Jamie Russell poses with members of the Central High School girls basketball team after he earned his 400th career coaching victory on Tuesday. Credit: Courtesy of Jared Foster

Central High School girls basketball Jamie Russell took a lighthearted look at his accomplishment of reaching the 400-win plateau after his team’s 48-36 victory over Foxcroft Academy of Dover-Foxcroft on Tuesday night in Corinth.

“It means I’m stupid enough to coach for a long time,” quipped the 60-year-old Russell, who retired from teaching in 2020.

According to records compiled by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches, Russell is only the 27th Maine high school coach to reach 400 victories.

Russell amassed 340 wins over 32 years coaching boys teams at Penobscot Valley in Howland, Central and Piscatatquis Community in Guilford. Tuesday’s triumph was his 60th in his fourth season directing the girls program at Central.

He has a career record of 400-286 and 22 of his teams have won at least 10 regular-season games.

And there is no retirement from coaching in his future.

“I still enjoy the practices,” the Lagrange native said. “I still like the planning and seeing progress. I still enjoy the whole process.

Central High School athletic administrator Jared Foster (with basketball) presents Red Devils girls basketball coach Jamie Russell with a ball commemorating his 400th career victory. They are joined by team members who helped celebrate the milestone after Tuesday’s victory in Corinth over Foxcroft Academy. Credit: Courtesy of Jared Foster

“As long as the kids still respond to me, I’d like to keep coaching as long as I can,” Russell said. “I’m not a great winter person. I don’t snowmobile, ice fish or ski.

“Basketball is my Band-aid for the winter,” he said.

Russell said this has been a different season with no Maine Principals’ Association regional tournaments and state championship games to pursue. Those were canceled because of COVID-19, but he intends to make it a positive experience for his girls, who could still qualify for a postseason tournament made of teams from a pod in their region.

Russell’s teams have been regular regional tournament participants and his 2001 PCHS team won the Eastern Maine Class C title before losing to Boothbay Region 71-66 in the state title game.

His team finished 21-1.

“I lost to I.J. Pinkham,” Russell said of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame coach who compiled a high school boys state record 659 wins in 44 seasons at Boothbay.

Russell said he almost gave up coaching in the early ’90s in order to spend more time with his sons Bryan and Richie. But he said Bryan loved basketball and Richie was understanding and supportive, so he stayed with it.

Central athletic director Jared Foster said the players made posters for Russell and presented him with a painted basketball commemorating his 400th win after Tuesday’s game.

“And the coolest part was when Jamie left the gym, the parents stayed around in their cars, honked their horns and thanked him,” Foster said.

Foster said the players love playing for Russell and there is a tremendous source of pride in the basketball program at the school.

“And Jamie is a big part of it,” Foster said.

Russell said the outpouring of congratulatory messages he has received has been overwhelming.

“I coached freshman basketball at Penquis High School of Milo in the ’80s and I even heard from some of those players,” he said.

Alden Gregory assisted Russell when he was coaching the Piscataquis High School boys team.

“I couldn’t have had a better mentor. You couldn’t ask for a better person to learn from,” Gregory said.

“I’m so happy for him. He loves the game and loves his players. He made me a better coach,” said Gregory, who is now the PCHS boys coach.

Russell, the grandfather of two, is also a soccer referee.

“I’m sure there are coaches who would like me to [retire] from that, too,” he said.

Russell admitted coaching girls after 32 years working with boys teams is a little different, but just as enjoyable.

“Girls are a little more relaxed and laid-back. They’ll break out into song on the bus and they aren’t afraid to dance in front of me before games, things boys wouldn’t normally do,” he said.

Russell played soccer, basketball and baseball at Penquis and graduated from the University of Maine, where he studied physical education and special education.