After three-plus years as the Portland High girls’ basketball coach, Gerry Corcoran’s contract wasn’t renewed. The program will have a new, yet-to-be named coach next season. Brianna Soukup / Portland Press Herald file photo

PORTLAND—Gerry Corcoran, who inherited a Portland High girls’ basketball program in chaos, then led a resurgence that had the Bulldogs in the regional final last winter, won’t be returning as varsity coach.

Corcoran, 56, said Friday that he was told by Lance Johnson, the new Portland High athletic director, and Sheila Jepson, the school’s principal, that his contract isn’t being renewed.

“I didn’t expect it and I’m really disappointed,” said Corcoran, who posted a record of 43-31 in three-plus seasons with the Bulldogs. “I feel blind-sided. I just found out this morning that there were concerns. Some parents think I’m too tough on the girls. I just want to honor the girls and my coaches who believed and the success we had.”

Corcoran, who played for Northeastern University and professionally in Europe and South America, was known for a pedal-to-the-metal attacking style and for his animated and vocal mannerisms on the sidelines. He was ejected from a game last year in Bangor after receiving two technical fouls and received a technical foul for being outside of the coaching box during last year’s regional final loss to Oxford Hills.

Johnson didn’t comment on the particulars of the coaching change, but did offer the following in a statement:

“Portland High School would like to thank Gerry Corcoran for his three-and-a-half years of service to our school and community.”

Corcoran, a South Portland resident, became the Portland coach after the Bulldogs started the 2016-17 campaign 0-5 and Jay Lowery abruptly resigned. Corcoran took over and after a 3-15 campaign, Portland’s fortunes changed the following winter when three talented young players, Amanda Kabantu, Davina Kabantu and Gemima Motema, arrived from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and helped propel the Bulldogs to a 13-7 record and a berth in the Class AA North semifinals (which resulted in a loss to eventual state champion Edward Little).

After a 10-10 campaign in 2018-19 (and a semifinal round loss to eventual state champion Oxford Hills), Portland lived up to billing as one of the state’s top teams last winter, going 15-3 in the regular season (the program’s best mark in two decades) and reaching the regional final for the first time since 1999 (the Bulldogs again lost to eventual state champion Oxford Hills, 45-35, in a game in which Corcoran’s technical foul turned momentum in the second half).

Scott Stacey, whose daughter, Grace, was on the varsity team when Corcoran took over and is now the guardian of the Kabantu sisters and Motema, praised the way Corcoran turned the program around.

“I have to give (Gerry) a lot of credit,” Stacey said. “We hadn’t won very many games and he came in and said the goal was to win a Gold Ball. A lot of people laughed. I just hoped we could make the playoffs. He did a great job with the girls. They were all in it together.”

The Portland program is on solid footing. While Davina Kabantu has graduated and will play at Bates College and Kiera Eubanks is also off to play at the next level (at Emmanuel College in Boston), Amanda Kabantu (verbally committed to Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts), Motema (verbally committed to Northeastern University in Boston) and several other contributors are set to return and Portland projects be a title favorite this winter, if there is a basketball season.

The Bulldogs varsity head coach position will soon be open and the normal hiring process will occur.

“We are excited about the future of our basketball program,” Johnson said.

Corcoran, meanwhile, doesn’t plan to coach high school basketball again.

“My intent was never to coach high school, but this job was a blessing for me,” said Corcoran. “The girls were awesome. We put a plan in place, then we were blessed with three very talented players and others who stepped up. A culture was built. I would take great pride if they execute and finish what we started.

“I’m grateful for my time at Portland High School. Just not the way it ended.”

Sports Editor Michael Hoffer can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @foresports.

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