WATERVILLE — Fifteen minutes after his team’s 70-55 loss to Bates College, Thomas College men’s basketball coach Deshon Gaither sat slumped in a chair outside the training room at Larry Mahaney Gymnasium. The chair was a collection of old crutches, but it wasn’t a metaphor for the state of Gaither’s team. Despite Saturday’s loss, the Terriers are able to stand on their own power and are ready for the season’s stretch run.

Gaither is Thomas’ third men’s basketball coach in three seasons. He was on the bench last season when the Terriers made a run at the North Atlantic Conference title as the tournament’s No. 4 seed, before falling to Husson in the championship game, and that has made for an easy transition, he said.

“That has nothing to do with it because I was here last year. That whole trust thing has always been there. Before the break we were 6-4. Last year we were 2-7 at this time,” Gaither said.

Saturday’s loss to Bates was Thomas’ first game in 20 days, and it showed. The Terriers shot just 27.8 percent from the floor, including a fingernails down a chalkboard cringe-worthy 13 percent from 3-point range (3 for 23). At the line, the Terriers were 8 for 14. Some of it was the rust of three weeks since the last game, and Gaither realizes some of it is a poor shooting epidemic that permeates all of college basketball, not just his team. Gaither turns on the television and sees big-time Division I teams brick layups, too.

While disappointed in Saturday’s loss, Gaither wasn’t going to let it serve as a snapshot of his team’s overall ability. He’s seen too much strong effort. The biggest thing the Terriers need is stability at the top, and Gaither is prepared to provide that.

Gaither’s coaching journey has taken him all over the world, with stops in Japan, Ontario, Canada and Lee Academy here in Maine, where he coached the postgraduate team. He’s taken a little from many coaching mentors over the years, but maybe one more than others.

One of the items on Gaither’s coaching resume is a stint at Bryant University, where he was an assistant coach under Max Good. That’s former Maine Central Institute postgraduate coach Max Good. That’s Maine Basketball Hall of Famer Max Good. It’s well-known Good expected a lot out of his players. Gaither is here to tell you, Good expected a lot out of his assistant coaches, too.

“I learned how to have patience, something Coach Good never had. Because I was fired every other game with him at Bryant,” Gaither laughed at the memories. “I love that man to death. The one thing I can truly say about him, he woofs loud, but in my years it sounded more like a chihuahua than a pit bull. He loves his kids. You love your kids (as much as Good), those kids will run through a wall for him.”

At Good’s induction into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame this past summer, Gaither shared a table with Caron Butler, who played for Good at MCI before a standout collegiate and NBA career. Gaither and Butler shared Good stories.

“He said, ‘Man, you didn’t punch him in the face?’ I said ‘Why didn’t you?’ He said ‘The same reason you didn’t. We both love that man,'” Gaither said.

So when his team misses layup after layup, or doesn’t give maximum effort, Gaither, like Good, is going to let it know.

“I might blow up a little on the sideline at my kids, because I expect the best out of them. Who doesn’t? I call this the microwave generation, because everything has to be in the instant,” Gaither said. “I hold my kids accountable. If we’re not making layups, we’re missing shots and this and that, I’m going to jump on you 20 times harder.”

Gaither sees a bright future, both immediate and down the road, for the Terriers. He took over a team that while young in minutes played has been together. Next season, Thomas loses just senior guard Zack Mackinnon. Gaither is thrilled with his team’s overall 3.168 grade point average, calling it the highest in Thomas men’s basketball history.

“At the end of the day, the education is more important than what’s going on on those 94 feet,” he said.

Gaither has a vision, and he plans to see it though.

“The one thing I want to do is, not just build a team every year. I want to build a program. I want to be like a Farmington or Husson. Teams that are in the top three (in the North Atlantic Conference) every year. I want something a little bit more,” Gaither said.

Building something a little bit more takes time. If Gaither is in it for the long haul, the Terriers are in good hands.

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