As a Maine high school basketball coach, I.J. Pinkham had a long list of accomplishments in his 49 years patrolling the hardwood. Pinkham’s teams won 659 games, more than any other Maine high schoolboys’ basketball coach. His 2001, his Boothbay Seahawks won the Class C State championship. Another achievement arrived in 2016, when he was inducted to the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame. On Feb. 25, Pinkham added another achievement to his lengthy list. Pinkham and 10 others were inducted to the Maine Principals’ Association “Hall of Excellence” via an online ceremony.
The Hall of Excellence was established in 2014 to honor individuals who exemplified the highest standards of educational leadership, citizenship, ethical conduct and moral character in Maine high school athletics. The Hall of Excellence has five nomination categories: school administrators, athletes, coaches, officials, and contributors. The Class of 2020 was originally scheduled for induction last May, but was delayed due to the coronavirus.
Pinkham was unaware of the award and didn’t know who nominated him. But he was “humbled and honored” with the selection. During the ceremony, he thanked those who contributed in his development into a distinguished teacher and coach. Pinkham grew up in the Washington County town of Milbridge and credited his parents for “being supportive and involved in his academic and athletic development.” His high school principal Jack Sumner was also his math and science teacher who was a “huge” influence on Pinkham. “It was through his example I became a teacher,” Pinkham said during the online induction ceremony.
Pinkham attended Farmington State Teachers’ College, now the University of Maine at Farmington. He played on the basketball team, and his coach Len McPhee became a role model. Pinkham described his coach as “Low-key, never raised his voice, and had great knowledge of the game.”
He also thanked the support of school administrators who allowed him to last nearly 50 years in coaching. In Buckfield, Jack Gaudette gave Pinkham his first coach opportunity and assisted him moving on to Boothbay. Pinkham coached the Seahawks for 43 seasons. He credited the school’s administration for supporting him during his long tenure.
”It’s difficult to run a good program without people behind you,” he said. His family also provided steadfast support during his coaching career. Pinkham thanked his wife Peggy and two sons Tim and Matthew as he described the family winters as “revolving around basketball between all the games and practices,”
In receiving the award, Pinkham had one question. “Why am I receiving this? There are a lot of good coaches and teachers,” he asked himself during the ceremony. After reflection, Pinkham answered his own question. “People seemed to appreciate that I taught to the individual student with a great deal of caring and humor. As a coach, I was ‘old-school.’ People seemed to like I had standards, and stood behind them,” he said.
Pinkham and 10 others received induction to the Maine Principals’ Association “Hall of Excellence” via an online ceremony held Feb. 25. Pinkham coached boys’ basketball for 49 years starting in Buckfield, from 1970-76, and Boothbay, from 1976-2020.
He was joined by Ralph Damren of Old Town who is a longtime high school football referee and baseball umpire, Don Atkinson, a Skowhegan High School graduate who coached girls’ basketball at Falmouth and Deering. He also was a long-time director of the MPA tennis tournaments, public address announcer for numerous state championship events. Atkinson also served as a board certified basketball and soccer official.
The late Robert and late Gertrude Butler of Machias taught, coached and served as athletic administrators in southern Maine for decades. In 1950, the couple began collecting and tabulating tournament and seasonal interscholastic basketball records. The Western Maine Conference awards the “Robert E. Butler Award” to an outstanding male and female athlete each year.
The late Jim DiFrederico of Millinocket was a star athlete at Stearns High school in the 1940s. In 1949, the Boston Red Sox drafted him and he played in the Red Sox and Chicago Cubs organizations. DiFrederico officiated high school and Division I college basketball and baseball for three decades.
Jack Hardy, of Livermore Falls, served as Greeley High School athletic director for 14 years. He earlier taught and coached for 13 years. Hardy served as Falmouth High School principal and North Yarmouth Academy athletic director. In 2004, he received the NFHS (National Federation of High School) National Distinguished Service Award.
Barbara Krause won a Class C State championship for Freeport High School girls’ basketball team. She attended Bowdoin College for a year before transferring to Duke University. As a Blue Devil, she set a school record with 24 rebounds in a game. Krause received the NCAIAW Scholar-Athlete Award in 1980 and 1981 and named to the NAIAW Division All-Star team, and played professionally in Germany.
This was the first season Pinkham wasn’t coaching a varsity team in 50 years. He hoped to spend more time watching his grandchildren play basketball this winter. “I expected to watch them play, but the season was cut short due to the virus,” Pinkham said.
The induction ceremony can be viewed at https://youtu.be/bYEhllrfIZA; Pinkham’s induction begins at the 1:05.24 mark of the video.