Al Bean is retiring after 45 years working in the University of Southern Maine athletics department, including the last 31 as athletic director. Photo provided by the University of Southern Maine

Admittedly, Ed Flaherty did not work for many administrators in his 39 seasons as head baseball coach at the University of Southern Maine. Even so, none of them compared to Al Bean, Flaherty said.

“The ones I’ve known, they can’t be any better than (Bean),” said Flaherty, who retired at the end of the recent season. “Al kept me going there. He kept a lot of people going there. He did it all right.”

After a 45-year career in the USM athletic department, including the last 31 as athletic director, Bean has announced his retirement. Beginning in September, he will serve as commissioner of the Little East Conference, which includes USM.

“I’ll be 69 next month. I’ve been here a long time. It seems like the right time to go,” Bean said. “It’s probably time for someone with a new voice and new energy.”

Bean said he was considering retirement before the Little East Conference opportunity was presented. Bean previously was commissioner of the league from 1995 to 2000, when the job was rolled into his duties at USM, before the conference hired a commissioner who was not a league athletic director.

“I know I can’t go home and do nothing, frankly. It will allow me to keep an important connection to the schools and my colleagues. It’s a nice opportunity,” Bean said.


Bean graduated from USM in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in education and history. He then earned a master’s degree in education from the school in 1982. A standout baseball player at USM, Bean worked as an assistant baseball coach, sports information director and assistant athletic director with the Huskies before being named athletic director in 1993.

“He’s the hardest-working person I’ve ever met,” said USM field hockey coach Bonny Brown-Denico. “He knows everyone and he has a connection with everyone. He’s a tremendous role model.”

Brown-Denico, a 1991 USM graduate, noted Bean’s ability to remain even-keeled as his greatest leadership asset. A former softball coach at USM along with her field hockey duties, Brown-Denico said Bean’s best advice to her as a young coach was to not jump to any decision too quickly.

“As a young coach, discipline-wise you always have it in your head how you’ll handle things,” Brown-Denico said. “He’d say, ‘Ask for input from others, don’t overthink anything.’ ”

Under Bean, USM won the 1997 Division III national championship in baseball. The women’s basketball team went to the Final Four five times, hosting the event in 1998 at Hill Gym during construction of the Costello Sports Complex.

“It was crazy because I never thought we’d get it,” Bean said of hosting that Final Four, in which the Huskies fell to Washington University of St. Louis in the final, 65-60. “We had construction going on both sides.”


Everything Bean did was in the service of student-athletes, said Sarah Jamo, who recently completed her 12th season as USM’s softball coach.

“For me, I grew up under Al. I was 28 when I started, and he’s been a great mentor for me,” Jamo said. “This is a tough loss for sure. … As a young coach, you knew you would always have that support.”

Jamo credited Bean with giving student-athletes a better all-around experience, including the creation of a mental performance coach. Jamo also noted Bean’s efforts to improve USM’s athletic facilities, including her team’s softball field, which was renovated in 2017 to include new lightning, new dugouts and a patio viewing area for fans.

“He helped see that through and it became one of the best (softball) facilities in New England,” Jamo said. “He really felt the women should have that experience and that facility.”

Bean also oversaw the construction of the Costello Sports Complex, which opened in 1998 and includes Hill Gym, the USM Ice Arena, and a field house for indoor track and field. Hannaford Field, home to USM’s soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey teams, was built in 1996 and renovated in 2022 with new artificial turf and lighting.

Flaherty said he’s known Bean for more than 50 years, going back to their days as high school baseball opponents.


“Al is loyal. He let people do their jobs. He let a guy like me flourish,” said Flaherty, who coached the Huskies to national championships in 1991 and 1997. “He’s just all USM. There’s nobody else close. … That place will never be the same without him.”

Bean said there are projects he was unable to complete that he hopes his successor will finish, including adding a grandstand to Hannaford Field. Another is adding an indoor hitting pavilion for the baseball and softball teams. Eventually the Costello Sports Complex will need to be expanded to include more locker rooms and larger training space, Bean said.

Bean said he is most proud of trying to build a strong athletic community. He noted USM student-athletes combined for a 3.23 grade-point average last year, with 19 of the 22 teams earning a 3.0 or better GPA.

“We’re trying to turn out good people who are prepared to be good leaders and be successful in their own life,” he said.

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