When Augusta native Amy Vachon finished her decorated playing career at the University of Maine in 2000, she figured she was done with basketball.

“Ask anyone, I was always, ‘I’m never going to coach,’” she said.

In the two years she spent earning a master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, Vachon didn’t attend a single game or play pickup basketball.

How things have changed.

After a successful 14 months as the interim women’s basketball coach at UMaine, Vachon, 39, was announced Friday as the team’s new head coach. Her four-year contract will pay $120,000 per year, with $5,000 annual increases starting in her second year.

Vachon began having talks with Athletic Director Karlton Creech about taking over as the permanent head coach “maybe a couple of weeks ago,” she said. “It just progressed from there.”

Vachon was in her sixth season on the Maine staff when she took over as the interim coach in January 2017 after head coach Richard Barron went on an extended medical leave.

Vachon led Maine to the America East tournament championship game in 2017. This season the Black Bears finished first during the regular season, and on Friday night Vachon was honored as the conference’s Coach of the Year.

Maine is the top seed in the America East tournament, with the quarterfinals and semifinals to be held this weekend at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

As an interim coach, Vachon led the Black Bears to a 31-16 record.

“Amy has provided amazing leadership for women’s basketball, resulting this year in a successful season that has rocked the Cross Center,” said the UMaine president, Susan J. Hunter, in a press release. “She has been a tremendous asset to the program that she knows so well.”

Barron’s future with the university remains unclear. In April 2016 he signed a contract extension as head coach that runs through 2020. In December, Barron returned from his medical leave to begin a temporary role through the end of June as a special assistant to Creech. The school announced in February that Creech is leaving UMaine for a similar position at the University of Denver.

Neither Barron nor Creech were available for comment Friday.

“Coach Barron and I are very good friends,” Vachon said. “He always said, when he first hired me, ‘Amy, I hope this is your program one day. And I always said, ‘Yeah, OK, that’s not going to happen.’ But he always said that to me. It may not have happened in the way that either of us thought it would happen, but he’s 100 percent behind me and behind everything.”

In Vachon, Maine gets a coach with a long association with the state.

Vachon was a two-year captain and point guard at UMaine from 1996-2000 on teams that earned berths in the NCAA tournament four times under Coach Joanne P. McCallie.

She still holds America East and school records for assists in a season and career.

“I am absolutely thrilled for Amy and her family and the University of Maine in her appointment as head coach,” said McCallie, now the head coach at Duke University. “Amy is a relentless recruiter and an excellent tactician. She knows the game. She brought the University of Maine to its highest level of competition when she played and she is already achieving such success as the head coach.”

Vachon is a graduate of Cony High in Augusta, where she played for her father, Paul Vachon, and was Miss Maine Basketball as a senior in 1996. She was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.

Vachon’s first coaching gig was leading a seventh-grade team in Westbrook. She was head coach at Waterville High for one year and an assistant at Greely in Cumberland for a few seasons before leading McAuley High to the 2011 Class A state championship in her only season.

“My background is education, so teaching and coaching, it’s really the same thing,” Vachon said. “And connecting with the kids is so important. You know coaching is really more than X’s and O’s. It’s really connecting with the kids and figuring out what motivates them.”

Barron hired Vachon as part of his first coaching staff at Maine in 2011. She was promoted to associate head coach in 2016.

“The tremendous success that the program has experienced over the past seven years can be directly attributed to Amy’s efforts, capped by the incredible achievement of a regular-season championship in her first full year at the helm,” Barron said in the press release.

“She epitomizes what UMaine women’s basketball is all about. I am so happy for her, for the players and for the staff. Congratulations Amy.”

Staff writer Mike Lowe contributed to this story.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

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