After confirming from athletics director Lenny McCaigue and longtime tennis coach Bruce Berk that no one has coached the Cougars longer than Ed Lemire, it’s time to refer to the girls’ head basketball coach as the dean of Derryfield athletics.
After his team’s season-opening loss to Epping on Tuesday, and long after everyone departed, I asked Lemire, who’s a math teacher, to count the number of championship banners hanging in the Cougars’ gymnasium. The total is 74 to date.
“It’s funny, but when I started coaching here 38 years ago, there wasn’t a single banner hanging in our gym,” said Lemire. “So I guess I can say I’ve seen it all here so far.”
His coaching career includes the last 33 as the girls’ basketball coach, five as a junior varsity boys’ baseball coach, and two stints in softball, the first as head coach (1984-94) and the current as an assistant coach since 2001.
Anyone who knows Lemire knows him as a caring man with a genuine kind heart, full of love for his school, pupils, players and, most importantly, his family.
“I love the kids. It’s been fun coaching them and I’ve had good support from the administration and parents over the years,” said Lemire. “When I get out here (coaching), all the other stuff going on in my life disappears for an hour and 15 minutes. Coaching is a passion and I’ve been blessed to have Mimi (assistant coach Michelle Coombes) with me for a long time. We also coach softball together.”
Anyone who has attended Derryfield girls’ basketball home games will notice there’s another special member of the team on the bench: Coach Laura, Lemire’s 27-year-old daughter who was born with a metabolic disorder called propionic acidemia.
“So her body cannot break down excess amount of protein. She’s an epileptic and also has a cardiac condition as a result of it,” said Lemire. “She’s one of the oldest we know of with this condition because other people with the condition haven’t lived this long. She just had surgery to help her with her seizures and amazingly she just goes and goes.”
It also goes without saying that the love and affection Lemire and his daughter have for one another is something to cherish and admire. During time-outs, one can usually see, as was the case this week, Laura sits on her dad’s knee as he instructs his team. It’s that love, that bond between daughter and dad, that keeps Laura strong to battle her condition on a daily basis.
“My daughter loves the team, loves all the players, and my players love her back. To me it’s good for kids to see that there’s another side of life, that there’s also something more important than just playing basketball. Whenever I have a bad day, I always say it’s nothing compared to what she goes through,” said Lemire, who shared another story about Laura that involved her 30-year-old brother, Rob, a teacher at Pinkerton Academy of Derry.
“To honor his sister, he designed a blue DNA strand tattoo with the (symbol letters) of the propionic acidemia chemical structure on it,” said Lemire while raising his left shirt sleeve to show me. “That tattoo impressed me so much that I ended up getting one done myself in early October. Rob later told me he thought he’d never see the day where we’d both get a tattoo together,” laughed Lemire.
So with a wonderful coaching career that includes a 1998 Class S basketball championship and coaching two of the greatest athletes (Mya Mangawang and Becky Gallagher) in school history, at age 64 Lemire doesn’t see himself coaching a whole lot longer.
“They (Derryfield) say 10 years toward (building) a new gym and I don’t think about it,” said Lemire. “I would say I have a few years left before I step away.”
And while Lemire has coached for 38 years at the smallest of the five NHIAA high schools in the Queen City, he put the differences in proper context: “At the bigger schools, you’re always going to see bigger, stronger, talented players. But you won’t see anyone at those bigger schools working any harder than our kids at Derryfield School.” -John Habib for the Union Leader