MORELL, P.E.I. – Scott Morrison grew up in a religious family where the reason for the Christmas season was evident. But Dec. 25 also brought another gift to the Morell family’s household: A marathon of basketball games.
“That was a big part of the day in our house,” Morrison told The Guardian this week. “Even if we went to visit family . . . we always had the game on.”
Now when basketball fans across Prince Edward Island flip on the TV on Monday and nestle in for a slew of games, they will have a chance to see Morrison on one of the biggest stages of the season.
Morrison is in his rookie season as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics, who host the Washington Wizards in the first game on Dec. 25 ever at the Garden.
“I’m excited for the game this week on Christmas Day, and hopefully it will be a pretty good atmosphere in the Garden,” Morrison said.
Morrison, a UPEI graduate, got his big break while studying at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Morrison was a graduate student there when women's basketball coach Carolyn Savoy hired him as an assistant. She took a sabbatical the following season and trusted her team to Morrison, who was in his mid-20s at the time. The Tigers had a good season, and it led to an opportunity to become Lakehead University's men's coach in Thunder Bay, Ont.
After a decade there he was hired as a scout and in player development with the Maine Red Claws for 2013-14 NBA Development League season.
He became the bench boss the next season and held the role until the Celtics hired him as an assistant coach earlier this year.
There was lots of hype around the Celtics entering the season.
After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference final in 2017, the Celtics bolstered their roster by acquiring point guard Kyrie Irving from Cleveland, signing Gordon Hayward and drafting Jayson Tatum.
It appeared the stars were aligning for the Celtics to take a run at Cleveland, Golden State and the rest of the league’s elite.
But those lofty goals seemed to be dashed when Hayward suffered a dislocated left ankle and broken tibia six minutes into opening night in a rematch with the Cavs.
Morrison felt the swing of emotions first-hand.
“It was quite a night. It was pretty bittersweet for me because on the one side it was my first game and I was pretty excited about it,” he said. “On the negative side, before we knew what was going on, Gordon got hurt.”
Morrison is one of six assistants on the Celtics bench. He and Jerome Allen handle the offence for head coach Brad Stevens. Each assistant also has individual players they are assigned to work with. Morrison was paired with Hayward since the summer.
“I was really feeling for him because he had worked really hard to get to that point,” Morrison said.
What could have derailed a team’s season hasn’t. The Celtics lost the first two games of the year before winning the next 16. They enter tonight’s home game with the Chicago Bulls with a 26-9 record and sit atop the Eastern Conference.
“It was tough. I didn't think we were going to be able to recover as well as we did,” Morrison admitted. “I have to give the credit to all of the players and coach Stevens, especially, for just (finding) a way to push past it. Everyone kind of stepped up a little bit, and before we knew it we were on a pretty good streak.”
The Celtics have also played a gruelling first half of the season, which will see the team play 40 games of their 82-game season by Jan. 3.
“It’s been a fun first part of the season,” Morrison said. “Most times you don't have much time to enjoy it, but every now and then you get a moment where you can take a breath and kind of be excited about where we’re at.”
Morrison is engaged to Charlottetown’s Susanne Canvin, the Celtics marketing and advertising co-ordinator and a former UPEI Panthers basketball standout. Morrison said both of their parents are coming down for games during the Christmas holiday.
Morrison said although he doesn’t get much time to spend with Islanders during a game he appreciates seeing them in the stands and the support he’s received throughout his coaching career.
“It’s fun to see people from home that come through,” he said.
Need to know
Who – A 40-year-old Morell native who is an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.
Favouite player growing up – Morrison was a Patrick Ewing fan, dating back to his college days at Georgetown. When the centre was drafted first overall by New York in 1985, Morrison became a Knicks fan and continued to be one until about five years ago when he switched allegiance to the Celtics.
A look at the NBA’s Christmas Day lineup. All times are Atlantic
Philadelphia at New York, 1 p.m.
Cleveland at Golden State, 4 p.m.
Washington at Boston, 6:30 p.m.
Houston at Oklahoma City, 9 p.m.
Minnesota at L.A. Lakers, 11:30 p.m.