By Tony Blasi, Sports Editor
The coaching carousel never stops spinning, but high school coach Brian Dube is getting off for good after a successful 22-year career, and Stephen Lancaster is staying on for the long run.
Lancaster, the former Mt. Blue baseball coach, returns to Spruce Mountain to replace Dube. Lancaster was Dube’s junior varsity coach three years ago.
According to Mt. Blue athletic director Chad Brackett, the baseball coaching job remains vacant. He added that the Cougars benefited from Lancaster’s experience.
“Having a baseball coach like Steve, with personal experience playing at the Division-I level, is very rare,” Brackett said. “We wish him the best of luck in his new position at Spruce Mountain.”
But Dube said Spruce Mountain is in good hands with Lancaster.
“He was my JV coach for a couple of years,” Dube said of Lancaster. “I played ball with his dad, Steve Sr., years ago. Oh, yeah, he will do a good job.
“He will be good with the kids. He was a good baseball player when he was in high school. He is easygoing, too. He’ll be good for the kids.”
Lancaster, who played at the University of Maine, is glad to be returning to Spruce Mountain.
“I coached over there, the JV, three years ago,” Lancaster said. “I was really looking at that position. (Dube) had been talking about getting done, but no one knew when it was going to happen. I had a really good time over there as JV coach. I coached under Brian Dube and under James Black, who was the AD. I had a ton of fun, and that was the catalyst for me wanting to coach and getting out there and getting some time as the JV coach.
“I really wanted to hang around until Brian Dube got done at Spruce Mountain, but I got an offer I couldn’t refuse to go to Mt. Blue, my alma mater, and coach with a good friend, Chad Brackett, who is terrific. I just couldn’t say no, so I went over there.”
But Lancaster kept an eye out for when Dube decided to retire.
“Originally, I grew up in Livermore Falls, and then I ended up going to Mt. Blue High School for four years,” Lancaster said. “I came up through the Area Youth Sports Program over there.”
Lancaster coached the Cougars for the past two years before deciding to return to the Phoenix.
“I coached with Ben Davis, who is the JV coach down there,” Lancaster said. “He is a terrific guy. I am hoping they will take him up to the head coaching position. He is what they need.”
And it is not like Lancaster is not familiar with the Spruce Mountain baseball players, either.
“The thing is, some of the kids who were freshman on my JV team are going to be seniors this spring,” Lancaster said. “I’ve got a handful of guys coming up from the JV team that I coached years ago, and so I think it will help in the transition and make it smoother.
“I can’t wait to get started. I am already revamping my playbook and getting some good drills set up for next year, and it helped what I learned at Mt. Blue.”
Time to call it a day
Dube decided to step down just after the 2018 season concluded, but he kept it quiet so people wouldn’t make it a big deal about his departure.
“It was just time (to leave), nothing special,” Dube said. “I have been thinking about it for several years.
“This team here, I had all the way through. Next year, for me, it would be like starting over with a new group, although this is a good group coming back. To be honest, I almost got done last year.”
But what kept him in the game was when the Phoenix returned to the Mountain Valley Conference — a league Dube used to coach in for years.
“When we finally got back in, I decided to stay one more year so I could get back into the MVC,” Dube said. “Meet all the coaches, let them know I was getting done and say goodbye to all my friends …
“We had a good year this year, and I just thought it was a good time to retire.”
“He really helped me out a lot,” Lancaster said. “He is a seasoned coach, so it was really good to pay attention to him. I am thankful I got to watch him from a little bit of a distance there years ago.”
Come next spring, you can bet Dube will miss those cool and warm days at Griffin Field calling the shots.
“Oh, yeah, you know how much I love the game. I will find other things to keep me occupied, but if I don’t I will find myself back up there,” Dube said. “It was more than just about baseball — all the relationships, all the coaches, all the players, everything.
“Obviously, some of the kids I coached are grown men … every time I see them it brings up the memories we played together. They still call me “Coach.” This has been a lot of fun, but Bill Belichick isn’t going to coach forever, either.
“I was happy to get my 200th win this year. Played in some championships and won a couple. It is just fun, those state championships.”
Dube fondly looks back at over two decades of coaching high school ball, which includes a state championship in 1999.
“I got to coach my two kids and watched them each win a state title. It builds family ties, that’s for sure,” Dube said. “Obviously, you don’t coach that long without loving the game and everything that comes with it. I have no regrets.
“Everybody says, ‘What do you mean you are done! You say that every year.’ I think about it every year, but I have never said it. I am telling you, I am done and they still don’t believe me. I am sticking with it and I never said I was done before. This time I am.”
But his legacy of being a positive coach has touched generations along the way and made him an unforgettable mentor.