The rise of Maine’s top basketball coaches and players typically has roots within the confines of the playing surface, be it at a local recreation center, high school and college gymnasiums, or the state’s largest arenas.
But for many members of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 that were inducted Sunday at the Anah Temple Shriners Hall in Bangor, just as much of that foundation could be found at home, where competition often was keen but family support was unwavering.
For inductee Dick Whitmore III, a former standout guard at Waterville High School and Brown University, much of that early competition came against a 2016 Maine Basketball Hall of Famer, his brother Kevin.
“There was always a time in every day when we competed in something,” Whitmore said. “It was really great to have that level of camaraderie with somebody so close.”
The Whitmore brothers were preceded in the MBHoF in 2014 by their father Dick, the longtime former men’s basketball coach at Colby College, and together they now represent the first trio from the same household to be inducted. The Whitmores were just one of several familial connections in this year’s class of inductees.
“My dad was so supportive but never pushed anything on us,” said Dick III, who later followed his father’s footsteps as a coach at Daniel Webster College, Kenyon College and Wesleyan University before moving into sports administration. He currently is executive associate athletic director at Dartmouth College.
“He wanted us to come upon basketball on our own and that was perhaps why we enjoyed it so much, because we never felt like it was forced.”
Another new inductee, former Cony of Augusta basketball standout and current University of Maine women’s basketball coach Amy Vachon, can appreciate many of Whitmore’s sentiments. Her dad, Paul Vachon, also was a coach and a member of the hall’s first induction class in 2014.
“I grew up at my dad’s practices running around, it was just part of our life,” she said. “He was really good, especially when I played for him. We never really talked about it a lot at home, but growing up he’d have coaches over to watch film and I’d be in the other room kind of watching. It was just part of our family and our extended family.”
Vachon and Whitmore were two of 17 honorees in a class that originally was selected in 2020 but had to wait a year to be inducted due to COVID-19.
Others selected were Lynn Bay Morang, Sharon Bay, Andy Bedard, Arnold “Arnie” Clark, T.J. Caouette, Heidi Deery, Tony DiBiase, Gerry Duffy, Phil Faulkner, Ed Feeney, David Halligan, Elizabeth “Biz” Houghton, Gavin Kane, Ken Lynch and Chris Sawyer.
Clark and Duffy were honored posthumously.
Also recognized were seven Legends of the Game: Bryce Beattie, Ray Bicknell, Al Card (posthumous), Peter Gribbin, Jim Poulin, Steve Shaw and Mike Thurston, as well as the 1987 Morse High School of Bath boys basketball team, which captured the first of the school’s three straight Class A state championships under head coach Tom Maines.
Sharon Bay and Lynn Bay Morang became the first siblings to be inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame in the same year after starring for some of Portland High School’s powerhouse teams of the mid- and late-1980s and then moving on to separate Division I basketball careers.
While the sisters just missed being varsity teammates at Portland, they became opponents for a year in college when Sharon was a freshman at the University of Vermont and Lynn was a senior at Boston University.
“We won in Vermont and she won in Boston,” Sharon said, just before Lynn completed the thought with, “which was good for my parents.”
With another sister among the family’s five children, Stacey, playing at Bowdoin College at the same time, it made for a hectic travel schedule for parents John and Ann Bay.
“Between regular season and tournaments my parents went to 75 basketball games that year,” Sharon said.
The sisters said their growth in the sport featured a traditional tool during the pre-AAU days: a backyard basket.
“Growing up with five kids, somebody was always playing something so you’d always have someone to play with. My dad eventually came to the realization that a couple of us may be pretty good at it so he put the backyard hoop up,” Morang said.
“But the basketball hoop was against the wall of the garage so you had to do a layup a certain way. It wasn’t anything fancy but it was just a good way to connect with each other and also get better.”
And while there was on-court competition between the sisters at times, it ultimately was superseded by family unity, which made Sunday’s shared induction even more rewarding.
“I think that’s probably the best part of it,” Morang said. “When we were walking in to meet with the rest of the inductees, I said to Sharon, ‘I’m so glad you’re here with me.’”