Tom Maines, one of the most successful and respected coaches in Maine high school basketball history, is returning to the site of his greatest success.

Maines, 71, was named the boys’ basketball coach Tuesday at Morse High in Bath. Maines was Morse’s head coach for 12 seasons from 1981-93, establishing a dominant program known for its full-court press and work ethic. The Shipbuilders won three straight Class A titles from 1987-89, a run unmatched in Maine’s larger-school boys’ basketball.

Maines has not coached boys’ basketball since 2004, when he finished a seven-year run at Madison High. But he has little doubt he can still be successful.

“I know the game. I teach it better than anyone else,” he said. “I know how to develop enthusiasm. I’m still lecturing to high school kids from across the state of Maine and a lot of times kids will come up to me and say, ‘Oh, I wish we had you as a coach.’

“I want kids to pursue excellence. That’s why I want to come back for as long as I can.”

Maines, with 369 career wins, also coached the Scarborough girls’ basketball team in 2011-12. Inheriting a 5-13 team, he led the Red Storm to a 19-2 season, losing to McAuley in the Western Maine final.

“When I look at what he did with the girls at Scarborough, that showed he can (still) be successful,” said Portland Coach Joe Russo.

Maines has kept current by “coaching coaches,” including his son, Cony boys’ coach T.J. Maines.

“He’s been a giant in the history of Maine teaching coaches as well as players,” said Oxford Hills Coach Scott Graffam.

“The first thought that comes to my mind is the game of basketball in Maine is a lot better with him coaching,” said Camden Hills Coach Jeff Hart. Hart has won more than 500 games and six state titles in 36 seasons. He got his start as an assistant under Maines.

“He’s one of the best teachers of the game I’ve ever met,” Hart said. “The kids who are going to play for him at Morse, they don’t know it yet but they’re really, really lucky.”

Maines replaces Brian Bennett, who was 12-42 without a playoff appearance in three seasons.

Maines has a track record of turning around programs.

“We want Morse to stand out again,” said Nate Priest, the school’s athletic director. “We want Morse basketball to have a level of respect. We want to bring back the passion of Morse basketball to the greater Bath community.”

Priest said he made sure Maines was “committed to four or five years,” as Morse’s coach.

Maines’ first head coaching stint was at the old Mexico High, starting in 1973. Then in stops at Waterville and Morse, he took over struggling programs and quickly ended long droughts without a playoff victory.

“My time at Morse was a wonderful experience and I’m looking forward to see if we can get some of the spirit for Morse basketball back into the community,” Maines said. “It’s difficult to bring back championships but I’m hoping to bring back the competitive nature.”

Maines, who lives in Brunswick, is a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame (inducted in 2009) and Maine Basketball Hall of Fame (2017).

Less than an hour after accepting the job, Maines was at the Bath Parks & Recreation Department talking about “redeveloping” the youth program. He has three varsity assistant coaches he has worked with previously – Bath residents Dave Dorion and Brian Hatch and Maines’ wife, Rita. He and Priest are setting up a “Meet the Coaches” night for players in grades 6 through 11 and their parents.

“My rule of teaching and coaching, as a parent, teacher and coach, is that I have no right to criticize kids if I haven’t taught them what I want done and repeated it many times and taught them through repeated drills,” Maines said. “I believe it’s OK to make a mistake. Don’t hang your head. I want kids playing through mistakes.”

And, Maines still believes in full-court, run-and-jump pressure defense and utilizing 10 or more players throughout the game.

“He’ll teach those kids how to win, and how to behave and how to act beyond basketball,” Graffam said. “Even though he’s (71), he understands what is important in life and his kids will emulate that stance.”

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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