It has been a difficult year for Troy Alley.
His father, legendary Jonesport-Beals High School boys basketball coach Ordie Alley, died on March 23 and his 30-year-old niece, Brittany (Alley) Estes, passed away three days later.
Then in July the University of Maine at Machias, where he was the associate athletic director, men’s and women’s basketball coach and men’s soccer coach, suspended its athletics program indefinitely because of budget issues worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alley will be back in the gym this winter as the boys basketball coach at Searsport High School, replacing Dave Pepin.
“Troy is a motivator and brings out the best in his players,” Searsport athletic administrator Chris Hart said. “He holds them responsible but they also know he really cares about them. When he was at Machias, a lot of his players couldn’t get home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so he would have them over to his house.”
Hart, who previously was Alley’s boss as the athletics director at UMM, had reached out after the tragedies and the UMM shutdown.
“I had heard from other high schools and colleges and told him that I wasn’t going to make a decision right away. I was still trying to put my life back together,” Alley said.
But Hart was persistent after other schools had stopped contacting Alley, who accepted the Searsport job last week.
“I know him. I like him. I trust him,” Alley said.
Hart said Alley will make his presence known at the middle school and youth levels so his future players will get to know him.
Alley said he realized as winter approached that he didn’t want to step away from coaching basketball after a 26-year run.
“I got the itch to get back into the gym,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for me. It’s going to be a fun experience,” he said.
During his five seasons at UMM, which was his alma mater, Alley guided two of his women’s teams and one of his men’s teams to berths in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national tournaments.
The women were ranked as high as No. 4 in the country last season and knocked off two No. 1 teams.
Alley inherits a Searsport team that went 4-14 last season.
He previously coached at Machias High School, Acadia Christian in Trenton and Jonesport-Beals, where he played for his father and later served as his assistant.
Alley said coaching high school ball will be different, but less demanding in some ways.
“High school won’t be as time-consuming. The hours won’t be nearly as long. In college, I was on the road all the time. I’ll be home a lot more but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. You will have to ask my wife [Bobbie],” Alley quipped.
The 48-year-old Alley said he often served as a father figure in college because he had players from all over the country.
“It won’t be as hands-on as it was in college but I will still be teaching life lessons and I will still be a role model,” he said.
Alley doesn’t want to characterize the Searsport situation as a building process, which sends the wrong message. He said they’ll do what they can to win.
His coaching philosophy will be formed around the makeup of his team and he guaranteed that his teams will play hard all the time.
“My dad used to say, teams may have more talent than we do but none of them are going to outwork us,” said Alley, who is teaching courses at Washington County Community College in Calais.
Alley faces a 90-minute drive from his home in Jonesport to Searsport but he said he will use the time to plan practices and establish game strategies.
His brother, Skip, is the boys coach at Jonesport-Beals.