Gavin Kane’s comments on why he resigned as Mt. Blue High School’s girls basketball coach resonate with at least some of his former coaching rivals.

In addition to personal reasons — such as wanting to watch his daughter play college basketball — for stepping down after two seasons at his alma mater, Kane said he’s become discouraged with what he sees as cultural changes in high school basketball. More and more, he said, players lack commitment but not for a sense of entitlement. And parents are doing little to encourage the former and discourage the latter.

Three former coaching rivals — former Mt. Abram girls coach Doug Lisherness, longtime Madison girls coach Al Veneziano and former Winthrop girls coach Ray Convery — understand to varying degrees Kane’s frustration. They said they see the culture changing throughout high school athletics, in both girls and boys sports.

Player commitment to the sport has changed the most, Lisherness said. Early in his 27 years as varsity girls basketball coach at Mt. Abram, he had enough players to bring three teams of 10 to a summer basketball camp.

However, as his career wound down, Lisherness, who retired in 2013, “had all I could do to get seven or eight girls to go.”

“I miss (coaching), but toward the end of it, the commitment was just not there,” he said.

Lisherness said increased summer activities in other sports such as soccer and softball impacted the basketball program. With those conflicting interests, players who did make the commitment to basketball would get more playing time over others who didn’t, which led to more friction with parents.

“The parents didn’t want their children playing summer basketball and going to softball camps and basketball camps and soccer camps and other things,” he said. “There would be kids who played all summer who started over the kids who only showed up half the time. And there were parents who wanted their daughters to play the entire game, regardless of skill level.”

Convery, who spent 26 seasons on the Winthrop bench in two separate stints, said the vast majority of parents were supportive when he coached, and continue to be in his current role as an assistant for Monmouth girls coach Scott Wing.

He sympathizes with parents and athletes because of the time and financial commitment high school athletics require. He said most parents are trying to do the best they can for their children. But it is getting increasingly difficult to keep those interests from colliding with team interests.

Player expectations have also changed, he said.

“They seem to be brought up with this (idea) where playing JVs, they don’t want to do that right now,” Convery said.

“It’s a change in society,” he added. “To play basketball, it’s a very skill-specific sport and you have got to work at it.”

Veneziano, who just completed his 30th season as Madison’s girls coach, said he has no complaints about parents except that they may be discouraging their kids from playing certain sports at a young age.

“Today, kids get put onto travel teams very early and we reduce the numbers of potential players very quickly,” he said. “In third grade, fourth grade, they’re already being picked for those teams, and the ones that aren’t picked decide it’s not worth playing anymore, and that reduces the numbers.”

Besides numbers, Veneziano said many coaches lack support from school administration. Some schools change athletic directors as fast as they do coaches. One of the reasons he has been coaching at Madison for three decades, he said, is because there has been little turnover at the top of the athletic department.

“With longevity comes some respect from the community,” he said. “Coaches aren’t going to have stability if athletic directors don’t have stability.”

Added Lisherness: “If you had a parent with a complaint, they took care of the problem. When you have a good AD, in a nutshell, they’re saying ‘I’m going to let Doug coach. There’s a reason he’s doing what he’s doing and he must be doing something right.’ Nowadays, they’re very quick to go along with the parents and they won’t stand up for the coach.”

All three coaches competed against Kane when he led Dirigo to 12 straight Mountain Valley Conference titles, 11 consecutive Western Class C titles and six state championships as coach there from 1994-2007. All three said they hope he gets back on the sidelines soon.

“If he doesn’t feel supported. … I understand what he’s saying,” Convery said. “You hate to see basketball lose someone like him because he’s a great coach.”

“I certainly hope he’ll turn up,” Veneziano added. “I have tremendous respect for him. He’s a good guy. He’s a hard worker. He’s always had the kids’ best interest in mind.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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