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For a generation of young students in Maine, former Leopard basketball standout Dana Doran ’96 is making a difference as a teacher and coach at Gardiner Area High School. This year he was named Kennebec Journal Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, turning his 2-16 team into a 12-6 success story that won its first playoff game in two decades.

“It was a very humbling and gratifying professional achievement,” he says of the award. “It capped off a very satisfying and fulfilling season. However, I wouldn’t have been honored if I did not have a great group of kids here at Gardiner Area High School. Their hard work, dedication, and perseverance allowed our team to have a very successful year. As a coach, I can only say and do so much. They’re the ones who have to produce on the floor. Fortunately, they did believe in what we are trying to do here and really need to receive the credit for this award.”

Although he expected to become a teacher ever since his high school days, Doran didn’t decide to pursue the profession until 2003.

“I took an educational psychology course at Cedar Crest College and a History of Higher Education course at Lafayette,” he says. “Unfortunately, that’s all I had time for in attempting to fulfill all of my other credit requirements.”

While Doran enjoys what he is doing at GAHS, he acknowledges that he has put a lot of thought into possibly coaching at the college level. After graduating from Lafayette, he spent two years at the University of Connecticut as a graduate assistant coach for Jim Calhoun’s Division I powerhouse.

“After finishing my master’s in 1998, I thought that collegiate coaching was a career that I was destined for,” he says. “However, it is a very difficult field to break into as a full-time paid assistant. Unfortunately, I never received the right opportunity, so I decided to pursue other professional [goals] outside athletics.”

But Doran got the itch again, and took the job at GAHS. When pressed, he admits that he’d love to move into collegiate athletics again.

“However, it would only be at a select few schools,” he notes. “I would love to work with Coach [Fran] O’Hanlon at Lafayette or at one of the few small liberal arts schools here in Maine. But if that never works out, I am very happy teaching and coaching at the high school level.”

In addition to serving as team captain, Doran majored in both history and government & law. Then-head coach John Leone had recruited the Maine native, but Doran chose to attend the University of Maine, where he intended to become a secondary school social studies teacher.

“As a student athlete at the University of Maine, I didn’t feel like I fit in very well in a large public university, both academically and athletically,” he says. “A small, liberal arts school outside Maine was really what I craved.”

That led him to take another look at Lafayette. “I visited Lafayette in the spring of 1992 and fell in love with it immediately,” he says. “From there, I was hooked.”

Doran says that academically, socially, and athletically, Lafayette prepared him for his career goals.

“Academically, it challenged me in more ways than I can think of.”

He credits professors Joshua Miller, James Lennertz, and Robert I. Weiner with bringing content to life and pushing him to become a better writer.

“The content and challenges of writing are directly transferable to what I’m doing today,” he says. “On a daily basis, I attempt to make my students better writers and analytical thinkers.”

He adds that socially, the school “taught me a great deal about leadership, taking risks, and never accepting the status quo.” He praises O’Hanlon and Leone as mentors whose lessons still guide him through team practices and games.

“If it were not for Lafayette, I never would have been exposed to the types of challenging career opportunities that I have experienced over the past 10 years,” Doran says.

Categorized in: Alumni Profiles