Tom Maines, one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in Maine history, has retired from his varsity head coaching position at Morse High in Bath.
Maines, 73, said he could not continue to coach during the coronavirus pandemic because of health considerations. In 2018, he was diagnosed with thymic cancer and eventually had his left lung removed. He has undergone both chemotherapy and radiation treatments and said he is now cancer-free.
He met with his players – he had 14 returning from last year’s 1-17 team – and their parents on Monday night and told them of his decision to step away.
“I told them I was at a critical stage of my life, I had gone through chemo and I had a major operation, and that I can’t afford to get sick,” said Maines, his voice raspy because the cancer affected his left vocal cord as well. “I worry about someone getting sick and kids who might be carrying (COVID-19) who might be asymptomatic.
“It was just time to say good-bye. These are great kids. I love the kids we had coming back. Whoever gets (the job) is going to at least have some kids who have had good training.”
Maines, who finished his career with 374 victories and won three consecutive Class A boys’ basketball state championships with the Shipbuilders in the late 1980s, had returned to Morse in 2018 to take over a struggling program. The Shipbuilders won only five games in his two seasons, but the program is in a better place.
“His time here was really inspiring,” said Morse Athletic Director Nate Priest. “He didn’t have to come back, he was in his 70s, he had some health issues, but for him to push through like he did … it was inspiring for some of the kids to see him work so hard and want to be here.
“I can’t say enough about how impressed I am that he took it upon himself to push through and make Morse a better basketball team.”
Maines is a member of both the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. His teams were noted for their fast pace, pressure defense, versatility and depth.
“Boy have I had great kids over the years,” said Maines, who began coaching high school basketball in Maine in 1968. “All-Americans, Gatorade players of year. Incredible, the players I’ve coached, the assistants I’ve had and the great friendships I’ve had. I’m a damn lucky man.”
Maines was diagnosed with the cancer on Dec. 18, 2018, shortly after his second stint as the Shipbuilders’ coach began. The thymus is a small organ in the upper chest that creates white blood cells. Even as he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Maine seldom missed a game or practice.
Maines said doctors at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston removed his left lung on April 29, 2019.
“It’s unbelievable what they did,” said Maines. “And the team was tremendous. Throughout the whole thing, the teenagers were incredible for an old coach who was suffering a bit.”
Priest said he hoped to begin interviews for the position in September.