When Shawn Brown was hired as East Boston’s new boys’ basketball coach about four months ago, he did not, he insists, circle Dec. 20 on his calendar.
“I’m not lying to you, while I came from there and graduated from there it’s different in terms of the landscape has changed,” East Boston’s first-year head coach said of playing his alma mater and the Jets’ longtime rival, Charlestown, at 6 p.m. on Thursday for the first time as a head coach.
“Again, to be honest, in terms of there being a rivalry outside of East Boston and Charlestown, I don’t know that I buy into it so much myself personally. I’m excited about the opportunity to be coaching. It’s just that rivalry is in terms of tradition for both schools [but] not because of my affiliation.”
To be fair, the 37-year-old first-time head coach who played for the Townies in the early 1990s, did serve as an East Boston assistant coach more recently. Former head basketball coach Mike Rubin, who is now East Boston's headmaster, asked Brown to be an assistant coach for David Siggers in 2004.
“To have the headmaster say ‘I want you to be part of that program’ meant a lot to me,” recalled Brown, who was an assistant for two seasons.
But during halftime of East Boston’s miraculous buzzer-beating victory against Madison Park on Tuesday night, Rubin wasn’t buying Brown’s story that he didn’t immediately set his sights on the Charlestown game.
“Everybody else does,” Rubin said when told that Brown claims not to buy into the rivalry. “I don’t know, it’s his alma mater. I’m sure he does, I’m sure when he got the schedule they looked to see when they were playing Charlestown.”
During the offseason, East Boston’s previous coach, Malcolm Smith, left the school to become the dean of students at New Mission and Rubin once again hired Brown, this time to run the program.
“The reason I hired Shawn is because of his expertise in mentoring young boys of color and he’s made an investment in our city with his Diamond Educators and they have done a wonderful job the last 10 years or so mentoring young men to be good citizens,” Rubin said of Brown’s nonprofit mentoring organization. “He demands that, and that’s what I want in a head coach, someone who will not only teach them how to play the game of basketball but also teach them the game of life.”
Brown said playing under former Charlestown coach Jack O'Brien, Bert Hammel at Merrimack College, and coaching under Siggers prepared him to be a head coach.
“When it comes to O’Brien and Hammel, it’s just hard work,” Brown said of the impression they left on him. “I talk about the three D's with my nonprofit — discipline, dedication and determination — those are the three things I learned from both of those coaches. If you abide by the principles in those three words you’ll be successful in anything you do in life.
“That applies on the court and off the court.”
But like many first-year BPS coaches, Brown said nothing could have prepared him for all the logistical work and paperwork that comes along with coaching in the city.
“I think the coaching part is easy,” he said. “For one, the support I get from the folks in the school is amazing.”
That has proven to be true thus far for Brown, whose No. 18-ranked team has started the season 4-0, including Tuesday night’s 43-42 victory against No. 15-ranked Madison Park. Pat Santos hit an 80-foot buzzer-beater to give the Jets the victory.
“He’s a good coach,” Santos said after Tuesday’s game. “It’s just a whole new system; you have to play hard for him, he’s an ‘I don’t play around’ coach.”
Brown hit his own buzzer beater as a player for Charlestown in 1994, which just happened to come against East Boston and just happened to clinch a playoff berth for the Townies.
“I just remember him hitting the shot at the buzzer,” Rubin, who coached East Boston at the time, said. “A deep shot, he hit the shot to go up one.”
After Santos’ buzzer-beater on Tuesday, Brown let on a little bit that he was starting to get up for Thursday’s Charlestown game.
“I guess so,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited about the rivalry, I know my guys and I know the history and tradition in the rivalry. Our guys are going to be ready. I know the coaches over there are excited and pumped as well. They will have their guys prepared and I’ll have my guys prepared.”
Brown said he’s not worried about bringing his team back down to earth after the hysterics of Tuesday’s victory.
“Believe me they are not high, this is not a high, a great shot by Pat, but again we have a lot to learn from today’s game,” he said. “We’ll look at the film tomorrow and get right back at it and start preparing for Charlestown.”
As a coach, Brown isn’t buying into the hype of trying to live up to accomplishments of the coaches he played for and coached under.
“While it’s a challenge and I love that challenge, I’m about creating a legacy for my coaching style,” Brown said. “At the same time I’m upholding everything those guys have done, but I can only be Shawn. if I fall into that trap of trying to live up to the legacy of those guys you’re talking about four and five state championships; I have be the best Shawn can be.
“At the end of the day what’s important is I helped raise young men who are going to be the next Shawn Brown, helped mold them. That’s what I want to be measured on, not how many loses or wins I have; I want to be measured on how many impacts I’ve made on a young man's life.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.