High school sports

Change of Hart: In as Camden Hills' athletic director, out as coach

Veteran coach guided Windjammer basketball teams nearly four decades — and to six state gold balls, 500 wins
By Mark Haskell | Jun 06, 2019
Photo by: Mark Haskell Former Camden Hills boys varsity basketball coach Jeff Hart poses with a plaque and game ball, both of which signify his 500th career victory.

Rockport — Jeff Hart has been the boys varsity basketball coach at Camden Hills Regional — and the former Camden-Rockport — high schools since 1982.

Then, gasoline was 91 cents per gallon. Ronald Reagan was in his first term as president of the United States. And Michael Jordan, then just a college student at the University of North Carolina, hit the game-winner for the Tar Heels in a one-point victory over Georgetown to win that year’s national men's hoop championship.

Many things have changed the past 37 years, but one constant in the Midcoast has been Hart, who, among many other accomplishments and accolades, led the Windjammers to six state Class B championships, three undefeated seasons and more than 500 victories during his tenure.

That "Hart" era quietly came to a close at a School Administrative District 28 board meeting on Wednesday night, June 5 at CHRHS when Hart stepped down in his roles as the school’s boys varsity basketball coach and physical education teacher.

At that same meeting, Hart was announced as the school’s new athletic director, effective July 1 for the start of the 2019-20 school year. Hart will replace Steve Alex, who announced his resignation in April but currently is finishing the school year.

“It's been a heck of a ride,” said Hart of his tenure as basketball coach. “How many people get to live their passion for that long? And then to be able to step down on my own terms. That just doesn't happen to everyone. I have been extremely fortunate here and I am grateful to everyone who has played a role in our success.”

In addition to his six state titles, Hart led the Windjammers to 29 regional playoff appearances, 10 regional championships, 13 Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B titles and he earned numerous coach-of-the-year honors.

He also is a member of the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame, New England Basketball Hall of Fame and, most recently, was inducted into the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame last summer.

Hart informed his players of the news on Monday, June 3, and 1977 Mount Blue High School of Farmington graduate (he played basketball and baseball for the Cougars) said the meeting “was pretty quiet and extremely emotional.”

“I just think that it's time,” Hart said of his decision. “Time for some new blood [and] some new energy. And I think that it's just a natural progression that I can now move forward and help the coaches we have here [in all of the sports] in any way that I can. I have a lot of experience. I can't think of anything that could come up that I don't have some sort of experience handling.”

Hart has, in the past, also offered game support at various Windjammer home athletic events, including keeping the clock and being the public address announcer at the Windjammer soccer games in the fall.

Hart ends his varsity high school basketball coaching career with a mark of 503-229 (.687 winning percentage), including 455-207 (.687 winning percentage) in the regular season and 48-22 (.686 winning percentage) in the postseason. He is only the ninth Maine high school basketball coach to amass more than 500 career victories.

His 13 league titles, 10 regional championships, six state gold balls and four undefeated regular seasons came in an 18-year period from 1994-2011.

Hart also coached the Camden Hills baseball team in the past — most recently a seven-year stint from 2009 to 2015 — in addition to one season in 1985. He led the Windjammers to a regional baseball title in 2015.

While Hart will miss the fanfare of the team’s many state championships and successful seasons, along with the many relationships he has made with student-athletes and coaches, what he will miss most is the brass tax of teaching his players the skills of the game in day-to-day practices.

“Two hours in the gym with people who really want to be in there, giving it everything they've got,” he said. “The better the team, the more they liked to practice. I'll never forget some of the competitive practices that took place.”

Hart, who lives in Rockport with his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Julia (he also has adult children, Morgan, Nicole and Daniel), said, while the coaching chapter if his life is closing, he is “really excited to make this move” and begin a new one as the athletic director of the only high school (besides Camden-Rockport) he has ever worked for.

“I've been extremely fortunate to work for some great athletic directors, and I've learned something from all of them,” he said. “Now I just want to be the best AD that I can be.”

When asked who will take over as the school’s new boys varsity basketball coach?

“I'm looking forward to interviewing candidates for the job, and to find the right person for the job,” he said. “And then I'll be there for that person, as well as the coaches of all our sports.”

Comments (2)
Posted by: Peter Root | Jun 07, 2019 09:53

Congratulations again Jeff Hart on your new position. You have done C-R proud. As I mentioned the other day I always  enjoyed seeing you when you came down with your teams to play against Rockland. Best of luck in your future.

Posted by: Ian McKenzie | Jun 06, 2019 20:06

Congratulations, Jeff, on a great career. Unfortunately, we were one Andy Bedard away from your first gold ball. I will always remember fondly those years in the old gym on Knowlton Street.. You taught me a lot about basketball and life. Good luck on the next chapter, Coach.

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