Dick Whitmore coached the Colby College men’s basketball team for 40 years and won 637 games.

Ron Cote was the face of Biddeford High basketball for 23 years, coaching both the boys and girls, and also coached at the University of New England for seven years.

Both retired as head coaches several years ago but aren’t done coaching yet.

Whitmore has been an assistant coach to Lynne Hasson for the South Portland girls’ basketball team for the last three years. The Riots are ranked first in Class AA South with a 17-1 record.

Cote is in his first season as an assistant coach to Dean Plante for the Old Orchard Beach girls’ team after spending a couple of years at Waynflete. The Seagulls are ranked third in Class C South with a 15-3 record.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said the 68-year-old Cote, who began his coaching career in 1973 at Old Town and retired as the Scarborough girls’ coach in 2013 because of health reasons. “I just go in there and teach some individual things, then I go home and I don’t have to worry about the other stuff that goes with being a head coach.”

“It’s an absolutely wonderful experience,” said the 75-year-old Whitmore, who retired from Colby in 2011. “It’s totally different from coaching college men to coaching high school girls. But the girls are absolutely terrific in how they respond. They want to do better and they listen.”

It’s no coincidence that both teams are having tremendous seasons.

“Honestly, it’s fabulous to have someone of that caliber on the bench,” said Hasson. “Any time you have someone with that amount of knowledge and experience to ask, ‘What are you thinking? How about if we try this?’ it’s a tremendous resource. And he really has a passion for the game.”

Both of them work with players in practice and offer suggestions during games. Whitmore is also an exceptional scout, presenting precise game plans to the Riots. “He’s great at remembering things,” said Hasson. “He’ll say, ‘This is what they do, remember how we defend it.’ ”

Plante, also the athletic director at Old Orchard, first tapped into Cote’s knowledge back in the mid-1990s, when Cote held basketball camps at UNE.

“He and Bob Brown would let me come over and pick their brains, watch them work,” said Plante. “I learned so much. Now it’s fun. He brings a different perspective. He’s a fantastic practice coach; he breaks every detail down.”

Cote had been a volunteer assistant with the Old Orchard Beach boys after retiring from Scarborough, then moved on to help with the Waynflete girls for a couple of years.

“I think I’ve still got something to offer,” said Cote. “I think I can help them get better and I can help the coaches I work with. And when I walk into that gym, it energizes me and I get excited to work with the kids.”

And they love having him on the court.

“Our energy level is so much higher this year,” said Megan Niedzwiecki, a senior forward.

“He brings a new level of intensity to our practices,” said Brianna Plante, a senior guard.

“Oh yeah,” said Megan LaPlante, a senior center. “He nitpicks everything you do, so that you learn to do what you do better.”

More than that, said Kaitlyn Cote, a senior guard, he makes the Seagulls think positively. “He helps build your confidence,” she said. “He’s shown me what I need to do to get better. And I have gotten better. I trust him because of all his experience.”

South Portland senior guard Sarah Boles said Whitmore has a similar effect on the Riots.

“His insight into the game is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard from other coaches,” she said. “He’s given me a lot of confidence by always telling me to shoot. He really tries to incorporate me into the offense by telling me to get to the open spots, get into the gaps.”

Whitmore’s decision to return was also personal – he has two granddaughters on the Riots: junior forward Katie Whitmore and sophomore forward Maggie Whitmore.

“To be at practice every day with my two granddaughters is really special,” he said.

As it is for them. “It’s the best,” said Katie Whitmore. “He just has so much knowledge about the game and so much passion, it really helps us a lot.”

Asked if they talk basketball off the court, both said, “All the time.”

“We’re always learning something new,” said Maggie. “He has so much passion and it shows all the time.”

As much as Whitmore and Cote enjoy their roles, sometimes they have to remember they’re not the head coach.

Asked if he ever wanted to shout instructions during a game, Whitmore said, “Probably every play.”

Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH

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