Basketball fan and former coach Ed Coffin, left, had a his favorite seat commemorated with an yellow paint job and a personalized plaque that was unveiled by center director Earl Kingsbury, right, on Thursday in the Augusta Civic Center Staff photo by Joe Phelan

AUGUSTA — Section 17, row H, seat 17 at the Augusta Civic Center is not at center court. It’s not on the aisle, one seat in from the aisle, actually, or particularly close to a restroom. The view from this seat is directly down the baseline on the north end of the arena. It’s close to the concession stand, if you want something to eat and drink while you watch the games. There might only be one man alive who would call this seat the best seat in the house.

“In this seat, I’m above the rim,” Ed Coffin said. “My theory on foul shots is, if you don’t shoot them high enough, you’re going to miss. The height opens up the rim opening. We see it in a tight game, the shots tend to get less arc. I never saw anyone shoot too high… The game gets tighter, the shots get flatter. All you’ve got to do is relax and shoot.”

An Augusta resident, Coffin has been attending high school basketball tournament games at the Civic Center since the building opened in 1973. For much of that time, he’s made seat 17 in row H of section 17 has been Coffin’s home away from home. Other longtime tournament watchers know, this is Ed Coffin’s seat. When you’re at the Augusta Civic Center and want to speak with Ed, this is where he’ll be.

As of Thursday morning, seat 17 in row H in section 17 is Ed Coffin’s seat, now and forever.

Earl Kingsbury, the Civic Center’s director, had Coffin’s seat painted yellow, to honor the man who has been a high school basketball tournament fixture for decades.

“Every year, Ed asks me ‘are you going to save my seat?’ I tell him ‘Ed, buy a ticket and it’s first come, first served,” Kingsbury said.

Instead of a number, the seat now carries a nameplate that reads “Coach Coffin.” Seats throughout the arena are either blue, purple, red, or orange. Coffin’s seat is the lone yellow, to match the yellow jackets he wears throughout the winter. The seat stands in a section of blue, much like the red seat in Fenway Park’s right field bleachers stands out to memorialize the home run Ted Williams hit there in 1946, 502 feet from home plate, still the longest home run in Fenway Park history.

“Winter is so drab. I’ve got to brighten it up,” Coffin said, tugging the sleeve of his canary yellow jacket.

Coffin’s seat was officially unveiled Thursday morning, as the Civic Center’s crew assembled the court for the games set to begin Friday afternoon. Kingsbury asked Coffin to come to the Civic Center Thursday morning to help explain some of the building’s tournament history to a reporter. When Kingsbury lifted the white sheet to debut the yellow seat, Coffin burst into laughter.

Basketball fan and former coach Ed Coffin had a his favorite seat commented with an yellow paint job and a personalize plaque that was unveiled on Thursday in the Augusta Civic Center. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“Beautiful! I love it!” Coffin said. “Hey, Earl, you’re good. Wait ’til some of the people see this! I’m going to take a razzing.”

Coffin will celebrate his 87th birthday next week, on the 18th. His son Jim buys Coffin and May, his wife of 14 years, tournament passes each season as a birthday/anniversary present. Now a basketball official, Jim often visits with his father before he refs a tournament game.

“Right when I walk on to the court, I’ll look up and see him,” Jim said. “He’ll always tell me what calls I got right or wrong, and how my partner did.”

Coffin moved to Augusta in 1973 when he started his engineering firm, ES Coffin, in the city. Coffin’s arrival in the capital coincided with the opening of the Augusta Civic Center. He coached youth basketball for decades.

“He’s always been involved with basketball. That’s been his passion,” Jim said.

Jim Coffin remembered going to tournament games with his father when he was in junior high school. They were typically first in line to get into the Civic Center, and when the doors opened, they would run past plenty of good seats to get to the far side of the arena, where Ed wanted to sit near center court, rim high. As he got older, Ed decided he didn’t care to sit in those crowded sections, and found his now immortalized perch.

For a while, Coffin served on the Augusta city council.

“But it was interfering with my tournament,” he said.

Coffin doesn’t cheer for teams as much as he cheers for players.

“If they’re intense and they believe, I’ll watch them,” Coffin said. “If you’re intense, I love you.”

Until the last decade or so, the Augusta Civic Center was primarily a host site for smaller schools in Classes B through D. The Class A East (now North) tournament moved from Bangor to Augusta in 2006, but Coffin still has an affinity for the small schools and their passionate fans. One of his favorite all-time teams is the Valley High School boys basketball squad that won six straight Class D state championships from 1998 through 2003 and a state-record 101 consecutive games.

Basketball fan and former coach Ed Coffin sits in his newly dedicated chair Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“Valley interested me because they moved the ball. Valley was the best passing team I’ve ever seen,” Coffin said. “They’d get the ball up the court so fast, and the ball, it wouldn’t even return to the earth.”

For Coffin, a perk that comes with his favorite seat is the college coaches. Many will sit in the rows in front of Coffin, and he enjoys watching them scout and evaluate potential players. May always sits to his right. The seat to Coffin’s left, the aisle seat, is reserved for the many friends who stop by to chat hoops a few minutes with Ed. The aisle seat is like the Tonight Show couch. You sit, you shoot the breeze a few minutes, and you leave to make room for the next guest.

“When I first started coming with him, it would amaze me how many people would come over to see him. I’m used to it now,” May said.

From his Augusta Civic Center seat, Coffin has watched basketball evolve. Back in the day, he said, a tall center would stand 6-feet. Now, that player is likely a guard. From his spot just above rim level, Coffin has seen the game leave the paint for new, potentially high-scoring opportunities around the perimeter.

“They like the three. I still think the two is the basic shot,” Coffin said. “You don’t see the hook shot too much. You don’t see post play.”

At the Augusta Civic Center throughout the tournament, you will see Ed Coffin, in his freshly painted yellow seat. On Thursday morning, Coffin sat in his seat a few minutes and watched the crew construct the court.

“This place is a great basketball venue,” he said. “I get excited for this.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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