Founder One of Summer Basketball League’s Biggest Fans 

July 19, 2023
Members of the Bedford Summer Basketball League at a memorial game. Courtesy photo

Mike Dirrane was ready to retire at the end of this season as commissioner of the Bedford Summer Basketball League, a program that he helped establish 11 years ago.

But after watching several games, he is having second thoughts.

“This summer probably is the most competitive league we’ve ever had,” said Dirrane, who played summer basketball in Watertown for many years. “I enjoy it so much – you watch the games, talk to people. I’ve kind of rethought and would like to stay on for a couple more years.”

Teams play a 10-game schedule, followed by a single-elimination playoff, from June to early August. Games take place on the outdoor courts at Bedford High School on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30 p.m. Championship games in two divisions are scheduled for Aug. 3 at 7 and 8 p.m. If the weather is inclement, they will move to the BHS gymnasium.

The summer league “brings a real vitality to the area. It really kind of shines a light on the town during the summer,” Dirrane said.

The BHS Buccaneers won a sectional championship in boys’ basketball in 2010 for the first time in 37 years. A year later, Dirrane’s son, also named Mike, a member of that team, tried to assemble teams for a summer league. “They didn’t have any refs or anything and it kind of fell apart,” the elder Dirrane recalled. “I knew all it needed was a little direction.”

The league’s formal launch was the summer of 2012, after Dirrane met with former Recreation Director Amy Hamilton and longtime Recreation Commission member Ron Richter. There were six original teams; the league grew to as many as 11 over the years. Now in post-pandemic mode it’s back to six. 

Most teams have 10-to-12 players, so at its peak the Summer Basketball League featured more than 100 participants.

“It’s a real Bedford league, only for Bedford High School graduates and residents,” Dirrane said.  “You don’t have to have played varsity; anyone can play. There are two playoff divisions, and everyone has a chance to win coveted T-shirts.”

Most of the teams start out replicating their high school rosters. “It brings the graduates back together with their friends,” Dirrane said. As the years pass, and players start families or move out of the area, the rosters become more mixed. “This is the first year my son and his friends had a hard time putting the team together.” 

“I get so many compliments from guys who come back. They love playing other classes and against other Bedford people.”

Mike Dirrane takes a jump shot in a Bedford Summer Basketball League. Courtesy photo

Dirrane said Patrick Sullivan, a 2004 BHS graduate who later played at Tufts, is participating in his first summer. Gerry Cohen, a 2008 graduate and the last male Buccaneer to pass the 1,000-point career scoring threshold, has returned as he does every summer. Mike Thoresen of the 2010 team has played every summer.

The league uses officials who work the high school and collegiate circuits. “One of them told me last night this is the only men’s league he does where players are respectful – a friendly, competitive rivalry, where no one gives him a hard time.”

The atmosphere reflects small-town culture. Players sweep the courts before and after using them. “It’s a fan-friendly area,” and there have been dozens of spectators at the finals. Everyone picks up after themselves, Dirrane said; “they’ve done a really good job on that.”

Dirrane lauded others who are key to the program’s flourishing. “We have tremendous support from Raeann Gembis (the program coordinator) and the rest of the Recreation Department. Brian Forman takes care of the refs and Chris Weslinger has been working the table all 11 years.” The captains assemble the teams and the program runs like “a well-oiled machine.”

“It’s a great league. I’m really proud of it – proud of the players, of the support,” Dirrane proclaimed, adding, “This is my little contribution to the town.”

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Mike Merrick
July 26, 2023 7:37 am

Nice Job Mike! Great activity you put together. Glad its still active.

-Former BSBL Champ

Angel Pettitt
July 19, 2023 4:57 pm

They even let old guys like me play and we have a blast. Thanks Mike,Chris, Brian and of course Raeann for giving us the wonderful opportunity to play competitive basketball over the summer.

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