Retirement will have to wait – at least one more year – for Gary Fifield.

Fifield, who won 660 games over 27 years at the University of Southern Maine, will join the University of Maine women’s basketball coaching staff as an assistant for the 2018-19 season, the school announced Friday.

“I love teaching the game,” said Fifield. “It keeps you young and it keeps you involved. And I can’t play golf in the winter.”

Fifield, 65, retired from USM in 2015 after compiling a record of 660-137 and leading the Huskies to five Division III Final Four appearances. He spent the next year as an assistant at Division I Appalachian State under one of his former players, Angel Elderkin. He then stepped away from basketball for a year before coaching the Cheverus High girls’ basketball team last winter.

He retired from Cheverus in May, citing a need to step back, play golf and travel with his wife, Mary, but also keeping open the possibility of returning to coaching.

That opportunity came when UMaine Coach Amy Vachon contacted him earlier this week. The Black Bears had a position open after assistant Jhasmin Player left last week to join the coaching staff at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles.

Not wanting to rush through a national search, Vachon asked Fifield if he would consider coaching for just one year. The two met and he quickly agreed to join her staff. His duties will include practice and game coaching, game planning and video breakdowns of opponents. “The enjoyable parts of the game,” said Fifield.

Vachon said his presence on the staff will be invaluable.

“He can teach so much to me and our staff,” said Vachon. “He can help in a lot of different ways. I love our staff but we’re young. And I haven’t been doing this for very long. Having him join us will help us.”

Vachon said she never had a personal relationship with Fifield while growing up and playing at Cony High in Augusta and at UMaine. But she always admired what he did at USM.

“He just knows basketball and you can’t find that everywhere,” she said. “And he’s good with people. He has a great demeanor.”

Fifield said he’s always followed the Black Bears and had many conversations with former coaches Cindy Blodgett and Richard Barron, who is now the UMaine men’s coach.

“I’m excited about this opportunity; it’s one I could not pass up,” said Fifield. “I’ve always felt that if the University of Maine women’s program is strong, it just helps girls’ basketball in the state of Maine. You have young girls who want to be like Cindy Blodgett or Rachel Bouchard or Amy Vachon or any of the great players they’ve had there.

“It trickles down. I always felt when I was at USM that it was a benefit when the University of Maine had a strong program because in the end, the talent in the state would be better.”

Fifield was named the NCAA Division III national coach of the year in 2005. He has earned five Hall of Fame honors: the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, the Little East Conference Hall of Fame, the USM Husky Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame and the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.

“His resume speaks for itself,” said Vachon. “His success at USM is unmatched. I’m thrilled to have him on our staff, even if it is for just one year.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH