Fifteen years ago, Barrett Belanger, Phil Bourassa and Justin Tardif were on the same Biddeford AAU basketball team. They went on to play together at Biddeford High.

As seniors in 2004, they helped the Tigers to a 14-4 regular season and the third seed in the Western Class A tournament.

Fast forward to the present. All three are head coaches of Western Class A teams.

Belanger is the newest, hired last spring at Kennebunk. Bourassa is in his sixth season at Bonny Eagle, and Tardif is in his second at Biddeford.

Unusual that they are now head coaches in the same conference?

“Not really,” said Bourassa. “We all were very passionate about basketball growing up.”

Mike Fecteau, their coach at Biddeford High, agrees.

“I had a feeling they would all become coaches,” he said. “They were talented and smart players who loved the game.

“When they were on the floor, it was like having three other coaches on the court. They were all perfectionists but most of all they all wanted to win. I knew they could handle any situation.”

Ron Cote, who preceded Fecteau as the Biddeford head coach, coached the three in AAU.

“We worked on fundamentals,” said Cote, currently an assistant coach at Old Orchard Beach.

“We worked on such things as pressing and the matchup zone. I remember thinking that they would become coaches someday. They all played the game well and were heady.”

The Biddeford coaching connection doesn’t end there. Kyle Fecteau, who is Mike’s son, played on those Biddeford teams and was a classmate of the three.

He is Tardif’s assistant at Biddeford.

“Four of the five starters involved in coaching,” said Cote. “That’s unusual.”

Belanger, Bourassa and Tardif were close in high school, and still are.

In their senior season, 2003-04, Bourassa was a point guard. He missed the first eight games because of a broken collarbone incurred in the Western Class A football final against Deering, but the Tigers went 8-0 without him.

Belanger was the shooting guard and Tardif the small forward.

The Tigers beat Westbrook in the regional quarterfinals, then lost to Portland, the eventual state champion, in the semifinals.

The head coaching buddies, all 28 years old now, often text one another and attend coaching clinics together.

Belanger consulted with Tardif about the rigors of being a head coach before applying for the Kennebunk job. Tardif’s assessment: “It’s all day, every day.”

“Justin and I had dinner the day I interviewed for the job,” said Belanger.

The three attended coaching clinics at Harvard and UMaine-Farmington last summer.

Mike Fecteau said their personalities are reflected in their coaching styles.

“Phil was intense,” he said. “He was a football player. Barrett and Justin were more laid- back. They were tennis players.”

Bourassa feels their styles aren’t that different. They learned the game in the same program.

“I think we’re intense in our own way,” said Bourassa.

In his first season as a varsity coach, Belanger said he’s finding he’s more intense than he thought he would be.

All agree that you have to adjust your coaching methods and deal with players on an individual basis.

“The days of coaching each kid the same way are gone,” said Tardif.

Bourassa and Tardif will face each other in the regular season as members of the SMAA. Belanger’s team could only face Biddeford or Bonny Eagle if they meet in the Western Maine tournament. Kennebunk is a Class A team playing a Western Maine Conference schedule.

“I would love for that to happen,” said Belanger of a tournament matchup.

Both Belanger and Tardif also would love to have the success of Bourassa, whose teams have been to four straight regional finals.

That’s what building a program is all about, and it starts for real Friday night.