SALEM — Doug Lisherness has put in 26 seasons as the girls basketball coach at Mt. Abram. At age 64, he’s decided that’s plenty.
“I always said I would coach as long as I had the numbers,” Lisherness said. “My numbers are definitely down, and I’m not getting any younger, either.”
Lisherness has three regular season games remaining in his final season as coach of the Roadrunners. Mt. Abram has several long trips in the Mountain Valley Conference, and those late nights were also a factor in Lisherness deciding it was time to move on.
The Roadrunners had several players decide not to come out for the team this season (some of them later reconsidered) and also had two players leave the team after the season began. Lisherness said that had nothing to do with his decision to resign.
“That’s not it,” he said. “It’s just time, that’s all. I actually made (the decision) before the season even started.”
Under Lisherness, Mt. Abram won state championships in 1991 and 2007. Lisherness said the 1991 team has had reunions at his house.
“I get letters and emails from players, thanking me for working them so hard during their four years of high school, because it helped them later in life,” Lisherness said. “That kind of keeps you going, that’s for sure.”
Lisherness always believed in his teams working hard, and the Roadrunners were known for being scrappy and playing an exciting brand of basketball. He was an old-school character, sometimes hilarious, sometimes blunt, but always devoted to winning and developing his players.
“He’s just always been someone who I could call and ask questions,” Rangeley girls coach Heidi Deery said. “He’s a straight shooter, which I really appreciate. He pushes kids to be better than they thought they could be, and work harder than they want to.”
Deery said Lisherness helped her greatly after she was hired to coach at Rangeley in the late 1980s. Lisherness came to practice to work with Rangeley players, and one summer, when the Lakers couldn’t use the Rangeley gym, he let Deery use a gym in Phillips.
“He helped me get contacts with other coaches,” Deery said. “He got me hooked up to the old team basketball camp at Unity College. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor, or really someone to get me into coaching.”
Like many coaches, Lisherness relished the chance to teach, and those moments where a player did something that she couldn’t do one year earlier.
“I’ve always said there’s nothing any more satisfying than to work on (something) in practice, and to go and see your team execute it during the game,” Lisherness said. “I love teaching the game of basketball, and I love seeing them develop throughout their high school career.”
Lisherness was a standout basketball player at Strong High School in the 1960s, where he set Class D tournament records with 19 free throws in a game and 33 in a tournament. He scored over 2,000 points in his career at Strong.
Jim Bessey, another local coaching icon, retired from coaching the Mt. Blue boys team last year and joined the University of Maine at Farmington’s men basketball coaching staff this winter. Lisherness insists he is done with coaching, and hopes to spend a lot of time next winter hunting with his grandsons.
“(The players) have kept me young at heart and I loved every year of it, but I know I won’t coach again anywhere,” Lisherness said. “If I had any doubts in my mind, I’d be staying right here at Mt. Abram.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243