Katie McAllister starred for the Gardiner girls basketball team for four years. She then excelled at Thomas College for four more.

And when her playing career was winding to a close, it didn’t take long for McAllister to switch her focus to coaching.

“The second I graduated from Thomas,” she said. “I couldn’t let go of those 84 feet of the basketball floor. I instantly started coaching.”

This winter, McAllister will take on her biggest assignment yet, as the new girls varsity basketball coach at Monmouth Academy. The move is still pending school board approval.

Transition is taking place elsewhere locally in girls basketball, as former Maranacook coach Jeannine Paradis is taking over at Morse and Erskine Academy has an opening for a varsity girls coach. In McAllister, the Mustangs made their choice before the start of the school year.

“I’m very excited about putting my philosophies and my knowledge to the test,” said McAllister, 25, who lives in Augusta. “This isn’t an AAU team, this is a full high school program, and I like the feeling of pressure. I know that everyone’s looking at me, saying ‘Wow, she’s young, what could she possibly know?’ That excites me.”

McAllister thrived at all levels as a player, scoring over 1,000 points during her Thomas career, and from January of 2018 on coached middle school-aged girls with the Waterville-based Maine Hoops team. She went to Monmouth to interview for the JV position, but then heard the varsity position was open. After initially speaking to athletic director Wade Morrill in late June, McAllister interviewed and was offered the position within the past few weeks.

Katie McAllister is set to become the next girls basketball coach at Monmouth Academy. Contributed photo

She’ll be the third head coach at Monmouth in three years, but will take over a program that, with nine straight Class C playoff appearances and two state titles in 2017 and ’18, had become one of the area’s most consistent.

“That just shows that there’s some dedication within the kids, and that’s the hardest part,” she said. “They already have the desire and they have the will and they have the want.”

McAllister knows she has a lot with which to work, but she also knows she can help her players develop — particularly with the mental side of the game.

“You have to teach the kids how to play, versus just simply plays,” she said. “My role as a coach is to take them some place where they can’t take themselves. … Basketball is a game of choices, so if you teach them to make choices, then the rest of the game is easy.”

Once the games begin, McAllister said her teams will play tight and unrelenting defense.

“I believe defense wins games, we’re absolutely going to push that. We’re going to be the force, we’re going to be the energy, the in-your-face team,” she said. “If you want the ball, you have to go get it. Obviously on offense, it’s that fun, it’s that cushy time where you’re in control of the game. The defense is kind of the insecure time … so if you want the ball, go get it.”

McAllister has never coached high school-aged girls, but said she’s looking forward to the adjustment.

“Absolutely, it’s a different world, it’ll definitely be a learning curve for me,” she said. “(But) I’m not scared of a little challenge. I know I don’t know everything right now, and that’s what I think will make me a great coach. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe in myself and my skills and my knowledge, but I’m also humble enough to admit that I don’t know everything.”

Even so, McAllister isn’t about to scale the expectations back. Monmouth has been a winning team, and she expects that to remain the same.

“Our definite goal is state championship, there’s no question about that,” she said. “I expect dedication, I expect them to run through the walls for their teammates. I expect them to put in all efforts for each and every one of their teammates.”

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