Caribou coach Chris Casavant huddles with his team during a timeout during a regular-season home game against Mount Desert Island in December 2017. Casavant submitted his resignation to the school board on Tuesday night after 17 seasons leading the Vikings boys basketball program. Credit: Courtesy of Sha-Lam Photography

Chris Casavant’s 20-year tenure as a varsity basketball coach at Caribou High School came to an end Wednesday evening when his resignation was presented to the school board.

Casavant was the Vikings’ head girls basketball coach for three years before spending the last 17 seasons as Caribou’s boys varsity coach.

“I would like to acknowledge that I have resigned as head coach of the Caribou boys basketball team,” Casavant said in a written statement. “The past 20 years have been very rewarding for me both personally and professionally but after much thought I have concluded that this is the best thing for me and my family at the present time.”

Last season was marked by some controversy, as Casavant was suspended for two games in late January and did not make the team’s annual weekend trip to Hancock County for back-to-back games at Mount Desert Island of Bar Harbor and Ellsworth.

Eastern Aroostook RSU 39 superintendent of schools Tim Doak declined to comment on the suspension, citing privacy laws.

“Unfortunately, it’s a personnel issue and I can’t discuss it,” he said. “It’s obvious that he wasn’t with the team for those two games but beyond that I really can’t talk about it.”

Casavant also opted not to discuss specifics beyond what was in his written statement.

“To be sure, Maine high school basketball has its challenges but much of what has been said about the circumstances leading up to this decision is not accurate,” Casavant, who is also a health and wellness teacher at Caribou High School, wrote in a statement. “There may be an opportunity to address that in the future. I remain passionate about coaching basketball and working with the kids. I care about them, their character and want them to be successful on and off the court and that will never change.”

Casavant referred other questions about his resignation to his legal counsel, Joshua Tardy of Newport.

Tardy, who is the boys varsity basketball coach at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield, acknowledged strained relations between Casavant and some Caribou parents.

“Complaining parents have an absolute right to an opinion, and any individual has a right to freedom of speech,” Tardy said. “But it’s not an unlimited right and when you say things that are false and defamatory there are legal remedies for that type of situation.”

Tardy added that no legal action is imminent.

“He’s keeping his options completely open,” Tardy said. “As we know of Chris from his 20 years at Caribou, he has a reputation for high professional standards, high character and competitiveness, with an emphasis on competitiveness.”

Casavant compiled a 176-156 record with the Caribou boys program beginning with the 2001-2002 season.

That tenure included 11 consecutive regular seasons at or above .500 from 2006 through 2016, highlighted by Caribou’s 17-5 season in 2014 that culminated with a trip to the Eastern Maine Class B final where the Vikings lost in overtime to eventual state champion Old Town.

Caribou advanced to the regional semifinals two years later before falling in overtime to Ellsworth, the 2016 Class B North champion.

After four consecutive years of at least 12 victories, the Vikings have finished below .500 each of the last two seasons. Caribou went 6-13 last winter, which ended with a one-point home-court loss to Belfast in the Class B North preliminary round.

“I would like to thank the hundreds of student-athletes that I have been proud to coach during my tenure here,” Casavant wrote, “and [I] will always be thankful for the opportunity to compete with them in the proud tradition of Maine high school basketball.”

Doak said he hopes a replacement for Casavant will be hired in time to lead the school’s summer basketball program.

“He’s given 20 years to Caribou,” Doak said of Casavant, “and as sad as it is to see coaches go, he must have felt that this was something that was in his best interest.”

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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...