By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Chris Boucher was hired this week as the first-year head coach of the Lebanon High girls varsity basketball team. The former Raiders player, however, has been serving an apprenticeship of sorts since before his 1992 graduation.
Cut from the school’s boys basketball team as a senior, Boucher chose not to sulk, but instead became the girls squad’s manager under a new guy who’d just taken over that program’s reins. Tim Kehoe would go on to guide it for 29 years, and Boucher was there at the start.
“I’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” said the 48-year old Boucher, who was Lebanon’s first-year JV girls basketball coach last winter. “I’m a very positive, rah-rah guy and that’s because I think there’s not always much fun in high school sports anymore.
“It can be very serious and and very structured. I want to lighten that up for our team and let them play free.”
Tim Kehoe retired from coaching before last season and his daughter, Emily, a health teacher at the school, guided the team to a 9-4 record and a playoff victory. The campaign ended with an NHIAA Division II quarterfinal loss at Hanover and Emily Kehoe soon resigned, saying the job didn’t fit her personal life.
Boucher noted that his 2020-21 JV Raiders, although only about .500, twice beat their Marauders counterparts.
“That’s a big thing for a Lebanon kid,” he said with a chuckle.
The 2019-20 Raiders were 20-4 and declared division co-champions after Covid-19 shut down that season short of the title game. Star Rebecca Wright soon graduated and Lebanon’s lone senior from last winter, Sally Rainey, did the same earlier this month. The rising senior trio of guards Catherine Cole and Molly Smith and forward Ella Longacre give Boucher hope, however.
“There may be a little hiccup where expectations might not be met by the outcome, but that’s a good solid core for Division II and I think we’ll be in every game,” he said. “We have some strong, younger players with (sophomore forward) Madison Jewell and (junior swing player) Madelyn Newton and both those girls are going to be great additions and building pieces to work around.”
Boucher attended Castleton University after high school, working as the men’s basketball team manager his freshman year. He later became an attackman on the school’s startup lacrosse team and graduated in 1997 before becoming a varsity assistant under first-year Lebanon boys basketball coach Kieth Matte. The Raiders won a 1998 state title, upsetting heavily-favored Bishop Brady, while Boucher worked for a local industrial plasma-cutting supply company.
The next year, 1999, Boucher utilized his college criminal justice degree and became a Brandon, Vt., police officer. He coached the Proctor High girls JV basketball team for a year, then had stints guiding the Otter Valley High boys freshman and JV basketball squads and later helped found the school’s boys lacrosse program.
Boucher and his family moved to Bradford, N.H., in 2006 and he became a police officer in the Lake Sunapee area. He took time off from coaching and left police work, becoming a case manager for Pathways of the Upper Valley and helping clients with physical and mental disabilities.
In 2012, Boucher began work on Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center’s security force, working from 10:45 p.m to 6:45 a.m., a shift he’s maintained to this day. He was drawn back to coaching by high school friend Nate Camp, who was now coaching Kearsarge High’s boys basketball team and working as the middle school’s athletic director.
Boucher directed Kearsarge’s middle school “A” team until last winter, when he became Lebanon’s JV girls coach. He attended not only his own team’s practices, but those of the Raiders varsity as well.
“I wanted to soak up everything I could from Emily Kehoe,” he said. “She’s an amazing coach and I learned from her intensity and attention to detail.”
Emily Kehoe was a standout player for Lebanon and competed at the NCAA Division III level in college. Boucher doesn’t have those credentials. Will it be held against him?
“There are a lot of good coaches who weren’t great players and I’ve put in the time and effort to coach at all levels of basketball,” said Boucher, who’s also worked with club teams. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”
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