One of the most successful coaches in the history of Maine high school basketball has found himself a new home.

John Donato, who has been the coach of the Mount View High School girls basketball team the past five seasons, was officially named the new head coach of the Lawrence girls basketball team earlier this month.

Donato led the Mustangs to an 8-10 record last season and as Mount View failed to qualify for the regional playoffs, but led Mount View to a 17-1 record during the 2008-09 season. The ‘Stangs earned berths in both the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class B championship and the Eastern Class B semifinals. The Mustangs lost both games to Waterville, which went on to finish undefeated and clinch the state Class B crown.

“It’s a no-brainer for me,” said Donato, who also resides in Fairfield and is a science teacher at Lawrence High School. “I don’t have to travel now, which is a big thing. But I left the [Mount View] program in much better shape than I got it, and they should be very good next year.”

It is roughly an hour trek to and from Fairfield to Thorndike each day.

Donato applied for the Bulldog job in March when longtime Lawrence girls hoop coach Jason Pellerin stepped down after eight seasons. Donato was approved for the position at a school board meeting earlier this month.

The move comes as no surprise to Mount View, as Donato had let departing Mount View athletic director Dan Fitzpatrick know he was applying for the position in April.

Donato added that while coaching within the school system where he is employed was the biggest plus to taking the new job, he was also happy that he would have “more of a handle” on the summer basketball program than he did in Mount View. There is also a terrific feeder program and a boosters club, which Donato plans to take full advantage of.

While it as an easy decision to make as a matter of proximity, Donato will miss the talent on his Mount View squad as Lawrence, which finished 5-13 last year, graduated many players and will essentially be starting from scratch.

“Whoever takes that [Mount View] program over is going to win right away,” said Donato.

According to the Mount View athletic office, the girls varsity basketball position is open and the district is currently evaluating prospects for a new coach.

Donato has coached at both Messalonskee of Oakland and Houlton in the past, having won numerous regional and state titles with the Shiretowners in a multitude of sports.

He won nine Eastern Class B titles and four state crowns while coaching the Houlton girls basketball team, won a state Class B title while coaching the Houlton golf team in 1990 and also won two Eastern Class A baseball championships as coach of the Houlton baseball team in 1976 and 1983.

Donato coached the Shiretowner girls basketball team 17 years, the baseball team for 25 and the golf team for 10. He left Houlton in 1994 and later coached the Hall-Dale of Farmingdale girls basketball team for one season before taking over the girls varsity basketball post at Messalonskee for eight seasons.

Donato is a 1966 graduate of Middleborough High School in Massachusetts and went on to Ricker College in Houlton.

Village NetMedia Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail at mhaskell@villagesoup.com.