BY GARY HAWKINS

Staff Writer

A lot of high school basketball coaches spend their whole careers without reaching a state championship game. Cony High School’s Karen Magnusson did it in just her fourth year.

This year, Magnusson’s Rams finished unbeaten in the regular season and 21-1 overall after losing to defending champion Catherine McAuley in the Class A state championship game. The years leading to the state final were vitally important to Magnusson’s development as a coach. It also gave her time to step away from the giant shadow cast by Paul Vachon who preceded her and won seven state championships and 92 percent of the games he coached,

“That’s going to happen when you have one of the best coaches in the state,” Magnusson said. “It’s going to take a couple of years for anybody.”

For her efforts, Magnusson has been named Kennebec Journal Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. Hall-Dale’s Brandon Terrill, Richmond’s Molly Bishop and Gardiner’s Mike Gray were also considered

Magnusson, who teaches fourth graders in Winthrop, said getting to know her players over the past four years has been important to her success.

“I think they know me well as a person not just a coach,” she said. “I’m there for them and I care about them.”

Magnusson was just a couple of years removed from her playing days at the University of Maine at Farmington when she was hired to coach at her alma mater at age 23. She drew her on-court philosophy from both UMF coach Jamie Beaudoin and Vachon, who coached her in high school.

“You play your heart out on defense and you let it go on offense,” she said. “I’m OK with some bad shots, I’m OK with some turnovers. The offense is supposed to be the fun part.”

Magnusson has always been a student of the game — Beaudoin called her a coach in the huddle when she played at Farmington — but she watched more film and read more about basketball in the past couple of years. She’s also had the luxury of bouncing ideas off her husband Travis, who coached the Dirigo boys team to the Class C state title this year.

“I’m lucky enough to have my husband who I think is a great coach,” she said.

Magnusson has earned a reputation in her own right, though. Her teams play relentless defense and when her players aren’t driving to the basket, they shoot 3-pointers with impunity.

“She’s definitely matured over four years,” senior point guard Mia Diplock said. “She’s competitive on and off the court. Her drive to win helps us.”

Magnusson said wins are less important to her now than they were four years ago.

“Relationships and memories,” she said. “It hit me at the Eastern Maine (tournament) right after we won. It was pure happiness in a high school girl’s face.”

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

 


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