AUGUSTA — Retirements, promotions and moves from one school to another make the coaching carousel intriguing on a yearly basis.

Well, this summer, a series of moves on that carousel took two rival Class A North boys basketball teams on quite the ride — one that has two head coaches back, even if unexpectedly, in familiar places.

After the school made not one but two hires this offseason, Pete McLaughlin returns as the head coach at Messalonskee after three years away from the position. Isaiah Brathwaite, who had originally stepped on as Jay Dangler’s replacement in July, is now at Cony after longtime head coach T.J. Maines left the post to become the school’s athletic director.

Brathwaite, a star at Mt. Blue from 2003-07 before playing for Maines at Thomas College from 2007-11, became part of Maines’ staff at Cony in 2015. Although he lamented leaving a Messalonskee team with which he had become well-acquainted so soon, the chance to return to a familiar role closer to home was too tough to turn down.

“It wasn’t easy because I enjoyed being with those guys and built relationships and bonds,” Brathwaite said. “It was just (a situation where) I’d been with Cony for so long, I live here in Augusta still, and both my kids go to school here. I had to do what’s best for my boys, and they wanted me to come back, so I came back.”

Yet Brathwaite is also plenty close with a Cony squad that features many of the players he guided as an assistant in recent years. Although taking on a new coaching gig a month and a half before practices is never ideal, doing so to a familiar roster has made that much easier.


“I know all of the guys , so it’s definitely something where I feel really comfortable with the situation,” Brathwaite said. “It’s the same place I’ve been for years, and now, it’s about following the footsteps of someone I’ve looked up to for a long time, ever since I was 17 years old.”

In replacing Maines, Brathwaite certainly has big shoes to fill. Cony has been one of the most consistent teams in Class A North over the past few seasons, reaching the regional semifinals in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022 and finishing as Northern Maine runners-up in 2020. The Rams are 76-39 over the past six seasons.

New Cony boys basketball coach Isaiah Brathwaite watches warmups Tuesday in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Cony players, though, feel that Braithwaite has been instrumental in some of that success. Rather than dealing with another coach who had not played a role in their recent success, the Rams now have one of those architects — even if he wasn’t the primary one — leading the charge.

“I think (he was a big part of that), for sure,” said senior Kam Douin, one of Cony’s top returning players. “All of the guys here love him, and he’s such a good presence to have. The relationship is different now that he’s our head coach, but we have a lot of respect for him. … We’re really excited about it.”

Brathwaite’s departure from Messalonskee left the Eagles in need of a new head coach just a month and a half before teams were eligible to begin practices. To McLaughlin, the job was an enticing one — so enticing, in fact, that he decided to throw his own hat into the ring.

McLaughlin had previously been the head coach at Messalonskee from 2010-19, a stint that started with two rebuilding seasons but later saw a successful stretch that included a Northern Maine title in 2017. He hasn’t coached any of the current Eagles at the high school level but does know many of them from his time leading youth camps in the past.

“All of the current program went through my program, and they went through my camps during the summertime,” McLaughlin said. “Really, what it came down to was I had known these kids since second or third grade, I wanted to coach again, and what better to step back into the coaching role and lead?”

Although Brathwaite’s time at Messalonskee was short, McLaughlin said the progress his predecessor made in just a short amount time has been noticeable in early practices. After the Eagles struggled to a 4-16 season last year, Brathwaite was able to jolt the program with a much-needed boost in morale.

“They had an incredible summer, and Isaiah did an incredible job of leading them through that,” McLaughlin said. “He helped them build a lot of confidence, and now, our hope is to build on that and lead these young man to the success they think they can have.”

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