GORHAM — Having coached extensively throughout Maine, around New England and even in Europe, Karl Henrikson has amassed an impressive coaching career brimming with success.
After establishing his legacy first as a player, now as a coach, Henrikson has settled down, for the last nearly two decades, at the helm of the University of Southern Maine men’s basketball program.
Henrikson’s ties to the University of Southern Maine began after his playing days at Georges Valley High School in Thomaston.
Henrikson, who has been inducted into the Midcoast and the University of Maine at Presque Isle Sports Halls of Fame, was a four-year member of the USM men’s basketball team and served as the captain of the 1977-78 USM team that recorded a 26-6 record and advanced to the NAIA National Championship.
The Georges Valley alumnus returned to the Gorham program as the program’s head coach in 2003 and the program has been under his direction since.
Henrikson was motivated, in part, to become a coach thanks to one of his coaches in high school, Tom Mellor, whom Henrikson credited with being an example of the admirable qualities a caring human should have.
“His concern for his players beyond the court translated into a direction for my life,” said Henrikson.
Henrikson was bestowed Little East Conference Coach of the Year honors for the 2015-16 season after he guided the Huskies to a second place finish in the conference, its highest finish since the 1990-91 season.
When taking the helm of the Southern Maine men’s basketball program, Henrikson had already compiled an exceptional coaching background.
His coaching career began in 1978 at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland, where he guided the SeaWolves to back-to-back conference runner-up finishes.
From there, he accepted the head coaching position for Newcastle’s Lincoln Academy, not far from his alma mater, and guided the Eagles to a Western Maine Class B tournament appearance.
After one season in Newcastle, he became a graduate assistant at Springfield College in Massachusetts while working on his master’s degree.
After guiding the junior varsity squad at Springfield to a 12-0 record, he returned to Maine to lead the boys basketball team at Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor.
The Trojans qualified for the playoffs four of his five years in Bar Harbor, before he moved on to Augusta’s Edward Little, where he would be named Coach of the Year in 1988.
Henrikson returned to the college ranks in 1989 as the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
At the helm of the Owls, Henrikson steered the Owls to a top 25 national ranking in 1997 and tallied a 122-79 record over nine seasons, while producing eight NAIA All-Americans and earning Coach of the Year honors twice.
The Owls, under Henrikson, qualified for the NAIA playoffs six times and collected a Northeast College Conference championship in 1993, for the first time in a dozen years, and a Maine Athletic Conference regular season title in 1995.
Henrikson’s UMPI hall of fame biography noted players desired to play for him, despite his reputation for being demanding and intense, as he brought out the best of his players.
“They noticed that he was prepared for every situation in game and in practice,” the biography reads. “Coach knew how to drive his players and find a way to succeed. They learned discipline, raised their expectations, and because better young men for the time they spent with Coach Henrikson.”
Opposing coaches, the biography noted, loathed playing against Henrikson’s UMPI teams.
“They knew that no matter who was on the team, Coach Henrickson's teams would be well coached, prepared for the matchup, and be in the best position possible to win a game,” the biography reads.
Henrikson took his coaching talents overseas in 1998 when he accepted the associate head coach position with the Namika Lahti in Finland, where he worked with several former NCAA Division I and Finnish national team players.
After one season abroad, Henrikson returned, once again, to Maine to captain the Maine Central Institute prep basketball program, where he won 78 percent of the game he coached.
The best aspect of coaching, for Henrikson, is derived from the culture of his teams.
“The best part of coaching is the struggle toward a goal and the feeling when an entire team is focused on the big picture rather than individual accomplishments,” he said.
The most difficult aspect of coaching, Henrikson said, revolves around players being comfortable with their respective role in the big picture.
“It is difficult at times to have every player understand that their contributions are important and that their role within the team is vital,” Henrikson said.
For those hoping to transition from playing to coaching, at any level, Henrikson advises one to be the best teacher possible and to “always look inside yourself first to improve your team.”
With the amount of success he has over the years at both the high school and collegiate levels, it was befitting to ask Henrikson for general recruiting advice for high school players, of any sport, hoping to play collegiate athletics.
“Academics, attitude and ability determine options,” Henrikson said. “Good students are at a premium and, too, good students who can compete and also be good teammates are what is looked for.”
Reach George Harvey and the sports department at: firstname.lastname@example.org.