Britney Salley Gero is the next girls basketball coach at Gardiner Area High School. Photo provided by Britney Salley Gero

GARDINER — A Gardiner girls basketball game a year ago unfolded just as any other might. It ended, though, as one of the best days of Britney Gero’s life.

At halftime of the Tigers’ Jan. 25, 2022 game against Erskine Academy, Gero, an assistant coach for Gardiner, went to the locker room with her players and fellow coaches just as they’d done countless times before. After the halftime pep-talk, Gero walked ahead of the team back into the gym, where she had no idea her would-be fiancé was there to drop to one knee.

“I walked back out there, and the whole gym was looking at me, and he proposed to me right there,” said Gero, Gardiner’s top varsity assistant and head junior varsity coach for the past 13 years. “It’s something I’ll never forget. It completely surprised me; I had no clue they were planning that.”

The basketball court at Gardiner Area High School, then, is a place that will always be special to Gero for numerous reasons, basketball or not. It’s also a place from where she’ll be leading one of central Maine’s strongest programs after being named the next head coach of the Tigers, replacing Mike Gray, who resigned at the end of the season.

A former player at Gardiner, Gero earned All-Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference honorable mention as a junior in 2005-06 and was an All-KVAC second-teamer as a senior in 2006-07. She then played two years at Central Maine Community College before transferring to the University of Maine to complete her education.

As a senior at UMaine, though, a spot as an assistant coach on Gray’s staff became available. Gero (née Salley) had played her sophomore, junior and senior seasons under Gray at Gardiner, and after her former head coach urged her to apply prior to the 2010-11 season, she wasn’t going to turn him down. 


“Coaching had always been something I’d talked about with my coaches,” Gero said. “My coaches always kind of let me take the lead out on the court, so coaching was something that kind of came naturally to me. I applied, I interviewed, I got the job, and I’ve been with Mike for 13 years.”

Now, it’s Gero’s program, and there are few people, if any, who know the ins and outs of Gardiner basketball as well as she does. In addition to her previous JV role, she’s also spent years coaching current and upcoming Gardiner players at the AAU level through Atlantic Youth Sports.

That familiarity, Gardiner Athletic Director Nate Stubbert said, was something that stood out to administration during the interview process. Although the chance to lead a program fresh off a 20-1 season drew “numerous applicants,” Stubbert said, it was Gero who was the “obvious choice.”

“She’s been with our program for a long time,” Stubbert said. “She’s done a great job with our youth organization as well. Everyone around here knows her, and she brings a lot of energy and knowledge. That’s important in basketball because the game is changing all the time.”

The hiring means that the Gero family is now leading two of the top athletic programs at Gardiner. Ryan Gero, after all, isn’t just Britney’s husband; he’s the head coach of the school’s varsity softball team, another Gardiner program that’s built itself into a powerhouse as the reigning Class B state champion.

The Gero wedding in October, in a way, was a Gardiner Tigers get-together. Between all the players present, Ryan Gero said, the event had “maybe even more high-schoolers than adults.” It was also a showing of how Gardiner, even if one of the area’s larger high schools at 630 students, can be as tight-knit as anywhere.


“The community is so close, maybe even a bit too close sometimes, but it’s great knowing you have those connections everywhere you turn,” said Taylor Takatsu, a Gardiner basketball and softball player. “We all love Britney, and she deserves this. I feel really comfortable and secure with her.”

Takatsu and her teammates had known on that night against Erskine eight months earlier that the proposal would take place at halftime. Keeping his team’s focus on a basketball game that January evening, Gray said, was far more difficult than it would have been on any other.

“They all adore Britney, and they were all just so happy for her,” Gray said. “I’m really excited for her. Her second year with me, she started working with the first- and second-graders, and now, those are the kids that are graduating; she’s a known identity; she’s not going to have to reinvent anything.”

There are certainly big shoes to be filled. Gray amassed a 228-141 record in his 19 years as head coach, including a Central Maine title in 2020-21 and a perfect regular season this past year. Gardiner also will be without a senior class led by Miss Maine Basketball winner Lizzy Gruber which went undefeated at home over its four years.

Gero, though, has been learning the advanced Xs-and-Os side of the game from Gray after years of handling more of a player development role. Even with a great senior class leaving, she’ll also have plenty of tools left with her one-loss JV team, an undefeated freshman team and two undefeated middle school squads all set to progress.

“We’re definitely going to be different without a 6-4 center, but we have a lot of all that coming through for us,” Gero said. “I think the future is very bright for us, and I’m excited to finally be the one leading (the program).”

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