Boys’ team

JOE RUSSO – Portland basketball

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The season fell just short of the ultimate prize, but it proved to be yet another masterpiece performance for a Hall of Fame coach.

Portland’s boys’ basketball team entered the year with several question marks, wasn’t viewed as a title hopeful and even gave those closest to it gray hairs when the season commenced, but when the dust settled, the Bulldogs were playing in the state game.

Joe Russo has authored many great runs during his time coaching his alma mater, but this season might have been his finest work and in light of that fine work, The Forecaster is naming Russo our Portland edition Winter Coach of the Year, of a boys’ team.

Russo, who was also selected in 2004, 2011, 2014 and 2016, starred on the hardwood (and also played football and baseball) at Portland High (Class of 1975), then went on to excel at the University of Maine-Presque Isle, where he was a captain on the basketball team as a junior and senior (and is a member of the UMPI Hall of Fame).


Russo’s coaching career began inauspiciously, as he won a total of 11 games in three seasons at Bonny Eagle, but upon returning to Portland for the 1990-91 season, the wins started to come. In abundance.

By 1999, Russo had guided the Bulldogs to his first Gold Ball and they would win Class A titles again in 2004, 2014, 2016 and 2017. Portland then hit a rough stretch, winning just three games in both 2019-20 and 2020-21 before rebounding for 11 victories last season, only to lose a heartbreaker to Cheverus at the buzzer in the quarterfinals.

When the Bulldogs opened the 2022-23 campaign with a turnover-plagued loss at Lewiston, Russo wasn’t sure if or when his team would manage to put it together, but the wins followed, 13 in fact, and as a result, Portland wound up second in Class AA North.

The Bulldogs weren’t the favorite in the regional tournament, but they defeated Windham in the quarterfinals, then avenged a pair of regular season losses against both Lewiston in the semifinals and Oxford Hills in the regional final. Portland’s magic ran out against South Portland in the state game, but what a run it was.

“It was a great year,” said Russo. “The kids were awesome. They gave it their all. We went down fighting.”

Russo, who sits just 26 wins shy of the 500 mark for his career, hasn’t committed to returning next winter, but he has the job for as long as he wants it.


And that’s how it should be in light of everything that Joe Russo, our Portland edition Winter boys’ team Coach of the Year, has accomplished.

Previous winners:

  • • 2021-22 Richie Ashley (Cheverus basketball)
    * 2020-21 Todd Wing (Deering basketball)
    • 2019-20 Marco Giancotti (Cheverus hockey)
    • 2018-19 David Elowitch/Tony Napolitano (Portland wrestling)
    • 2017-18 Kevin Haley (Cheverus swimming)
    • 2016-17 Jeff Beaney (Portland/Deering hockey)
    • 2015-16 Joe Russo (Portland basketball)
    • 2014-15 Dan Lucas (Cheverus hockey)
    • 2013-14 Joe Russo (Portland basketball)
    • 2012-13 Rich Henry (Waynflete basketball)
    • 2011-12 Dan LeGage (Deering basketball)
    • 2010-11 Joe Russo (Portland basketball)
    • 2009-10 Bob Brown (Cheverus basketball)
    • 2008-09 Kevin Haley (Cheverus swimming)
    • 2007-08 Bob Brown (Cheverus basketball)
    • 2006-07 Bob Brown (Cheverus basketball)
    • 2005-06 Dan LeGage (Deering basketball)
    • 2004-05 Jack Lowry (Cheverus hockey)
    • 2003-04 Joe Russo (Portland basketball)

Girls’ team

SCOTT ROUSSEAU – Cheverus hockey

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Cheverus’ girls’ hockey team had been knocking on the championship door and this winter, the Stags kicked it in.

The title didn’t come easily, but good things rarely do and Cheverus is fortunate enough to have a coach who has known both triumph and heartbreak and was able to guide the Stags to the finish line.


Scott Rousseau helped his team navigate talented challengers, injury and inexperience and wind up atop the heap and in that light, he is The Forecaster’s choice for our Portland edition Winter Coach of the Year, of a girls’ team.

Rousseau was a standout player at St. Dom’s and had a long stint as Falmouth’s boys’ coach. Rousseau won 200 games with the then-Yachtsmen and led them to four regional finals, but suffered multiple gutwrenching playoff losses.

After taking several years off, Rousseau resurfaced as the Cheverus girls’ coach in 2016 and by 2018 had the Stags skating with the championship trophy. Cheverus had that championship look again a year ago, but was upset in triple-overtime by Scarborough in the South Region semifinals.

This year, there would be no stopping the Stags. Cheverus did lose twice to Penobscot and once to Yarmouth/Freeport during the regular season, but as the top seed in the South, it held off York in the semifinals, then dominated Gorham in the regional final. Yarmouth/Freeport was awaiting in the state final, where a hat trick from sophomore Lucy Johnson proved to be just enough to produce a 3-2 victory.

“It’s sweet beyond compare,” said Rousseau. “It’s very satisfying for me as a coach because it’s a new generation. (A few years ago), we didn’t have enough kids to field a team. We went through the hallways begging kids to play to keep the program going. To win with this group, I’m so thrilled.”

With his daughter Caroline set to join the program next year, Rousseau is very excited about the future and that future is very bright.

Scott Rousseau, our Portland edition girls’ team Winter Coach of the Year, has reached the pinnacle in many ways and isn’t done yet.

Previous winners:

  • • 2021-22 Billy Goodman (Cheverus basketball)
    * 2020-21 Billy Goodman (Cheverus basketball)
    2019-20 Bob Mills (Cape/Waynflete/South Portland hockey)
    2018-19 George Aponte-Clarke (Portland/Deering/Cheverus skiing)
    2017-18 Tom Clifford (Portland/Deering hockey)
    • 2016-17 Billy Goodman (MGA basketball)
    • 2015-16 Kent Hulst (Cheverus hockey)
    • 2014-15 Billy Goodman (McAuley basketball)
    • 2013-14 Kevin Haley (Cheverus swimming)
    • 2012-13 Brandon Salway (Waynflete basketball)
    • 2011-12 Brandon Salway (Waynflete basketball)
    • 2010-11 Amy Vachon (McAuley basketball)
    • 2009-10 J.P. Lavoie (Cheverus hockey)
    • 2008-09 Mike Murphy (Deering basketball)
    • 2007-08 John Smith (McAuley swimming)
    • 2006-07 Jan Veinot (Waynflete basketball)
    • 2005-06 Kevin Campbell (Deering track)
    • 2004-05 Lindsay Reagan (Waynflete Nordic skiing)
    • 2003-04 Mike D’Andrea (Deering basketball)

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

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