Anthony Amero’s coaching career began when he was 19, when he accepted a job for which he had not applied.

Amero applied to be the seventh grade boys basketball coach at Williams Junior High in Oakland. When Amero walked down the hall to the community phone in his Thomas College dorm to take the call telling him he didn’t get the job, he was shocked to learn Messalonskee High girls basketball coach Dave Estabrook wanted him to coach the eighth grade girls team at Williams.

“I’m thinking, I didn’t get the job and they hired the wrong guy,” Amero said.

Nearly 30 years later, Amero is still coaching. He’s spent the last 20 years coaching boys basketball at Forest Hills High School in Jackman. The Tigers have three gold balls under Amero, and are the reigning Class D state champions. It all started when Amero was a student at Waterville’s Thomas College, and that’s why the school is honoring Amero on Friday night with a spot in its Athletic Hall of Fame.

Amero accepts the honor with his usual humble humor.

“That was a surprise,” Amero said. “I didn’t play basketball there a hundred years ago.”

Amero graduated from Thomas in 1993, and while he didn’t wear the Terrier uniform (“I was a tweener. Too small to play in the paint, too slow to play outisde,” Amero said), the school helped shape him into the successful coach he’s become.

At Forest Hills, Amero has 296 wins. His Tigers won state titles in 2013, 2015 and last season. The 2019 and 2015 team both went undefeated. Amero’s team has reached the Class D tournament 19 consecutive years. He has four Maine Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year awards and four East/West Conference Coach of the Year honors.

As he began his academic career at Thomas, Amero wasn’t thinking of basketball, either playing or coaching.

“Honestly, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t flunk out that first year,” Amero said.

Mike Burnham, Amero’s basketball coach at Monmouth Academy and now an executive director with the Maine Principals’ Association, convinced Amero to apply for the job at Williams. From Estabrook, Amero learned how to run a basketball program from the ground up. It was his first exposure to a summer program. It was his first exposure to summer camps. They went to Villanova, where Amero learned a 2-2-1 fullcourt trap he still uses.

“I model a lot of what I do from (Estabrook). I learned it wasn’t going to just be about basketball,” Amero said.

When it was obvious Amero was committed to coaching, Burnham gave him a notebook of Dick Meader’s plays. Now the head men’s basketball coach at the University of Maine at Farmington, Meader had been Burnham’s coach at Thomas. Now, this 1970s era, denim-bound notebook full of basketball wisdom was in the hands of a young coach who could use it.

After Forest Hills won its first state title in 2013, Amero asked Meader if he noticed his plays unfolding as he watched the game. Amero asked the same question to former Cony girls basketball coach Paul Vachon, who Amero also studied and took inspiration from.

“There’s been a lot of good influences on me over the years,” Amero said.

Most of all, that’s what Amero tries to be for his players, a good influence. That’s something he traces directly back to his time at Thomas, to Dr. Philomena McPhee-Brown, who chaired the education department when Amero was a student. McPhee-Brown was 5-feet tall on a good day, was no-nonsense, and absolutely terrified the 6-foot-4 Amero. When she spoke, Amero listened.

“She was the first to show me extracurricular activities are an extension of the education day. Kids are learning more than just a sport. She knew the value of athletics in high school,” Amero said.

As part of his academic requirements, Amero had to teach McPhee-Brown something, anything. So he taught her how to shoot a free throw.

“I don’t know how it happened, but she made a foul shot,” he said.

When he speaks at his induction Friday night, Amero will thank McPhee-Brown, and Burnham, and the late Estabrook, and everybody else who played a part in leading him to that moment. It’s a chance to say thank you.

“I always remind people, I didn’t run any sprints. I didn’t make any shots. It’s all the kids,” Amero said. “Thomas folks were great to me.”

This is the first Hall of Fame to open the door to Amero. Don’t expect it to be the last.

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