Tom Tennett, a well-known sports figure in the Bangor area who coached the Bangor High School girls basketball team for 25 years before stepping down in 2010, died last Friday. He was 71.
His death was confirmed Monday by Mark Hackett, his brother-in-law, who cited a combination of factors that contributed to his death including shingles and COVID-19. Tennett underwent a heart transplant several years ago.
The Brewer native led the Rams to several Eastern Maine Class A Tournament appearances during his tenure and attended Bangor’s John Bapst High School where he played basketball and was an accomplished track athlete who specialized in the high jump.
He went to the University of Maine and was a high jumper on the Black Bear track team.
After graduating from UMaine, Tennett was a co-op teacher at Brewer High School and coached freshman football and junior varsity basketball before taking the varsity girls job at Bangor High. He went on to teach co-op at Bangor High.
“I am very shocked and saddened with the news of Tom’s passing,” said Bangor High School Athletic Director Steve Vanidestine. “He was a very good friend and an outstanding coach/teacher. He was an integral part of our outstanding success during his tenure as the head coach of girls basketball at BHS. He will be greatly missed.”
Former Brewer High girls coach Paul Soucy was a close friend of Tennett’s and they also coached against each other.
“He was a very hard-working coach,” said Soucy. “He did a lot of scouting [of other teams]. He was very thorough. His teams were always very well-prepared.”
Soucy shared a light-hearted moment they had one year in the mid 1980s.
“We played each other in the last regular season game and the winner was going to be the eighth seed for the [Eastern Maine] Class A Tournament,” Soucy said. “Bangor won the game. The top seed was Waterville that year. Stearns held us scoreless in a quarter during a game during the regular season and Waterville did the same to Bangor in their quarterfinal.
“Tom said to me ‘The difference is Stearns held [Brewer] scoreless in front of 200 or 300 fans but Waterville held his team scoreless in front of thousands of fans and a TV audience. He joked that he might have been better off losing to us in that regular season game,” Soucy said.
Soucy added that Tennett was a great fund-raiser who raised thousands of dollars for the first ever Big East high school basketball banquet in 1988.
Former Bangor High football coach Hackett worked with Tennett for 19 years at Bangor High. He was a co-op teacher and the director of the United Technologies Center in Bangor and Hackett was Bangor’s work-study coordinator. They shared the same office.
“Tom always had a spot in his heart for the kids who struggled,” Hackett said. “And he was a company man. He never said a bad word about anyone. And he took care of me really well. He was more like a brother than a brother-in-law.”
Another of his closest friends was former Brewer athletic director Dennis Kiah.
“He was a wonderful person. He put others before himself all the time,” Kiah said. “He was a great family man who not only cared about his own family, but also about the kids he coached.”
Kiah said his son, Andy, got tickets for himself, Tennett, Mike Missbrenner and Tennett’s son John along with the wives for a New York Giants game against the Carolina Panthers in North Carolina.
Former Bangor High School and Husson University football coach Gabby Price said Tennett was all about family.
“He loved his wife, their three children and their grandchildren,” Price said. “He was a very quiet and very caring person who was very supportive to so many people in so many different ways including me and my family.”
Tennett and wife Nancy Hackett had three children who were all very athletic. John, a three-sports standout at Bangor High, followed his father to UMaine and played football for the Black Bears. Angie and Becky were multiple-sports athletes at Bangor High and Angie went on to play basketball at Colby College.
“He was very bright and he had great passion for sports and for life,” Price said.
Price also said Tennett did a great job running Bangor’s summer basketball programs.
“His teams were always very-well respected,” Price said.
Price said Tennett was always “very courageous” in dealing with his health issues.
Hackett agreed, saying Tennett went through a lot of issues with his heart “but he never complained and he was always positive.”
Hackett pointed out that several family members went to Boston where Tennett had his heart transplant and, following the 13-hour surgery, they went back to the hotel expecting not to be able to see him for several days.
“Just hours after the surgery, he asked my sister where all his company was. She called us and went back to see him. It was incredible,” Hackett said.