BANGOR, Maine — Sunday afternoon marked just a partial work day for Troy Alley as the veteran coach led his University of Maine at Machias men’s basketball team into battle against the University of Maine.

It was a battle the Clippers weren’t expected to win as a small-college program from the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association challenging the state’s sole NCAA Division I team.

But UMaine needed another home game for its non-conference schedule, and Alley and his team were willing to make the relatively short trip to the Cross Insurance Center.

“It’s all a learning experience for us where we’re so young,” said Alley after his team’s 102-51 loss to the Black Bears. “We can take some good things out of it. The rebounding was 42-39 so we obviously rebounded with them, and we put up 50 points.

“Just the chance to play against that kind of opponent can’t do anything but help my guys.”

Alley’s arrival back on the Down East campus Monday marked a return to normalcy, not only in the caliber of opposition to prepare for in future games but the resumption of his double workload as head coach of both the men’s and women’s basketball teams at UMM.

Alley, whose high school coaching resume before entering the collegiate ranks included stints at Acadia Christian, Machias and Jonesport-Beals, is in his third year of leading both UMaine-Machias teams in addition to serving as the school’s associate athletic director.

“It is different,” he said. “I had no gray hair when I took this job. Now I have gray hair.”

Alley routinely conducts back-to-back practices with his teams. And other than the size of the basketballs — “We haven’t brought out the wrong balls yet. I’m not saying it won’t happen but it hasn’t happened yet,” he said — he finds more similarities than differences in dealing with his two squads.

“We’ve got a good group of women and a good group of men, and coaching’s the same to me. I don’t do a lot different for either team,” he said.

“The women’s team is very literal in that if I tell them to do something they’ll do exactly that while the guys will freelance a little more, but I enjoy coaching both teams.”

Alley’s coaching regimen also benefits from that fact that most of UMM’s men’s and women’s basketball games are played as doubleheaders.

“People think that time management or the dealing with coaching women and coaching men and the different personalities would be the hardest part, but that’s not the tough part,” said Alley.

“The tough part for me for the first year or so was letting go after the first game. Let’s say there’s something we didn’t do well in that first game, putting that behind me and turning my focus to the next game was the hardest part because as a coach you’re analyzing what you did right after a game and you only have 25 or 30 minutes until the next game.”

Alley’s teams have experienced a reasonable amount of success during his UMM tenure to date, with the women’s squad earning a national ranking from the United States Collegiate Athletic Association last season.

This year’s men’s team is 5-8 while the women’s squad is 4-8 as they prepare to head to New York this weekend for their final games before the semester break against Berkeley College on Sunday and SUNY Dehli on Monday.

The first half of that challenge against Berkeley will be particularly formidable for the men’s team.

“They’re the three-time defending (USCAA) national champs,” said Alley. “Life doesn’t get any easier for us.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...