Old Orchard Beach Coach Dean Plante talks with his team during a Class C South girls’ basketball quarterfinal at the Augusta Civic Center in 2021. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Four respected southern Maine high school basketball coaches who have a combined 92 seasons of experience and over 1,100 wins recently made the decision to retire.

Thornton Academy will have to replace its varsity coaches and each is the school’s all-time wins’ leader: boys’ coach Bob Davies (258-130 over 20 seasons) and girls’ coach Eric Marston (135-106 in 13 seasons).

Gorham boys’ coach Mark Karter decided his 10th season with the Rams and 39th season overall would be his last, finishing with 468 wins.

And Dean Plante announced Monday his 20th season at Old Orchard Beach – ending with a victory over Dexter in the Class C championship game in early March – would be his last as a girls’ basketball coach.

Going out on top “didn’t hurt” Plante’s decision, he said. “I can say I was the starting point guard on the only boys’ championship in school history and coached the only girls’ team to win a state championship.”

Plante, 52, compiled 263-120 record. He will remain OOB’s athletic director and is preparing for his 22nd season as the school’s varsity football coach. His son, Brady, was the sophomore quarterback this past fall when the Seagulls won the eight-man football small school championship.


“This gives me an opportunity to be part of his sports world outside of football and it goes quick,” Plante said. “The COVID thing still resonates. You never know. My youngest daughter’s senior (basketball) season got snubbed.”

Plante coached the girls’ team for seven seasons, took a break from the sport when his children were young, then returned. He had been the girls’ coach the past 13 seasons. In his second stint he coached his three daughters, Haley (a 2014 graduate), Brianna (2017) and Shani (2020).

Bob Davies, right, spent his final season at Thornton Academy coaching his son, Will. They are the only father-and-son combination to earn Mr. Maine Basketball honors (Bob in 1994 at Old Orchard Beach and Will in 2023). Tammy Wells photo

Davies spent his final season with his youngest son, Will Davies. Will was named this year’s Mr. Maine Basketball as the top senior in Maine. Bob Davies won the award in 1994 at Old Orchard Beach. They are the first father-son Mr. Maine winners. Thornton went 17-4 this season, falling to eventual repeat Class AA champion South Portland 55-44 in the South regional final.

Davies was also the longest-tenured boys’ basketball coach in Thornton history, according to Athletic Director Gary Stevens. After failing to make the playoffs in his first three seasons, Davies’ teams were 242-92 over the past 17 seasons.

“So it’s been pretty consistent success since then,” Stevens said. “He won the state title in 2009 and won two regional championships and one league championship and that was this year.”

Marston, who also resigned as Thornton’s varsity cross country coach, is the only girls’ basketball coach to guide Thornton to a state championship game (losing to Lawrence in the 2015 Class A final). That capped a building phase and after a few lean years, Thornton returned to contender status the past two seasons, going 14-5 in 2022 and 18-2 in 2023. The top-seeded Golden Trojans were upset by Gorham in the AA South regional final in February.


Eric Marston is retiring after 13 seasons as the girls’ basketball head coach at Thornton Academy, where his 135 victories are the most in program history. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Marston and his wife, Nancy, are the driving forces behind Hoops for Hope, an annual fundraiser run by the Thornton girls’ team, with proceeds providing assistance to Saco-area families hit by cancer.

“He leaves as the all-time winningest coach but (Hoops for Hope) will be his greatest victory,” Stevens said.

Karter, 60, grew up in Waterville and started his coaching career in 1985 when he was hired as Rumford High’s varsity coach while still a senior at the University of Maine-Farmington. When Rumford joined with Mexico to form Mountain Valley High, Karter stayed on as the varsity coach, winning the Class B title in 1990. After nine seasons in Rumford, Karter coached 21 years at Westbrook and the past 10 at Gorham.

Karter said he and his wife, Laurie, intend to relocate “somewhere warm and hopefully by a beach,” and had targeted this year to be his last.

“It’s a tough decision but I’m pleased and I think we’re leaving the program in pretty good shape. They should be very competitive next year so whoever it is gets a good team to take over,” Karter said.

That four prominent coaches came to the same career decision shortly after the season’s end is a coincidence. But coaching high school basketball is a year-round commitment with a long season that overlaps two school vacation periods.

“I don’t know if people realize how much of a grind it is,” Karter said. “The planning, the preparation, the relationships that you have. You’re dealing with (athletic directors), parents, players and if you’re not able to foster those relationships it will be a tough business.”

Referring to the other retiring coaches Karter said, “all those guys have done a great job but I think it takes a toll on you after awhile.”

Plante called basketball the “the longest season in all of high school sports. If you count the summer workouts and this season making this run to state championship we were together as a team about 21 weeks out of the 52. Thank goodness I had a great group and loved them every single minute.”

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