BRUNSWICK, Maine - Ray S. Bicknell, coach in the department of athletics emeritus at Bowdoin College, died Monday, November 11, 2013, at the age of 93.
There will be a service in celebration of his life on Monday, November 25 at Prides Corner Church in Westbrook at 1:30 p.m. To send a message of condolence, please visit www.dolbyfuneralchapels.com
Coach Bicknell joined Bowdoin in 1962 after a
distinguished 15-year high school career. He was head coach of
men's basketball at the College for 23 years and recorded more than
200 career wins. He was head coach of women's soccer for seven
years—for a time the “winningest” team at
Bowdoin—and he also was director of scheduling for the
athletic department. He also coached tennis and lacrosse at the
College for shorter periods. Bicknell retired in 1985.
Ray Bicknell was born on March 1, 1920, in Boston, but spent most of his early years in Leominster, Mass. He graduated from New Hampton (N.H.) Prep School and enrolled as an undergraduate at Springfield College, where he was captain of the basketball team and played football and lacrosse. He earned his bachelor's degree in 1947 and a master's degree at Springfield in 1951.
When he came to Bowdoin in 1962, Bicknell took over a program that had not produced a winning season in 18 years. It took several years for him to turn that record around, but during his first season, he led the Polar Bear basketball team to the first state series title in Bowdoin's history. Sportswriters hailed the club as a "Cinderella team" and Coach Bicknell was widely acclaimed for his leadership.
Two of his finest seasons came in 1967-68 and 1968-69, when his teams posted records of 15-6 and 16-5, which at that point were the best records in the College's history. But perhaps his sweetest victory was his final career win in February 1985 when the Polar Bears upset the nationally ranked Colby Mules. In 1968 he was named New England small college coach of the year and his team won the Eastern College Athletic Conference trophy as the outstanding small college team in the east.
Bicknell was named Maine Coach of the Year four times and won the Alvin (Doggie) Julian Award in 1977 for his “outstanding contributions to college basketball in New England.” In 1969 he was selected to coach the College Division All-Stars against Bob Cousy's University Division All-Stars in the annual Basketball Hall of Fame Game.
Some of Coach Bicknell's greatest coaching success came during his years leading the women’s soccer teams. During the seven-year period, his teams posted a 67-20-3 record and won four consecutive Northeast Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships, from 1981 to 1984. For a time after his retirement, Bicknell continued to help coach the soccer team as a volunteer. In 1985 he was elected to honorary membership in the Bowdoin College Alumni Association, and in 2010, his name was added to the Bowdoin College Athletic Hall of Honor.
From 1942 to 1946, Bicknell served in the United States Army, and spent 28 months in active duty in the South Pacific. Following his discharge as first lieutenant, he worked as director of athletics at Portland (Maine) Junior College from 1947 to 1950 and again from 1951 to 1953. He coached basketball and baseball there and taught courses in physical education, psychology, and sociology. From 1953 to 1955, and during 1957, he coached basketball and football and taught physical education, history, and mathematics at Deering High School in Portland. In 1955 and 1956, Bicknell was employed by the Basketball Federation of the Egyptian Olympic Committee. During that period, he coached the national team in preparation for competition in the 1956 Olympics and ran clinics and coached at schools throughout Egypt. From 1957 to 1962, he coached soccer, basketball, and track at Cape Elizabeth (Maine) High School and taught physical education.
Bicknell was a former president of the New England Basketball Coaches Association and of the Maine Basketball Coaches and Writers Association. For many years he served as a member of the United Press International College Division Coaches Rating Board. As noted when Bicknell was inducted into Bowdoin’s Athletic Hall of Honor, his late wife, Jane (also known as “Mrs. Coach’) was an essential part of his teams. Jane Bicknell died in 1995 at the age of 70.