BY MIKE CONNOLLY
I have often reflected on the remarkable accomplishments of so many Islanders on the national, international and professional sports scene. Without question, there is no other jurisdiction our size, that can boast as many outstanding athletic achievements on the world stage. With Heather Moyse (Olympic double gold/World Rugby Hall of Fame?) about to attend her third Olympics and Turk Gallant guiding his Los Vegas Golden Knights to first place overall in the NHL at the time of this writing (has anyone ever heard of a first-year expansion team being in first place midseason in a major professional sport?). It’s easy to overlook the amazing story of Scott Morrison being named assistant coach of my beloved Boston Celtics.
Scott's story starts at a very early age. With his father coaching at UPEI, Scott was busy coaching teddy bears in their backyard court, complete with a second-hand backboard and rim from Morell Regional High. These were no ordinary teddy bears. His mother Anne affectionately adorned both teams of bears with uniforms and she recalls the six-year old yelling instructions and corrections eerily similar to that of his dad at the UPEI gym. The backyard court was known as "Morrison Square Garden," a reference to Scott’s misguided devotion to the New York Knicks. George and Anne are diehard Celtics fans, to the point of putting parquet flooring in their home. No doubt the family is finally united in their support of the Celtics.
From the get go, Scott was immersed in the culture that was UPEI basketball. Attending practices, games and road trips, Scott would often be seen with a ball in his hand shooting, and making shots at break time. As a harbinger of things to come, it seems the Panthers were being trounced in the first half at Acadia and Coach Morrison was upset and looking for answers. Twelve-year-old Scott suggested they press to change the tempo of the game. They did press and fashioned a most unlikely come-from-behind victory.
It was this foundation in the sport, that paved the way for the all-time AUS leading three-point scorer to find his way to the bench at TD Garden. After a stellar playing career, Scott followed his father’s footsteps into the coaching ranks. Two years with Dalhousie women's program saw him accept the head coaching job at Lakehead University. This was not the basketball capital of Canada. In fact, it was the worst team in the CIS. It was remote, cold and in the summer the mosquitoes are as big as Volkswagons. Despite these obstacles Scott managed to forge a winning culture over his nine years, culminating in four trips to the Nationals, an OUAA Conference Championship and COY award.
Scott's passion for our sport has driven him to always be looking to expand his experience and knowledge of the game. To this end, he took a leave to explore options in the professional arena. After many contacts with pro teams, his only option was in the D League with the Maine Red Claws who already had a coach but Scott was content to volunteer doing everything from driving the bus to laundry service. The next year the head coach moved on, leaving a vacancy. Boston GM Danny Ainge conducted interviews with players asking who had helped them the most, to which they unanimously said Scott Morrison. That year Scott led the Claws to a winning record and was named Coach of the Year.
During this time Scott did extensive research into the three-point shot which is such a big part of the pro game. He sent his research to Ainge and Coach Stevens outlining optimum conditions for a successful three-point shot. By this time the Celtics brass were so impressed with the young coach, he was offered the assistant coaching job.
It’s truly a remarkable journey for the 40-year-old from coaching teddy bears on a cement slab in rural Morell, P.E.I., to coaching NBA all-stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on the storied parquet of the Boston TD Garden. I believe all Islanders join me in congratulating Scott on this historic and unprecedented accomplishment. Can't wait to see the next chapter.
- Mike Connolly is a former UPEI and Holland College basketball coach; and a former player with the UPEI Panthers