Sep. 17—When Chad Cooper tried to enroll his son in Dexter's recreation department sports teams about 15 years ago, he was originally turned down because the youngster wasn't quite old enough for the available programming.
"A week later the rec director called back and said, 'You still want your son to get in early? Well, I need a coach,'" he recalled.
Cooper has been coaching ever since, and now he's the new boys' varsity basketball coach at Mattanawcook Academy in Lincoln.
Cooper replaces Lucas Turner, who guided the Lynx for five years until being named MA's assistant principal earlier this summer.
After a 1-17 debut season with MA in Class B in 2016-17, Turner led the Lynx to a 40-21 record in Class C North over the next three seasons with three straight postseason appearances, including a trip to the 2019 regional semifinals.
Teams around the state played regionalized schedules with no traditional tournament last winter due to COVID-19.
"I was hired late in the summer season so I only got a few weeks to work with the kids," Cooper said. "But we played a few scrimmages and had a few practices trying to lay the groundwork and set the culture and get to know some of the kids."
Cooper worked his way up from his coaching introduction at the rec-department level to lead the "B" and "A" boys basketball teams at Ridge View Community School in Dexter. He also helped longtime Dexter Regional High School boys basketball coach Peter Murray and top assistant Mike Martin.
"I just learned so much from Peter and Mike and [Dexter girls varsity basketball coach] Jody Grant,' he said.
Cooper, who works as a probation officer in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, also has considerable AAU basketball coaching experience with players at the junior varsity and varsity levels.
"This is his first varsity job but we felt like he was ready to take that next step," MA Athletic Administrator Barry Terrill said. "He really has a lot of enthusiasm for the game and has been involved in AAU-level teams so he does have experience coaching high school kids, and he's really looking forward to working with our boys basketball program."
Cooper and his family were living in Dexter, but recently purchased a waterfront property in Lincoln. They originally planned to use it as a camp, but now live there full time.
"Right about the same time we moved, this job opened up and I was fortunate enough to get the job," he said.
Cooper said he got the urge to become a high school head coach seven or eight years ago.
"As I was coming up through I'd always evaluate different coaches that were around to see how they organized things and how they handled situations, and I started formulating my game plan for what I wanted to do if I ever got the opportunity to run a program," he said.
Cooper is still learning about his new team, but said read-and-react offense and man-to-man defense likely will be staples of his coaching approach with the Lynx.
"My experience with the Lincoln kids from going up there with Peter and Mike with the Dexter teams is that they've always had tough kids so I think that's going to fit in perfectly with my style of coaching," he said.