Lebanon High athletic director set to retire at end of school year

Mike Stone. Lebanon High athletic director.  (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Mike Stone. Lebanon High athletic director. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Lebanon High athletic director Mike Stone speaks at a student's college commitment ceremony on April 21, 2023. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Lebanon High athletic director Mike Stone speaks at a student's college commitment ceremony on April 21, 2023. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Lebanon High athletic director Mike Stone applauds while the Raiders boys tennis team is presented the NHIAA Division II runner-up trophy on June 2, 2022, in Hudson, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Lebanon High athletic director Mike Stone applauds while the Raiders boys tennis team is presented the NHIAA Division II runner-up trophy on June 2, 2022, in Hudson, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Hartford High football coach Mike Stone is shown on Aug. 24, 2013, during a scrimmage at Hanover High, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Hartford High football coach Mike Stone is shown on Aug. 24, 2013, during a scrimmage at Hanover High, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. valley news file photograph — Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 01-19-2024 8:45 PM

LEBANON — Following a long career as an Upper Valley athlete, coach, teacher and administrator, Lebanon High athletic director Mike Stone will retire after the current school year.

“I don’t do a good job with life balance, so retirement’s something where we have to commit all the way,” Stone said of he and his wife, Gigi. “Our parents are getting on in age, and our kids are having grandkids and they’re spread out. It’s not like we can drive over for the weekend.

“When you get to certain stages of life, your mission changes a little bit.”

Stone, 64, was a three-sport athlete at Hartford High, where he quarterbacked the Hurricanes football team and graduated in 1977. He played at Norwich University, where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1981 before completing a master’s degree a year later. He returned to Hartford as a physical education teacher and three-sport coach months after leaving college.

Stone taught and coached at Hartford for more than 30 years before stepping down in 2014 after disagreements with his alma mater’s administration. He claimed 10 state titles in 13 trips to the finals, five of them between 2007-12. The Hurricanes also piled up winning streaks of 27 and 28 games under Stone.

Stone was an assistant football coach at Norwich before being hired at Lebanon in 2016. Although the athletic director’s role there can be draining, especially because Lebanon does not have an assistant athletic director, Stone handled the bureaucracy while still maintaining a strong presence at games and assorted school events.

Lebanon has won state titles in boys soccer, boys tennis, boys basketball and girls Nordic skiing in recent years, with numerous teams regularly reaching the playoffs and only a handful programs mired in continuous losing.

“Mike is an old-school guy with such a low-key approach and so much credibility that if he talks, you’d be a fool not to run with what he says.” said Tim Kehoe, a longtime Lebanon physical education teacher and previously the Raiders’ girls basketball coach. “He’s a classy guy and the most honest man I know.”

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Stone’s perceptive eye allows him to quickly assess players, coaches and parents and, combined with his friendly personality, lets him solve many small problems before they expand. Students often graduate with a warm connection to their AD, who’s not merely a paper pusher in an office.

“He’s so good communicating to people what he wants without being demanding,” said Kehoe, who appreciates working with an administrator who fully understands the grind of teaching and coaching. “He’s someone to bounce ideas off about life in general. I’ve learned a lot from Mike.”

Stone said he told Lebanon High principal Ian Smith of his plans last year, wanting to give the school plenty of time to search for his replacement. One area he wanted stabilized before leaving was the football program. The Raiders played a JV schedule last fall after a disastrous and winless 2022 varsity campaign under one-year coach Herb Hatch, who was hired by Stone.

Lebanon will return to the varsity gridiron ranks in NHIAA Division III later this year, a step down from it previous classification but still a huge jump up from its 2023 competition. Lebanon was routed by Mascoma’s varsity during the teams’ final game last season. The Royals failed to make the playoffs in Division IV.

“We may take our lumps,” said coach Doug Johnson, explaining that as last season unfolded, fewer and fewer opponents were willing to allow Lebanon players other than freshmen to compete in games.

“We’ve got 12 or 13 kids coming up next season from the junior high program, where they did really well. We hope to have 30 altogether.”

Said Stone: “I think physically we should be OK, and if we’ve got kids who are physically capable, then it’s up to us to be competitive. If our kids are getting better and are enthusiastic, then that’s the first step to bringing varsity football back here.

“Sometimes you stub your toe, but you have to keep going.”

Stone will be able to watch those games unencumbered by event responsibility. His final day is July 1.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.