Another week passes, another announcement that a University of Maine men’s basketball player has asked for his release. Xavier Pollard, this season’s leading scorer, is the most recent. He follows Dimitry Akana-Coronel and Mitch Worcester out the door.

Shaun Lawton is reviewing his paperwork to leave Maine. That’s four: both starters and role players. They’re not declaring for the NBA draft. They simply want out.

Did someone remove the batteries from the smoke detectors? Why doesn’t anyone hear alarms? Then again, if the alarms are blaring, who’s listening?

This is a basketball program that is bleeding out whatever promise it’s had in the past 10 years. Bandages aren’t working. Neither are transfusions.

Justin Edwards, the promising and exciting sophomore guard, left after the 2012-13 season to play at Kansas State. Alasdair Fraser, the promising frontcourt player, left to play pro ball in Germany. Jon Mesghna left for Montana-Billings. After 2011, Murphy Burnatowski, the favorite of fans who appreciated his old-school, hard-nosed style of play, left for Colgate in upstate New York.

“We appreciate the contributions (fill in the name) has made to our program and wish him the best of luck in his further athletic and academic pursuits,” says the statement released in Coach Ted Woodward’s name after each player he recruited walks away. The words are cold, sterile and politically correct.


No wonder the Maine men rarely have connected with Maine fans. You take the success and failure of all your sports teams personally. Too much about the state’s only NCAA Division I basketball program has become impersonal.

I saw Woodward in late February in the lobby of the old Memorial Gym a day or two before the team left for Albany, the America East Conference tournament and the end of a 6-23 season. He talked about Garet Beal and the rest of his freshmen class. The best class, said Woodward. He was excited.

How possible is it that the freshman from Jonesport-Beals becomes the next Edwards, Fraser or Pollard?

Woodward talked about playing at the new Cross Insurance Center in Bangor and how much that gem of an arena helped recruiting. I wondered what he told recruits who might have asked about the small student cheering section. The Cross Center may be 10 miles from campus, but students found little reason to walk across campus to Alfond Arena or Memorial Gym’s Pit.

Maine asked Woodward to move the 18 inches or so from the first assistant’s chair alongside the basketball court to the head coach’s seat. It was the late summer of 2004 and John Giannini had left to become LaSalle’s new head coach. He asked Woodward to come with him. Instead, Woodward believed he was ready to slide into the first chair.

Patrick Nero, then Maine’s athletic director, touted Woodward’s character and certainly that was true. “We wanted a coach who prepares his guys for life after Maine,” Nero said that day. I don’t think he meant life at another university after they transferred.


Nero said he asked the returning players if Woodward was the right guy. “Could you play for him? Will you play for him?”

Yes, they said. But their experience was with Woodward the top assistant, not Woodward, then the rookie head coach.

Ten years at one school is a long run in college coaching. Woodward has one winning season in that time and it ended badly. Maine was 7-1 in the conference, beating opponents by double digits when it played Binghamton on a Saturday night.

Back in Portland I had written a column saying it was time for Maine fans to jump on the bandwagon. The 2010-11 season was going to end well.

Maine fell behind by 22 points with seven minutes to play but rallied to win, 77-74. I was convinced.

Then Maine went to Boston University and lost 88-78, precipitating a 1-8 slide that took the Black Bears out of the NCAA tournament picture again.


Karlton Creech, the new Maine AD, has to acknowledge the bleeding before he can stop it. He needs to restore relevancy to a program that has been kicked to the back seat behind men’s hockey and women’s basketball. Creech needs to give Maine a wow factor that has nothing to do with new gyms or fields.

We appreciate Ted Woodward’s contributions and wish him the best of luck in his future pursuits.

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

Twitter: SteveSolloway


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