Estella McLean didn’t raise her voice. Still, McLean had a tell, and when it happened, her players knew their coach wasn’t happy.

“Once in a blue moon, you’d see her drop her clip board,” said Rachel Austin-Lacasse, who played basketball for McLean at the University of Maine at Farmington from 1977 to 1981. “You knew when the clip board went down, there’d be a timeout.”

The women’s basketball coach at UMF from 1966 to 1985, McLean is one of the pioneers of women’s basketball in Maine. On Thursday, she’ll be honored for her important role when she’s inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class.

“I was very surprised, very humbled and very honored,” McLean said of being included in the Hall’s first class. “It’s really a very distinguished group.”

McLean goes into the Hall in the Legends of the Game category. The ceremony is at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

McLean graduated from New Gloucester High School in 1950, where she scored more than 2,000 points. In 1966, along with colleagues at colleges around the state, McLean formed the first intercollegiate women’s basketball league in Maine.

“There was no opposition whatsoever,” McLean said. “The administrators figured it was time for women to have the opportunity to compete in college athletics.”

Austin-Lacasse coached the girls basketball team at Mt. Blue High School for eight years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. McLean’s influence was a big reason she got into coaching, Austin-Lacasse said, and her mentor even served as an assistant coach on her staff for a time.

“Her commitment to making players understand and love the game is what stands out,” Austin-Lacasse said. “She opened the coaching doors for me. I never could get as much patience as she had, though.”

McLean was a proponent of the flex offense because of its ball movement, Austin-Lacasse said. When the Beavers defeated the University of Maine for the state title when Austin-Lacasse was a freshman, they did it by slowing the game down.

“(McLean) was very good at analyzing the other team’s weakness and using her strengths,” Austin-Lacasse said. “We expected to do well, but beat UMO?”

McLean scoured the state looking for players to come to UMF. Austin-Lacasse was an eighth grader in Bingham when she met McLean, who convinced her to attend the basketball camp for girls McLean started in 1971 with Len McPhee, a longtime coach at UMF.

For many girls, McLean’s camp was their first opportunity to get proper basketball instruction. McLean remembered a number of players arriving to camp with tennis shoes rather than basketball sneakers.

“High school players’ skills were very limited,” McLean said. “It took four or five years before skills started to come around.”

McLean also was a driving force in convincing the Maine Principals’ Association to hold a girls basketball tournament. The girls tournament began in 1975. Austin-Lacasse remembered McPhee speaking at the basketball camp, and pointing to McLean.

“He said ‘You can thank her. Without her pushing and pushing, you wouldn’t have a tournament,'” Austin-Lacasse said. “She just had a way with people… She was very good at making you understand you can’t just go gangbusters at something. You need to set up an action plan.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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