Phil Faulkner spent much of the free time of his youth during the 1950s like most Aroostook County boys of that era — in a gymnasium with a basketball in his hands.
In Faulkner’s case, that often was at Bridgewater Academy.
“We used to leave the window open in the science lab and sneak in on Saturdays and play,” Faulkner said. “Someone would come down and say, ‘How did you guys get in here?’ and we’d say, ‘Someone left the window open.’
“They’d say, ‘OK, when you guys get done someone close it up,’ and they’d leave us. There was nothing else to do so we’d go play basketball.”
The world is a much different place nearly seven decades later but Faulkner, now 80, continues to keep connected with his youth — though entry by window no longer is required.
After a playing career that ultimately earned him induction into what is now the University of Maine at Presque Isle Athletic Hall of Fame, the Island Falls native began coaching. That labor of love continues today with the boys junior varsity basketball team at Southern Aroostook High School in Dyer Brook.
Two state championships at Katahdin High School in Stacyville and more than 400 victories at Katahdin and the former Island Falls High School are part of a lifelong resume that has earned Faulkner membership in the 2020 Maine Basketball Hall of Fame induction class.
“I didn’t win any, the kids did,” Faulkner said during a press conference announcing the next inductees Wednesday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. “The kids played for me and they put up with me, and I was pretty tough. But I think it worked out pretty well and most of those kids have done well in life.
“It’s hard to put into words, but this is a tremendous feeling. I think it’s probably one of the nicest honors you could have.”
Joining Faulkner in the MBHoF Class of 2020 are Lynn Bay, Sharon Bay, Andy Bedard, Arnold “Arnie” Clark, T.J. Caouette, Heidi Deery, Tony DiBiase, Gerry Duffy, Ed Feeney, David Halligan, Elizabeth “Biz” Houghton, Gavin Kane, Ken Lynch, Chris Sawyer, Amy Vachon and Richard “Dickie” Whitmore Jr.
In the Legends category, Bryce Beattie, Ray Bicknell, Al Card, Peter Gribbin, Jim Poulin, Steve Shaw, Mike Thurston were chosen for inclusion. The hall also will honor the 1987 Morse High School boys team.
Inductions are scheduled for Aug. 16 at the Cross Insurance Center.
“The hall is still committed to reaching back,” Maine Basketball Hall of Fame executive director Tony Hamlin said. “Someone like Phil has been in the gym for 50 years-plus with a whistle around his neck working with kids, not only in basketball but with baseball and softball and every other sport that he’s coached.
“Phil’s generation is well represented in the hall and he is a huge addition to that and solidifies the mark he’s left in Aroostook County and all of Maine in basketball.”
Faulkner was a longtime physical education teacher and athletic director in Aroostook County who also coached soccer and baseball. In addition to his JV basketball coaching duties, he remains an active softball umpire.
He’s also a cancer survivor, having undergone surgery for colon cancer in 2007.
“I just keep going,” Faulkner said. “If you stop you’re dead. I can sit in a chair and watch TV and just fiddle away, but that’s not me. I’ve got to be active doing something.”
Faulkner derives much of that energy from the players he has coached over the years, and he injected energy in them with a simple philosophy he picked up from his former high school coach at Bridgewater Academy, Dougie Harrington.
“Mr. Harrington taught me that you’ve got to be strict but you’ve also got to be fair,” Faulkner said. “He said as long as you’re strict and fair the kids will respect you, and as long as you’ve got respect from the kids that’s all you can ask for.”
Harrington and Faulkner’s junior high basketball coach, Jay Brewer, were instrumental in his deciding to make a career out of teaching and coaching — along with his other options at the time.
“Basketball has meant so much to me,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for basketball it’s hard to tell where I’d be today.
“I decided when I got out of high school that I’d rather go to school than go work in a potato house in Monticello for 10 bucks a day.”