After a year of learning under Jon Furbush as Bates College’s men’s basketball lead assistant, Lewiston native Ronnie Turner is leaving to take a head coaching job at Pomfret School, a prep school in Connecticut.
“Overall, it’s exciting and I get another opportunity to coach again, and this time as the head coach,” Turner said. “It is difficult to leave the program and the guys. Even though I’m not with them, I still stay in touch. I talk to Furbush and (assistant coach) Graham Safford every day.”
It was a tough decision for Turner, who had spent the season learning from Furbush and also recruiting for Bates. Turner was responsible for former Lewiston High School players David Omasombo and Chiwer Mayen committing to the Bobcats, as well as Elliott Kravitz, a guard from Colorado.
However, Pomfret’s former head coach, Rob Toste, knew Turner from the year they worked together at the University of Maine, when Toste was the director of basketball operations for the men’s basketball team and Turner was a student assistant. Toste reached out to Turner about the impending job opening.
“He called me after one of our games and he said, ‘I might be stepping down, are you interested,’” Turner said. “I wasn’t interested at first because I was pretty comfortable, I like the guys. He sent me information and I told coach Furbush right away, and he was really supportive of it all and said, ‘At minimum you should gain experience with the interview process.’”
Turner went through that process and ended up accepting the job. He said that the culture at Pomfret stood out the most.
“Things got more and more intriguing to me, and I love the campus, what they’re doing there and the community there,” Turner said. “I had my tour with a student, and she just did such a great job. She wasn’t in a job role, she was just being herself. Something that stood out to me is she spoke to everyone she saw and said their first name of her. Everyone said her name de ella back to her, and I thought that was really cool.
“They spoke a lot about the community in the interview process, but to see it live it was really cool.”
Toast will remain at Pomfret and serve as Turner’s assistant. Toste stepped down as head coach because he took a different job at the school, working in the dean’s office.
He said he reached out to Turner about the job opening because of Turner’s prior experience and the work ethic and dedication he showed during their time at the University of Maine.
“From the very start, he was someone who really wanted to learn how to be a coach,” Toste said. “… What made me think of Ronnie was first of all he already has high school experience. Being in Maine helps because we have a lot of kids that track to the high-academic DIII schools. His experience of him really spoke to me. When I called him and explained the path to other opportunities in education, not just basketball, and the team, he was really interested. He is open to a lot of growth, and I knew he’d be up to that challenge. The most important thing is you have to be someone who wants to learn and grow, and he has all those qualities.”
Turner, who graduated from Lewiston High School in 2010 and played a year of professional basketball overseas, has quickly risen through the coaching ranks. He said he has learned at each stop.
After serving as an assistant at Lee Academy in 2016, Turner became the head coach of the freshman team at Lewiston High School for a year before going to play in El Salvador for Apopa in the El Salvador Liga Superior.
The support from in Apopa community stuck out to Turner.
“I was able to walk around the town, and I got a lot of love from the community,” he said. “People inviting me to their homes, feeding me and showing me their culture, and it was really cool.”
He added that the experience and people in El Salvador had a significant impact on him.
“I took so much more than basketball from it,” Turner said. “Everyone there was so happy. They don’t have a lot of things that we have in America. I wasn’t able to drink water and I remember drinking orange juice on the sidelines. I remember thinking how crazy that was, but it was so normal for them they didn’t think anything of it. They were so appreciative of things in life.”
Turner finished a season with Apopa and eventually came back to Maine, and, in 2019, was named the head coach of the Lewiston varsity boys basketball team. He spent two seasons leading the Blue Devils before being hired as Furbush’s lead assistant at Bates College.
Turner has known Furbush since Turner was a kid playing in Bates’ gym, and he met Safford at an AAU tryout in high school.
“It’s their program, and they allowed me to be myself and add my own values, which I am also appreciative of,” Turner said.
Early in the season, Turner’s passion for the game showed itself and it turned into a coachable moment.
“I remember being on the bench, and I am a defensive guy, and I remember we got scored on and it was the end of the world for me,” Turner said. “I couldn’t understand why we got scored on. I remember Coach Graham right next to me saying, ‘Hey, it’s all right, it’s part of the game.’ Just the way he said it, I was like, ‘Wow, he’s right.’
“Throughout my journey as a player and coach, I’d been scored on multiple times, so it wasn’t something I’ve never seen, but when you’re so passionate about it and you put in a lot of time on the defensive side of the ball, when you put it all in and it doesn’t go your way, it’s easy to be emotional in the moment.”
That passion carried over into recruiting. Along with Omasombo and Mayen—whom he coached at Lewiston—Turner also had success recruiting nationally by getting Kravitz to commit to the Bobcats.
“With Elliot, I just created a connection with him,” Turner said. “I’d help him with stuff like workouts, send him info, you just find common ground and common interest. It’s nothing short of a friendship, and at the end of the day I’m a human and he’s a human and I’m just creating a human connection. You let things be organic from there, you let the family know what you stand for and that’s how the program is built from there.”
He is excited to recruit his own players after this upcoming season at Pomfret, where he will begin his role in July. He will also work in the admissions office.
“Year one, I wasn’t able to select any players, so it will be completely new to me, but after this year I’ll be able to recruit some guys that I think will fit what I’m trying to do at the program,” Turner said.
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