May 1, 2013

MAINE SPORTS HALL OF FAME: Former Cony girls basketball coach Paul Vachon set for induction

By Gary Hawkins ghawkins@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

His winning record alone would qualify former Cony High School girls basketball coach Paul Vachon for induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame.

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Quite a career: Former Cony girls basketball coach Paul Vachon will be inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday. Vachon had a career record of 451-50 in 25 years of coaching and won seven Class A state titles.

Staff file photo by Jim Evans

What: Maine Hall of Fame Induction banquet
When: Noon, Sunday
Where: Augusta Civic Center
Inductees: Willaim Cohen Douglas Brown, MD, Ricky Craven, Paula Doughty, Gary Fifield, Skip Robinson, Bob Russo, Paul Vachon, Manchester Wheeler and John Wolfgram.
Scholar athletes: Georgia Bolduc (Waterville), Caitlin Bucksbaum (Falmouth), Adrienne Carmack (John Bapst), Madeline Wiegman (Leavitt) and Evan Worster (Forest Hills)

In 23 years at the Augusta school and two prior to that at Messalonskee, Vachon compiled a record of 451-50, winning seven Class A state championships. But it's his value to the individual players in the program and girls basketball in general that cement his reputation as one of the best-ever high school coaches in the state.

Upon Vachon's retirement five years ago to become the school's athletic director, former Nokomis girls basketball coach Earl Anderson called him the dominant figure in the state in girls basketball over the past 25 years.

"He brought excitement and attention to the game," Anderson said.

Vachon created a lot of excitement on his own with a frenetic sideline demeanor that often infuriated opposing fans and endeared him to the Cony faithful.

"He was really a big motivator," former player Julie Veilleux said. "People were inspired to play for him. He has this special knack for working with young people."

Veilleux went on the play at the University of Maine where she became a versatile passer, defender, scorer and rebounder. The 6-foot-1 swing player is glad Vachon didn't stereotype her because of her size.

"He didn't put me in a box," she said. "Other coaches might have stuck me in the post."

Veilleux went on to become an assistant coach for the Bowdoin College and US Naval Academy women's teams before accepting the position as head coach at Colby College two years ago. Vachon was one of the first people she called when she got the Bowdoin job. Quiet and reserved, Veilleux is the antithesis of Vachon during a game, rarely raising her voice.

"That's just his style," she said. "He also yells when he's happy. He helped encourage my hard-working nature. He has a big heart and it really isn't about him whatsoever. It's about the process."

Vachon admitted he was caught up in wins and losses when he first began coaching, but his attitude changed over time.

"That develops with maturity," he said. "You learn there's a lot more to coaching than Xs and Os. I became a better teacher."

Kelsie Bryer grew up in Augusta and was first spotted by Vachon playing outdoor basketball with boys. Today she lives in Providence. R.I., and is desperately trying to find a way to arrange her work schedule to attend Sunday's induction. Vachon not only got her into organized basketball, he offered her a scholarship to his summer camp and was instrumental in getting her a scholarship to the University of Southern Maine.

"I was planning to take a couple of years off," Bryer said. "It was mainly a lack of money."

Bryer had even less money in high school and no place to live so Vachon arranged for her to get an apartment.

"That was the reason I was able to play basketball," she said. "I was actually homeless at the time. On top of the knowledge he had, he really cared for his players. It made us respect him and play harder for him."

Vachon grew up on Mt. Vernon Ave. in Augusta and worked for several years as recreation director at the local playground, deciding then that he wanted to coach. He credits several coaching influences while serving as an assistant for 10 years but said everything fell into place when he began working summers at Pine Tree Basketball Camp under the direction of Dick Whitmore and Dick Meader.

"Those are two of the best coaches in the state," he said. "I soaked up everything I could."

(Continued on page 2)

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