Cindy the coach. Or for now, ex-coach.

After days of silence, Blodgett spoke Thursday about losing her job.

She didn’t use the word “betrayal” or the phrase “thrown under the bus” when she went public at a crowded press conference on the second floor of a downtown Bangor pub.

Still, I listened and kept looking for the tire marks on her face or on her off-white jacket and pants. That’s what made the event so sad and in another way, so reaffirming.

Blodgett believes in herself and always will. Even when others won’t.

Too often people hear her soft voice and look at her slight frame and can’t see the backbone or the strength.

So when she said her 4-25 team was on the verge of turning the corner next season, as she did repeatedly, put yourself in her shoes and give her that. When she says there was no divide or disconnect between her and her players, give her that.

When she spoke of the four years she invested in Maine as a player and four more as a coach, all with everything she had, and then hearing she was given the opportunity to resign, understand her “disappointment.” She chose that word, which understated everything but still packed a wallop.

“If there was anyone that would stand by you as you build a program, I thought it would certainly be the place where you wore the uniform.”

She said she was humbled by the reaction from her players, who closed ranks around her out of compassion and support. To Blodgett, that was evidence there was no breakdown of the coach-player relationship that was given as one of the main reasons she was asked and then told to leave.

Blodgett said the 4-25 record was given as the main reason several days later. Mixed messages, she protested. Which was it?

Well, Cindy, they usually go hand in hand. I asked if her firing brought the team closer to her. No, she said, she never felt they were apart.

Had I misheard when we talked before and during the season about women who were good players but could be much better with more work? Or better leaders or better examples? No, she said, it was true. By the end of the season it was no longer true.

Unfortunately a 4-25 record made us all blind to the new-found sense of purpose.

Yes, figures can lie, and liars figure. But in a talk to the Portland Rotary months before the season began, Blodgett told her audience she would be judged by how many games Maine won.

She went on to say the 2010-11 season would lay the foundation for the next season, which would be even better. The applause that followed was loud.

That faith is in short supply on the Orono campus these days. As much as he looked for Blodgett’s sake, Athletic Director Steve Abbott found too little that would give him faith she was about to lead a winning team. Blodgett believes he didn’t look or listen hard enough.

And by the way, she wondered, when will Abbott apply the same judgment to other programs and other coaches at Maine?

She couldn’t talk about her future because she’s dealing with the present. She bought a house near the university, letting another smile escape. Sell in this economy?

Sue? Take Maine to court? At first she left that door open. Later she shrugged. That’s not what she’s about.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

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