Gary Fifield has stepped down after one season of coaching the Cheverus High girls’ basketball team to enjoy his retirement.

He led Cheverus to a 12-8 record last winter as the Stags advanced to the Class AA North semifinals.

“It was a good experience,” said Fifield, 65. “I know I had fun. I hope the kids had fun. And I was really impressed with the culture academically at Cheverus.”

Fifield came to the Stags two years after retiring as the women’s basketball coach at the University of Southern Maine, where he coached for 27 years. He compiled a career record of 660-137 at USM, guiding the Huskies to five NCAA Division III Final Fours and advancing to the national championship game three times.

Fifield said Monday it was simply time to step back, play golf and possibly travel with his wife, Mary.

“That’s the plan,” said Fifield. “We’ve been tied down. We don’t have any plans but we talked over the years. We haven’t been able to travel, now we can. You couldn’t when you’re coaching.”

Amy Ashley, the Cheverus athletic director, was caught off-guard by Fifield’s decision but understood it.

“I’m sad to have him go but I’m happy to have had him, even if it was only for a year,” she said. “His expertise is unmatched. He’s just ready to start traveling so he retired. He’s going to spend time doing the things he loves – play golf and travel.”

Fifield said he was in good health – “I’m playing golf every day. Been walking 18 holes” – and had no issues with coaching at Cheverus.

He was impressed by the way teachers at the school worked with the students, even on days off, and supported their educational goals.

“And everyone just seems to know everyone there,” he said. “I really enjoyed seeing that.”

He didn’t rule out helping a basketball program again but not as a head coach.

“Maybe as a consultant,” he said. “Who knows? At least it won’t be as a head coach or anything like that if I ever get back into it. I still enjoy being with the kids and I still enjoy coaching.

“I enjoyed (coaching). That’s for sure. It’s in your blood. The guys at the golf course say you’ll always want to coach. They may know me better than I do.”

After leaving USM, Fifield served as an assistant coach at Appalachian State under one of his former players, Angel Elderkin. But he stepped away from that and basketball for a year. He said he returned to coaching at Cheverus because he missed being around the players.

Fifield is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame and the USM Husky Hall of Fame.

Ashley said the open position was posted last week. The next head coach will be the school’s fourth in six years.

“Hopefully we can find candidates who will stay long term,” said Ashley. “(Fifield) did a great job getting us to the (Cross Insurance Arena for the semifinals) for the first time in four years; it was a step in the right direction. The kids want someone there for a long run. We do as well.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

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