2013-07-05 / People


Coach steps up
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Lynne Hasson Lynne Hasson Lynne Hasson has been involved in South Portland athletics nearly her entire life, so the decision in front of her to potentially leave two years ago was extremely difficult.

Hasson played high school basketball for the Red Riots, where she reached a state final game her junior year. She returned to the city after attending the University of Maine, and has taught and coached in the schools for 26 years. For the last 11, she had coached the girls’ junior varsity basketball team while assisting varsity head coach Mike Giordano.

Before the 2011 season, Hasson had an offer on the table to become a varsity head coach at Yarmouth High School. After nine years of coaching JV, she could, as she said, “call the shots.” But Hasson turned the position down to stay in her hometown.

“I knew my heart was in South Portland and I didn’t want to leave South Portland,” Hasson said of her difficult decision.

Hasson’s patience and her allegiance to the city where she grew up has paid off. This season, she will take over for Giordano as the head coach of the South Portland varsity girls’ basketball team. Giordano, who coached the team to more than 200 victories in 17 seasons, will move on to Scarborough.

Giordano said Hasson’s experience as a former player at South Portland High School was extremely valuable to show the team the dedication and desire necessary to succeed.

“If you’re looking for kids to find a role model, Lynne was that person. She was a tremendously dedicated assistant that just bleeds red,” Giordano said.

South Portland will face Scarborough twice in the upcoming season, including a matchup on the Red Riots’ senior night. Hasson said it will be difficult to face the coach she learned from for the last decade.

“He is a great guy, a great coach and he gave his heart and soul to this city. I think over time it will get easier but it will be awkward (this season),” Hasson said.

Asked if it will be strange to scout South Portland and face them twice this season, Giordano responded, “I’m not sure strange quite covers it.”

“They’re a bunch of kids I really care about, and I want them to be successful other than when they’re playing us,” Giordano said.

Although getting used to a new coach takes time for most teams, Hasson said she is not worried about the transition after spending so many years with the program.

“It’s obviously going to be different, with a different coach you’ll have different styles. But at the same time, because of the fact that I know these kids, I think we can hit the ground running,” Hasson said.

She means to run in the literal sense as well. Hasson described her style as energetic, intense and “maybe a little crazy,” and she hopes to translate that style onto the court with a deep, athletic, up-tempo team that runs the floor and creates turnovers to score in transition.

The Red Riots will miss leading scorer Danica Gleason, who moves on to St. Joseph’s College after her senior season was cut short by an injury last year. Hasson expects a multitude of players to step up to fill Gleason’s role. But the team will likely rely on major contributions from incoming senior Brianne Maloney, a third-team all-conference player in the Southwestern Maine Activities Association, as well as Maddie Hasson, the coach’s daughter, an incoming sophomore and all-rookie conference selection last year.

The major obstacle for South Portland and every girls’ basketball program in Class A will likely be Catherine McAuley High School once again. McAuley won its third consecutive Class A state title in March, and has finished the last two seasons with a combined record of 44-0.

Hasson said McAuley has built such a powerhouse, in part, because of the increasing growth of girls playing in leagues outside their school, including Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues. Last year, Maddie Hasson played with 10 other freshmen from around the state for the “Maine Maniacs” AAU club.

Although all 11 of those freshmen on the Maniacs roster played for their community high schools last year, Lynne Hasson said she saw the appeal for a group like that to stick together at a school like McAuley.

“Girls that like each other and live and die for basketball think, ‘We can keep this going year-round,’” Hasson said.

But McAuley’s recent run of dominance is outside Hasson’s control, she said, and before her first season on the bench she is focusing on the aspects of the Red Riot team she can impact. Right now, that means running morning workouts, practices and scrimmages to get ready for the season.

Although Hasson said it is her job to motivate and bring the best out of her team, so far, the players have shown a willingness to motivate themselves.

“South Portland kids are great to coach. They work hard. There’s a good basketball tradition here,” Hasson said. “We’re due for a gold ball.”

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