Assistant coach Ralph Michaud (left) joins the players in listening to Presque Isle head coach Jeff Hudson during a 2020 tournament game in Bangor. Michaud is stepping down after 34 seasons as an assistant for the Wildcats' girls and boys programs. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

Ralph Michaud has spent the last 34 years as an assistant basketball coach for the boys and then the girls teams at Presque Isle High School while teaching at various schools within School Administrative District 1.

He will soon be trading in his whistle and school computer for winters on the golf courses near his home in Vero Beach, Florida.

Michaud, a Fort Fairfield native, will retire in June as a physical education teacher for students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade at the Mapleton Elementary School. He also is stepping down from his basketball position.

“There were a lot of different reasons that led to my decision,” said the 60-year-old Michaud. “One is that my dad [Ralph Sr.] died at 50 [of a heart attack]. Both of my parents were teachers. He was still teaching and never got to enjoy his retirement.”

He will continue to serve as the head coach of the Presque Isle High School girls soccer team and spend his summers chasing golf balls around courses in Maine and Canada.

“I didn’t want to become an angry old man going to school every day like some I have seen before me,” Michaud said. “I still like teaching. Going to work every day, having fun, is half the battle. The kids keep you on your toes all the time.”

Michaud spent 21 years assisting Tim Prescott with the Presque Isle boys team before working for Jeff Hudson with the Presque Isle girls the past 13 seasons.

“This is going to be good for Ralph, but sad for the rest of us,” Hudson said. “He has had such a big influence on the players and the coaches.

Mars Hill Rotary President Ed Wright, right, presents the trophy for the 2020 Alton McQuade Mars Hill Open golf championship to Ralph Michaud of Presque Isle. Credit: Houlton Pioneer Times file photo

“His knowledge of the game is excellent. He was in charge of most of our plays, like our out-of-bounds plays. And he is great with the kids,” Hudson said.

The Wildcats won three Class B girls regional championships and claimed back-to-back state titles in 2012 and ’13. They played in five regional championship games.

“He did a lot for the program. He helped out in a lot of different ways,” PI junior guard Faith Sjoberg said. “He would talk to us and give us pointers on things we hadn’t noticed.”

The Presque Isle boys never won a championship, but played in four regional title games.

“If Ralph made a suggestion, you did it. No questions asked. That’s because 99 percent of the time he was right,” Prescott said. “He made us look good. And he was a great go-between between me and the players.”

Michaud intends to return to Maine to attend the high school basketball tournaments in February.

“The thing I am going to miss the most is working with the coaches and players every day,” Michaud said. “I knew going into this year it was going to be my last season in basketball. It is kind of bittersweet because I would have rather ended my career at the Cross Insurance Center.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no regional tournaments or state championship games last winter.

Winning the state championships in 2012 and 2013 will always be special memories for Michaud.

“Winning that first gold ball always sticks with you,” he said.

Chandler Guerette was their leading scorer in both state-game victories over Lake Region, including 33 points, 14 in the fourth quarter, in a 51-44 triumph in 2013.

“She took the game over. That was sweet for me because I had been her P.E. teacher since she was 4 years old,” Michaud said.

Michaud graduated from Fort Fairfield High and earned a physical education degree from the University of Maine at Presque Isle. He played basketball, baseball and golf at Fort Fairfield and soccer and basketball at UMPI.

He is in the sports hall of fame at both schools.

“I’ve met all of my best friends through sports,” Michaud said.

Michaud also is a competitive amateur golfer in Maine and Canada. He won the 2019 New Brunswick Senior Open title.

Michaud directed the Presque Isle girls soccer team to four regional championships between 2008 and 2018 and will begin his 25th year next fall.

“Anybody who knows Ralph loves him,” Hudson said.