Jason Coleman of Orono has been hired as the new women's basketball coach at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Thomas College

Jason Coleman has experienced life as a basketball coach at nearly every level of the sport, short of the pros.

That includes time spent in the Division I and junior college ranks, as a high school head coach and subvarsity leader, and in the AAU circuit.

That nearly two-decade journey now has landed the 36-year-old Orono resident in the NCAA Division III North Atlantic Conference as the new head coach of the women’s basketball team at Thomas College in Waterville.

The new Thomas College women’s basketball coach faces an immediate rebuilding task as he replaces Emily Cummins, who left after compiling a 41-134 record over the last eight seasons, including 2-19 overall and 1-10 in the NAC this past winter.

Just four players are expected to return from that 2021-22 squad.

“It’s a great opportunity for myself and my family,” said Coleman, a married father of three sons. “It’s an opportunity for me to get into basketball full time, which has always been the dream, and to do it without having to relocate our kids and without it a big change of lifestyle for them.”

Coleman, who had served as men’s basketball coach at University of Maine at Augusta since 2020, will take the reins at Thomas on April 25.

“I am thrilled to welcome coach Coleman to our athletics staff,” Thomas College athletic director Chris Parsons said. “He brings a wealth of experience from all levels of coaching and a passion for coaching. I look forward to watching him elevate our women’s basketball program.”

Coleman played basketball and football at Orono High School until his graduation in 2003, and his basketball coaching career began soon after that with a year as freshman coach and varsity assistant at John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor.

As an AAU coach, Coleman led teams to two national championships and five state championships, three while in Maine. He also coached AAU basketball in Indiana and South Carolina and was a three-time coach of the year.

Coleman became the boys varsity basketball coach at Orono High School in 2011 and guided his alma mater to three regional championship-game appearances in seven seasons with the Red Riots.

He served as director of recruiting and basketball operations at the University of Maine during the 2018-19 season.

“It’s a small roster of returning players right now, which is good and bad,” Coleman said of his new team at Thomas College. “It gives me the opportunity as an incoming coach to bring in a big recruiting class in year one and put a stamp on it early, but the bad is that it’s a small returning nucleus that has played Maine college basketball.”

Coleman also faces the challenge of matching wits with the likes of such veteran NAC head coaches as Kissy Walker of Husson College, Craig Dagan of Maine Maritime Academy and Gavin Kane of UMaine-Presque Isle.

“There are some really good and successful coaches in the NAC that are going to make sure I bring my best every day,” he said.

Coleman also sees their presence on rival sidelines as evidence of the possibilities inherent in a coaching job within the conference.

“If you look at the top teams in the NAC they all have tenured coaches, and with that one thing about the Thomas position that appealed to me is that you can have longevity and success at this level in this conference,” he said.

Coleman’s arrival on the West River Road campus coincides with the construction of a new on-campus athletic center that will complement the existing Harold Alfond Athletic Center that the college’s basketball teams call home.

The 18,000-square-foot facility is scheduled to open this fall.

“Thomas has a lot of good things going on right now,” Coleman said. “I’m just appreciative of this opportunity, and we’re going to hit the ground running in a couple of weeks.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...