Houlton girls basketball coach Shawn Graham, shown here at the MPA tournament in 2017, is stepping down after 18 years with the team. Credit: Joseph Cyr / Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — After nearly two decades of success, Shawn Graham is stepping down as coach of the Houlton girls basketball team.

Graham confirmed Monday evening that he has resigned as the varsity girls basketball coach — a position he has held for the past 18 years. He is ending his coaching career with an overall record of 254 wins and 98 losses.

“The biggest reasons for the timing of me getting done are pretty much health and needing a lifestyle change,” Graham said. “Basketball in the state of Maine is a very exciting time of year, however, it also brings with it an enormous amount of stress and pressure that can take its toll on your body both physically and mentally over the long haul.”

Varsity coaches often have a shorter shelf life, particularly if a team struggles for several years. That has not been the case for coach Graham and the Shires.

The Shires captured four consecutive  regional titles (2015-18) and two state championships (2015 and 2016) under coach Graham. Houlton has the distinction of winning a state championship in Class C in 2015 (a 59-51 victory over Maranacook) and the following year moving up to Class B to win another (a 48-35 win over Gray-New Gloucester).

Whether competing in Class C or Class B, the Shires have been a regular fixture in the postseason for much of Graham’s tenure with the club.

Coaching is a huge commitment for the three months in the winter that include 5-6 days a week and weekend games, in addition to June and July for the summer program, Graham said.

“It is a lot of long trips, late nights up and down the highway, the stresses that come with winning and losing, competing for playoffs and championships, and trying to please everyone. It’s a difficult task that has become a little more challenging as time has gone on,” Graham said.

He said with his children grown and in college, he was looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his grandchildren.

“You typically have to plan family time, events, vacations around your games and practices and I’d just like a change and not have to worry so much about that anymore,” he said.

Graham, who serves as a physical education teacher in RSU 29 and has coached in some capacity for 25 years, said he has no immediate plans to get done teaching. He added that while he has no plans to coach again right away, he did not rule out a return to coaching at some point in the future.

One of his fondest memories is securing his first tournament win during the 2005-06 season when the Shires upset Calais in the quarterfinals, after having lost to the Blue Devils twice during the regular season. He considered Calais a model program in girls basketball under coaches Bob McShane and Dana Redding.

Another special moment for Graham came during the 2011-12 season when Samantha Keegan hit a bank shot at the old Bangor Auditorium at the buzzer, lifting No. 8 Houlton past No. 1 Orono.

“And of course my fondest memories were from the 2015-18 teams winning four regional championships and two state titles while in both Class C and B,” he said. “We had many very good players through that stretch and I was fortunate to have both my daughters (Kristen and Morgan) be a part of that, which made it an extra special time for me.”

Among the many things he said he will miss is helping the students become better players between their freshman and senior years. He will also miss the many friendships he has made along the way with rival coaches, officials and fans, he said.

“I’d like to think that part of my lasting legacy at Houlton High School would be something beyond the wins and losses,” he said. “I’d say loyalty. Loyalty to our school,  our kids, and our community. Regardless of the circumstances (strong teams or rebuilding years), there was no other place that I considered coaching high school basketball.”