Chris Markwood, left, served as an assistant coach at Boston College during the 2021-22 season. Previously he was an assistant coach at Northeastern, Vermont and UMaine. Photo courtesy of Boston College athletics

Ken Ralph, the University of Maine director of athletics, met Chris Markwood for the first time late last month.

Their meeting took place at Boston College, where Markwood worked as an assistant coach with the men’s basketball program. Ralph was there in part because the UMaine women’s hockey was playing a Hockey East playoff game at BC, but also to judge Markwood’s interest in the head coach opening at Maine.

It was a getting-to-know-you conversation for both, but Ralph came away from it knowing he had just interviewed his new men’s basketball coach.

“I needed to look in his eyes and make sure he was ready to be a head coach,” Ralph said. “We left that meeting and there was absolutely no doubt that Chris Markwood is head coach material from the tip of his head to the bottom of his feet. He is ready for this opportunity. It was just obvious.”

On Monday morning, the University of Maine named Markwood, a South Portland native and UMaine alum, its new men’s basketball coach.

For Markwood, a 2005 UMaine graduate and former Black Bear captain, and his wife Ashley Underwood Markwood, a former UMaine women’s basketball all-conference player and Cony High grad, this is a chance to come home to raise their two daughters.


“We cannot wait to get up there and get to work. Obviously, this a full circle moment for me,” said Markwood in a Zoom interview with media Monday afternoon. “Maine is home. I love it up there. My wife loves Maine and that’s her home as well. We absolutely loved our experience up there. It’s just a special place to us. The school means the world to us. The state of Maine means the world to me.”

Markwood’s ties to the university and the state were important factors in the search process, Ralph said, and made him a unanimous choice for the search committee. Joining Ralph on the committee were women’s basketball head coach Amy Vachon, senior associate AD for communications Tyson McHatten, associate AD for business Matt Curtis, and assistant director for the student wellness resource center TJ England.

“He knows the place better. It’s going to matter to him more,” Ralph said. “One of the things we said as a search committee, when we get Maine into that bracket, that first time Maine qualifies for the NCAA tournament, it’s going to mean something different to Chris Markwood than any other candidate we have. And that matters. It really matters, and you can’t ignore it.”

Chris Markwood was a captain on the University of Maine men’s basketball team in 2004-05. He later served as an assistant coach with the team for five years. John Ewing/Staff file photo

Talk of the tournament is premature. A Division I assistant coach for a decade and a half, Markwood inherits a team that has struggled for more than a decade. The Black Bears went 6-23 this season, with three wins coming against sub-Division I opponents. Maine went 3-15 in America East conference play and failed to reach the league tournament. The 2021-22 was Maine’s 12th consecutive season without a winning record, and the Black Bears have not won an America East tournament game since 2005, when Markwood played for the team.

“It’s really not rocket science. Success comes with great culture. Surrounding the program with high-character individuals, both on the staff and in the locker room and support staff,” Markwood said. “I look at the University of Maine program right now as a great opportunity. I think there’s a great foundation there to really build on.”

Markwood replaces Richard Barron, who was 21-75 in four seasons as Maine’s coach. Barron stepped down in February with four games left, and assistant coach Jai Steadman served as interim coach the remainder of the season and the start of the offseason.


Markwood, 40, was an assistant coach at Maine for five seasons before moving on to America East rival Vermont for three seasons. Markwood then coached at Northeastern for seven seasons before joining Boston College for the 2021-22 season.

Troy Barnies, a 2011 Maine graduate and Auburn native, said he’s elated with the hiring of Markwood. Now a decade into a professional basketball career in Europe, Barnies said Markwood was an assistant coach in all four of his years at Maine.

“He was the glue guy on the bench for us and was the easiest to relate to on and off the court since he was one of us before. His knowledge of the little things and tactics for games was huge in helping me understand the game more,” Barnies said. “His presentation of teaching the game was a highlight for me, as he was very good explaining how to do things. I’m sure he’s only gotten better and now being the head coach at Maine, everyone gets to see him lead a program like we all have wanted for so long.”

Ralph declined to discuss the terms of Markwood’s contract, saying that information will be released in the coming days after it’s finalized and signed. Last week, Ralph said the job will pay about $165,000 per year, what outgoing coach Barron made.

Markwood acknowledged there’s a major rebuilding job ahead of him at Maine, but he noted the program has enjoyed success in the past. When Markwood was a junior in 2004, in his first season at Maine, the Black Bears won 20 games and advanced to the America East championship game at Vermont. Markwood said he was happy at Boston College and expected to be there longer, but his goal has always been to be a Division I head coach, and this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“No doubt I’m betting on myself, but regardless of what head job, if I was fortunate to get a head job anywhere, you’re betting on yourself. There’s no guarantee anywhere you go,” said Markwood. “There’s no substitute for winning. That’s going to be the benchmark everyone is looking towards. I’m very confident that’s going to start to happen.”

After earning Mr. Maine Basketball honors at South Portland High in 2000, Markwood began his college basketball career at Notre Dame. He spent three years with the Fighting Irish, including a redshirt freshman season, before transferring to Maine.

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