Gerry Corcoran posted a 43-21 record in three-plus seasons at Portland High. He took over the girls’ basketball program early in the 2016-17 season when the team’s coach resigned after an 0-5 start. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gerry Corcoran, who last winter led the Portland High girls’ basketball team to the regional finals for the first time in 21 years, will not be returning as the program’s head 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 blindsided. 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.”

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. After a 3-15 season, 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 (a loss to eventual state champion Edward Little).

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

Scott Stacey, whose daughter, Grace, was on the 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 Bulldogs’ head coaching position will soon be posted for applicants.

“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.”

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