On the morning that Scott Brown was announced as the new varsity girls’ basketball coach at Amesbury, the former US Senator from Massachusetts was fully embedded in the town, substitute teaching seventh grade social studies at the middle school on Main Street.
“I wanted to learn more about the community, and get a lay of the land,” said the 63-year-old Brown, who resides a 20-minute drive away in Rye, N.H., and spent his youth in Newburyport and Wakefield.
“There is a dramatic need for substitute teachers, in the Commonwealth and nationwide. You get a real appreciation for how hard teachers work. And there are lots of challenges. I thought substitute teaching would give me an appreciation of the culture here.”
On the basketball court, the culture has been a winning one.
With a stellar senior class headlined by Globe All-Scholastic Avery Hallinan, Amesbury won the program’s first state championship, pulling away from Millbury in the Division 4 final, 57-31, last March at the Tsongas Center. That capped a 68-15 four-year run for coach Greg Dollas, who surprisingly submitted his resignation in April, citing philosophical differences.
In steps an enthusiastic Brown, who captained the basketball teams at both Wakefield High (he was Middlesex League MVP) and Tufts as a 6-foot-2-inch long-range shooter. He also coached daughters Ayla and Arianna at the youth/AAU level before the former starred at Noble & Greenough and Boston College. Brown then directed the Rye junior high boys’ squad to an unbeaten season last winter — a team that had been winless before his arrival for a three-year stint.
“I’ve always wanted to do this, and this was the natural progression,” said Brown.
Brown, who served as US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa from 2017-20, resigned as the head of New England Law Boston in August 2021 after a seven-month stint at the private law school.
Brown was one of six candidates for the Amesbury position, and said it feels like he is stepping into the shoes of Bill Belichick or UCLA legend John Wooden. But Amesbury returns just one starter from the 21-4 state champion team.
There is no doubt how Amesbury will play.
“I guarantee you — win or lose — when a team is done playing us, they will ask, ‘We have to play those guys again?’ ” said Brown, who has already starting working on game plans, taken national high school federation courses, and consulted his coaches at Wakefield, Sonny Lane and Brad Simpson, in advance of preseason drills that begin Nov. 28.
“In-your-face defense, generating our offense off of our defense.”
Noting Brown’s extensive life and basketball experiences, Amesbury AD Glen Gearon said, “We are excited to have someone with his level of athletic experience, strong character, and diplomatic skills joining our program.”
For Gearon, that experience included catching Brown and his band The Diplomats at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury Tuesday night.
“The band, for me it is like playing golf, it is my outlet,” said Brown.
But basketball is his passion. Frankly, he says, the game saved his life.
The product of a broken marriage, Brown was drinking and driving (his mother’s car) at age 12, and caught stealing records at the mall. A stern lecture from the judge and an assignment to pen a 1,500-word essay to those he had let down was the starting point.
At Wakefield, Simpson and Lane were mentors, and later John White at Tufts. Brown attended every basketball camp he could in New England. He loved the Celtics, rattling off the names of Jo Jo White, John Havlicek, Larry Bird, and Marcus Smart.
At Tufts, “Downtown” Scotty Brown was a long-range shooting specialist from 1977-81, before the introduction of the 3-pointer. He finished with 925 points (9.9 ppg) and was a senior captain on a 14-10 Jumbos squad, averaging 10.3 points per game, with a 35-point effort against Brandeis.
As a coach, he has found girls to be quick learners.
“They pay attention, and get the fundamentals,” he said.
“Listen, I am blessed, I get all that,” said Brown, now a grandfather of a 19-month-old and a 10-week-old. “I don’t have a kid in the system. Those that work hard will play, a Hoosiers-type style.”
The season opener is Dec. 16 against Cape Ann rival North Reading.
Craig Larson can be reached at email@example.com.