When Mt. Blue High School senior Garrett Reynolds met his new basketball coach last spring, he came away impressed with Travis Magnusson.

“He commanded respect,” Reynolds said.

Under Magnusson, Mt. Blue went from among the worst teams in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A division to among the best. After missing the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, never winning more than three games in any of those seasons, the Cougars earned the three seed in the Class A North tournament this season.

“I try to do it anywhere I coach,” Magnusson said. “Build a culture of working hard, and have fun with it. I believe if you do that, you’ll be successful.”

For his efforts in turning around the Mt. Blue boys basketball program, Travis Magnusson is the Morning Sentinel Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. Also considered were Jason Pellerin, who coached Lawrence to the Class A North championship, Scott Corey, who coached Temple Academy to its first Class D South regional final, and Anthony Amero, who coached Forest Hills to the Class D state title and an undefeated season.

The Cougars win total this season, 11, exceeded the last six seasons combined. Since reaching the Class A regional final in 2012, Mt. Blue had finished either last or next to last in the Class A North Heal Point standings each subsequent season.

Mt. Blue’s turnaround began in summer leagues game, where the Cougars began to buy into Magnusson and play with enthusiasm.

“He was eager to work. He was passionate about coaching,” Reynolds said. “We saw the difference in the way we responded.”

The work begun in the summer continued once the high school season began. The Cougars opened the season with three straight wins, including a 57-54 win at Skowhegan on opening night to set the tone for the season.

“In those first three games, none of those team could match our enthusiasm,” Magnusson said.

Magnusson named a handful of coaches as influences on his coaching style and philosophy, including Nick DePatsy, his high school basketball coach at Georges Valley of Thomaston, Dick Meader, his college basketball coach at the University of Maine at Farmington, and Sam Pendleton, his high school soccer coach.

“All the coaches I had shaped who I was,” Magnusson, who is also the girls soccer coach at Maranacook, said. “They shared that it’s the connections you make.”

Magnusson said his coaching staff was a big part of Mt. Blue’s resurgence this season. Along with longtime Mt. Blue coach Brian Kelly, Magnusson was joined on the bench by former Waterville head coach Jason Briggs and Marty Magnusson, his father.

“I’ve had my dad on my staff for the last eight years,” Magnusson, who previously coached at Dirigo and Livermore Falls, said. “He’s the first person who taught me basketball.”

While the Cougars lost in the regional quarterfinals, the groundwork for future success was set this season, Magnusson said.

“We had guys who could do really good things. They didn’t have confidence. Now they do,” Magnusson said. “The community was huge, too. The gym changed. It was rocking this year.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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