Fort Kent coach Kelly O’Leary has been named Class C North Girls 2022 Coach of the Year by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches. Credit: Jessica Potila / Saint John Valley Times

FORT KENT, Maine — Fort Kent coach Kelly O’Leary has been named Class C North Girls 2022 Coach of the Year by the Maine Association of Basketball Coaches.

“To have the respect of your peers is important and something every coach strives for,” O’Leary said, reacting to the accolade recently.

Each year the MABC, composed of high school basketball coaches, votes to honor one girls coach and one boys coach in each class from the North and each class from the South.

“These coaches typically have given above and beyond the call of duty and tend to bring out the best in their players,” according to the MABC website.

In his seventh year coaching the Warriors, O’Leary has seen the ups and downs of high-school basketball, and while the coach of the year honor is meaningful, it is not what he considers his legacy.

“Winning a gold ball or banner or a personal award is certainly part of what coaches work toward, however my true report card will be in 10 or 15 years, when I see my past players become successful adults. That’s my true reward and to know we had a small part in that is reward enough,” O’Leary said.

Fort Kent girls assistant coach Alexa Massey said O’Leary has a “passion for basketball.” She said O’Leary is a coach who never misses a practice, is always the first to show up at games and unlock the gym doors, and spends countless hours, even during the offseason, researching and planning basketball strategy for his team.

“Most of all he gets to know the players and you can tell that he cares deeply about each one of them, reminding them to put family first and being very understanding when they’ve come to him with anything,” Massey said. “He is a coach that encourages his players to be mentally tough and confident – knowing when to push and when to crack a joke.”

O’Leary has coached Fort Kent sophomore Hannah Lovley at the varsity level for two years and in the Aroostook Youth Basketball League.

“Coach Kelly is a good coach because he cares about us more than just the game. He teaches us life lessons and always believes in us even when we don’t always believe in ourselves,” Lovely said.

O’Leary will coach the McDonald’s All-Star girls team March 12 at Husson University.

“I look forward to coaching the All-Star game and to get to see the talented players and network with other coaches,” O’Leary said. “My strategy is to play everyone and showcase the players’ talents.”

It was a good year for Fort Kent High School basketball as Warrior boys coach Chad Cyr was selected Class C North Boys Coach of the Year.

“Kelly and Chad both bring a welcoming and inclusive touch in their coaching style that makes each student athlete feel special and an important part of their teams,” Fort Kent Community High School Principal John Kaleta said. “We are so fortunate to have them both as coaches and so happy that their peers have recognized the important work they do.”

O’Leary said he will return to coach the Warriors next year and is excited about the future of girls basketball in Fort Kent.

O’Leary and his wife Joanne are parents to son Kale O’Leary, a Maine game warden, and daughters Jordan, a University of Maine at Fort Kent student and former Fort Kent Warrior coached by her dad, and Kassidy, a senior on the team this year.