Julie Davis, Director of Athletics, Fitness, and Recreation at the University of Maine at Farmington, announced today that Dick Meader — the winningest men’s basketball coach in UMF history — will retire on May 29, 2020.
“On behalf of our department staff, University administration and countless alumni and friends of the University of Maine Farmington, I congratulate Coach Meader on the culmination of his tremendously successful career and thank him for his tireless service to our student-athletes, our programs and the coaching profession,” said Davis. “For the last 20 years, I have had the good fortune to observe him serve others as a teacher-coach, mentor, colleague, friend and family man. With great humility and integrity, he has taught our student-athletes not only the fundamentals of sport, but also many more transferrable life lessons, among them the value of unselfishness. He has a knack for building strong relationships with players, other students, colleagues and peers that have lasted a lifetime.”
In 44 seasons of coaching collegiate men’s basketball, Meader amassed 513 victories, including 160 in 17 seasons at Thomas College in Waterville and 353 in 27 seasons at UMF. In his final season at Farmington, he notched his 500th victory (on January 10, 2020, vs. NVU–Lyndon), led the Beavers to a program-record 22 single-season wins, and was named the North Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year for the fifth time in his career. Meader will also receive the National Association of Basketball Coaches 2020 NABC Outstanding Service Award on April 3 during the NCAA Division I Men’s Final Four in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dick Whitmore, the former longtime head coach of Colby College men’s basketball and Meader’s partner in running the highly influential Pine Tree Basketball Camp for 38 years, called his coaching colleague “a giant in Maine basketball.”
“His contributions have been felt throughout the state and beyond,” said Whitmore. “His teammates and players have loved and respected him for five decades. No coach has prepared his teams better.”
Over the years, serving on the staff of Meader and Whitmore’s summer developmental basketball camp became a rite of passage for many successful high school, college, and NBA coaches, including 1982 UMF graduate and Orlando Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford, Philadelphia 76ers Head Coach Brett Brown, and Denver Nuggets Head Coach Mike Malone. The camp’s 38,000 alumni include two-time Olympian and five-time NBA All-Star Chris Mullin.
In addition to coaching men’s basketball and baseball (for 19 seasons) at UMF, Meader also was an instructor in the school’s popular coaching minor program that many students enrolled in as a complement to earning bachelor’s degrees in education. For more than 20 years, Meader taught future teachers the fundamentals and finer points of coaching based on the best practices he demonstrated throughout his career.
Travis Magnusson, a 1,000-point scorer at UMF who now coaches boys basketball and teaches physical education and health at Maranacook Community High School in Readfield, said the lessons he learned from Meader were formative in his development as a player and a coach.
“Coach Meader is someone that I work to emulate every day. Year after year, his teams have always played with a level of class and integrity that is uncommon among college programs,” said Magnusson, a 2006 graduate of UMF. “He is an excellent coach, but the most impressive thing about him is it doesn’t stop when you are done playing for him. Fourteen years after the last game I played at UMF, he is still one of my biggest supporters. If success is measured by how many people you have impacted in your life, then no one is more successful than Coach. I feel very fortunate to have learned about life and the game of basketball from him.”
Long before Meader excelled as a basketball coach, he was well known for his prowess as a player. At Farmington, the 5’8″ Meader established himself as a highly productive point guard with exceptional quickness and ball-handling skills. In his freshman year under Head Coach Roger Wing, the Solon High School graduate set a New England college record by sinking 20 free-throws in a game en route to scoring 40 points — a single-game scoring record that stood at Farmington for 35 years (until Meader’s son Darren scored 44 in a game, in 2000). In his senior year, under Head Coach Len MacPhee, Meader also set a Farmington record for most points in a career (1,195) and was selected to the first Maine College All-Star team.
In Meader’s citation for his induction into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, MacPhee is quoted as calling his former player and coaching colleague “one of the top-five point guards in the last 50 years of Maine basketball.”
For Meader, coaching and basketball at UMF have been a family affair. After growing up watching their father coach basketball and baseball at UMF, Meader’s sons, Daren and Lance, enrolled at UMF and were members of the men’s basketball team. Daren, a 2000 graduate of UMF, finished his career with 1,819 points and ranks second among Farmington’s men’s basketball scoring leaders. As a forward on the team, he also achieved All-Maine, All-Conference, and Maine Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. Daren, who also played baseball for his father, has a career batting average of .368 and ranks among the top-10 at Farmington in hits (103), RBI (74), doubles (24) and home runs (12). Lance, a 1997 graduate of UMF, played two seasons for his father after transferring to Farmington from Clark University. A point guard for the Beavers, he is eighth on Farmington’s all-time assist list with 375. Meader also coached his nephew, Justin Meader, a 2017 graduate of UMF and son of Meader’s brother Donnie, whom Meader coached for four years at Thomas.
Throughout Meader’s 44-year coaching career, his most loyal fan and steadfast presence in the bleachers at home and away games has been his wife and college sweetheart, Betty-Jane, a 1968 graduate of UMF, a 38-year professor of fashion retail merchandising at Thomas College, and former member of the University’s Board of Visitors.
“She allowed me to coach,” said Meader. “She had her own successful career in college teaching and didn’t require me to be home every evening. Betty-Jane did a wonderful job of raising the two boys and being home with them after school. In her own way, she helped me be successful, and I owe much of my success to her.”
Meader said that he wanted to be a coach since childhood and that he began to make progress toward his calling at Farmington.
“Coming here as a first-generation student from a small town and gaining the confidence to continue on in the field of athletics … that was what Farmington was all about for me and still is for many students,” he said. “Farmington always has been a place for Maine players to play.”
Although he will no longer be coaching, Meader said basketball will remain a staple of retired life. In addition to taking in his grandsons’ middle and high school games, he said he looks forward to attending many basketball practices — at colleges and universities throughout Maine and New England that were once rivals.
“Just to experience the joy of seeing how coaches present what they teach,” he explained. “Not to evaluate them but to witness the teaching of technique that helps build confidence in young people, making them better athletes. I’ve always loved learning about the game, seeing how other coaches do it and watching kids grow through the game.”
Regarding the decision to retire at age 74, Meader said, “I would like to be 30 again and know what I know now and have 44 more years of coaching ahead of me.”
“But it’s good to be leaving the game while you still love the game,” he continued. “As a kid, I always dreamed of being a coach. Getting to live out that dream for 44 years has been very, very special.”
For his accomplishments as an athlete, Meader has been inducted into the UMF Sports Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame, and the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. For his success as a coach at Thomas, he has been inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. At UMF, Meader was named Maine Athletic Conference Coach of the Year twice each for basketball and baseball, and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics District V Coach of the Year twice in basketball and once for baseball. Meader also has been named Maine College Coaches and Writers Association Coach of the Year five times since he began coaching at UMF. He has led UMF men’s basketball to win the 2010 North Atlantic Conference Championship and four NAC regular-season championships.
Davis said UMF’s national search to find head coach candidates who can carry on Meader’s legacy of integrity, student-focused player development, and winning will begin immediately.