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High school girls basketball

Oceanside athletic director Harriman steps up to lead Mariners

Harriman, Randall fill void while coach Breen is sidelined on medical leave
By Ken Waltz | Jan 11, 2021
Photo by: Mark Haskell Molly Bishop Harriman.

Rockland — When Molly Bishop Harriman realized a colleague and friend, as well as one of her high school's athletic programs, needed a helping hand, she stepped up and, of course, reached out.

When it became clear Matt Breen, the Mariners' second-year girls varsity basketball coach and the school's previous longtime boys varsity hoop leader, needed to go on medical leave, Harriman stepped in to fill the void for the school, student-athletes and, of course, Breen.

For a pandemic-shortened court campaign, that begins the week of Jan. 11, Harriman will be joined by Darren Randall, hired in November to assist Breen and to serve as junior varsity coach.

Harriman, also the Regional School Unit 13 athletic director, and Randall, a longtime coach in the district, are quite familiar with Mariner athletics and, specifically, Oceanside basketball. Both have extensive experience leading court student-athletes.

That is why the two will work together to guide the high school girls program this winter.

Harriman will serve as interim varsity coach and Randall as an assistant.

The development has been another unforeseen challenge for what has been the most challenging of 10 months, what with a pandemic and all that has brought to the table for individuals, schools, businesses and even sports.

The RSU 13 School Board approved high school winter sports for 2020-21 under the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Community Sport Guidelines, which means there will be basketball and some level of participation and activity, possibly, for Mariner student-athletes in sports such as ice hockey, swimming, indoor track and wrestling and skiing.

However, while the other sports face serious obstacles — wrestling cannot compete until at least late-February, independent skiers and swimmers will not be able to compete with Camden Hills as in the past and indoor track athletes will need to work on their own as there are no colleges to host meets — basketball at least appears set to play interscholastic games.

How many and for how long, no one knows. But the Mariners and their coaches will be ready.

The Mariners started individual drills and skills on Monday, Dec. 21 and team and contact sessions on Monday, Jan. 4, as games are set to begin the week of Jan. 11-16. Oceanside opens on the road against Belfast at 5 p.m. Face coverings will be worn by athletes, coaches and others at all indoor events.

Harriman has been the RSU 13 AD for Oceanside High School in Rockland and Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston since 2014.

Before coming to Oceanside, Harriman, a former high school basketball, soccer and track-and-field student-athlete at Lincoln Academy in Newcastle and Medomak Valley in Waldoboro (she is a 1994 graduate of the school), was AD, teacher and multiple-team coach at Richmond schools.

Harriman coached the Richmond varsity girls seven seasons. She also served as the high school and middle school AD three years and science teacher in the school system seven years.

Harriman, who led the Bobcats to three straight Class D West titles, also surpassed 100 career coaching wins. She has a 103-38 record (.730 winning percentage) coaching high school basketball.

Harriman, whose passions include hunting, fly fishing, working in the garden and spending time on the ocean, also coached multiple sports at Valley of Bingham and her alma mater of MVHS.

After high school, Harriman attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Co. to study anthropology and archaeology. While she played basketball at the school, one of the main reasons she attended the school so far from her Jefferson roots was to see a different part of the country.

Randall was a multi-sport athlete at Rockland District High School and has coached a bundle of teams for the former Tigers and, more recently, the Mariners.

"Initially, the need for someone to step in and fill in coach Breen’s position was thought to be temporary and we had not yet received School Board approval [for winter sports]," Harriman said. "In years past, I have always wanted to be available to coaches should they have an emergency so that everyone was assured that there would be as little disruption as possible for programs and athletes as we navigated whatever situations arose."

Thus, Harriman stepped up to fill in. She, along with Randall, will lead the Mariners during their 11-game regular-season schedule, if the pandemic and county color codes allows.

"Whenever people have asked if I missed coaching, my answer was always yes," Harriman said. "If anyone had asked if I ever envisioned myself returning to coaching a varsity program at the 11th hour during the middle of a pandemic I might have laughed at the prospect. I’m thrilled to be working with an unbelievable group of young ladies who are doing a tremendous job of rolling with the punches. I truly look forward to watching their progression as basketball players and young ladies as we go through the season."

Harriman said she and Randall have stated to the student-athletes "this is not a typical season in any way, shape or form. Keeping that in mind our goal is to provide the girls with as much of a basketball season as we can, while doing our best to ensure the safety of our basketball players. We are both highly-competitive people, who love the concept of winning, but understand this year is nothing if not abnormal."

Harriman said the coaches' general thought is "to continue using the majority of concepts that the girls program had started to use in coach Breen’s first year. There may be some minor changes, but we didn’t think it was necessary to reinvent the entire wheel, especially since we have a number of very knowledgeable returning athletes. Personally, I hope to help build the confidence and sense of team for all members of the group. Everyone has a way to show growth and have a specific role on the team. Having open conversations with the girls about how what they do impacts the others and the success of the team can be a strong lesson for all involved."

Harriman said she will, of course, juggle her role as athletic director for the district with her role as Mariner varsity girls hoop coach. She will be busy, but she is ready to tackle both roles with gusty to give Mariner student-athletes at all levels the attention and support they need.

"As far as what the season will look like in the midst of a pandemic: My goal as an AD is to provide as many avenues for our athletes to compete as we are allowed," she said. "It certainly has been stressful to attempt to create these opportunities safely while addressing a whole host of concerns that cause us to reinvent the way we have always done things. Nothing is intuitive, and it seems as though every season, event, sport is playing by rules that change almost daily.

She said being AD and coach makes things much more hectic, but added due to inherent COVID-19 limitations, such as no interscholastic middle school play and some high school student-athletes being unable to participate in programs at the school or around the state, " I think it will be manageable."

Harriman said having "Randall back on the basketball court has been incredible. We had hired him to coach the girls jayvee team in November, prior to knowing what the season would look like or that coach Breen would not be able to be here. Since coach Randall had worked alongside coach Breen while coaching boys basketball, he is very knowledgeable of coach’s game plans. He has a long tenure as an OHS basketball coach, and is familiar with most of the athletes having taught the majority of them in physical education at Oceanside Middle School."

"It has been fun getting back into coaching," said Randall, a physical education teacher in RSU 13. "It is something that I have always loved to do, but have found it difficult to balance coaching and family. When Matt asked me to come back and help, in this uncertain year, I was unsure at first but thought it would be a good year to get back in the game. Knowing the season was shorter and would not take away from my family as much. After a few practices the joys of coaching started to come back. I really enjoy the connections with the student-athletes and pushing them to be their best selves."

Harriman said she participated in many sports and as an athletic director loves every sport and each individual athlete. However, she has a special place in her heart for basketball.

"Basketball has been a passion for a long time, probably due to the fact that I first found success as an athlete by playing ball in high school," she said. "It came more naturally to me than the other sports I participated in. As far as coaching basketball, I began finding success in trying to help athletes understand more of the mental aspect of the game, by developing confidence and positive thinking in order to improve the success of the team."

So what is in store for the Mariner girls basketball program under the leadership of Harriman and Randall?

"I think this year more then any other is important for these kids to play," Randall said. "It brings some normalcy back to their lives in these crazy times. I look forward to having some games and helping these players achieve their personal and team goals."

"Overall, our goals for the season are to help the team work hard on the goals we can control, to improve our basketball skills and teamwork, and to have fun," Harriman said. "Most of all we want to make sure that the girls have a way to be competitive with our neighboring schools."

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