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At Brookline, there’s bounce and buy-in with Johnny Williams taking charge of boys’ basketball program

In his first two days of practice at Brookline High, coach Johnny Williams is preaching team defense, conditioning, and toughness to his players.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

At his first day on the job, Brookline boys’ basketball coach Johnny Williams showed his players the empty state championship banner inside the gym.

The goal of the exercise was to make his team visualize and understand the expectations for the new era of Brookline basketball, with Monday’s official tip of the 2022-23 winter season.

“I told my team it may not be you but you’re turning the engine,” said Williams. “You guys are the first sparkplug that’s going into the car to get everything running. That’s all we’re talking about. Winning a state title. I want all of my Brookline kids to have that feeling.”


Williams is no stranger to winning state titles. At TechBoston, the Mattapan native guided the Bears to consecutive Division 2 state championships in 2018 and 2019, turning the program into a Boston City League power during his 12-year tenure.

Earlier this fall, Williams heard about the Brookline opening and reluctantly applied. He felt he wasn’t going to get the job, but after conversations with fellow coaches — including Lance Dottin (Cambridge) — Williams realized he had the resume and accolades appropriate for the position.

After multiple rounds of interviews, he was offered the job by Brookline athletic director Kyle Williams in early November. The coach was shocked. He then had to break the news to his TechBoston players on the eve of the season.

“I feel like I made the best choice in my coaching career taking this job,” said Williams. “But telling my TechBoston guys was one of the hardest things. I bleed red and black. I’ll always love that place. But I felt this opportunity was placed in front of me to resuscitate Brookline basketball.’

Williams replaces Courtney Valentine, who led the Warriors to five straight state tournament appearances, including the No. 1 seed in Division 1 South in 2019. But Brookline never advanced beyond the state quarterfinals.


At TechBoston, Williams’s teams were known for their relentless defensive effort. In the first week at Brookline, he is already preaching team defense, conditioning, and toughness to his players as he learns the roster and begins the process of building the program to state-championship caliber.

Williams said he already saw the buy-in from his players on Day 1.

“I’m bringing that in right off the bat,” said Williams. “They’re going to understand it’s about the team, not individual stats. I want to bring Brookline to the mountaintop.”

With Johnny Williams, defense never rests.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Other storylines to follow:

▪ In addition to the Williams’ move, Dave Clay was hired at St. John’s Prep after a highly successful five-year stint at his alma mater, Newburyport. Under Clay, the Clippers went 74-26 and captured four straight Cape Ann Kinney titles. At Norwood, Chris Fraioli takes over for Kristen McDonnell, who will now lead the Mustangs girls’ program after guiding the boys’ team to the Division 2 state final last winter. Fraioli comes to Norwood from Tri-Valley League rival Dedham, where he was a player, assistant, and head coach for the boys’ program. With over 100 career wins, he was the winningest coach in program history.

▪ Newton North was the Division 1 state finalist last season and will be a top contender once again under Paul Connolly. The Tigers return a pair of Globe All-Stars in point guard Jose Padilla and forward Will Davis. Also back from last year’s team are seniors Tyler Randall and Adam Landry. North won the North Andover Fall League with an 11-0 record, the second team in the league’s 18-year history to finish undefeated. Padilla, who will play at Ithaca College, was named the Pat Connaughton Player of the Fall.


▪ A number of the top MIAA players transferred to prep schools, including four Globe All-Scholastic selections in Natick’s Ryan Mela (The Newman School), Lexington’s CJ Cox (Milton Academy), North Quincy’s Daithi Quinn (Tabor Academy), and Malden Catholic’s Jahmari Hamilton-Brown (Busche Academy). Other impact players who left for preps were Newton South’s Jake Lemelman (MacDuffie School), Beverly’s Gabe Copeland (Proctor Academy), and Brookline’s Andrew Alekseyenko (Rivers).

▪ However, there is a still a quality batch of players returning in the MIAA. Globe Super Teamer David Brown Jr. will look to lead St. Mary’s to a second straight Division 3 state title after playing a pivotal role for the Spartans’ D6 Super Bowl-bound football team. All-Scholastics Ryder Frost (Beverly), Tyrese Melo-Garcia (Lynn English), Noah Beaudet (Norwood), Steven Cordero (Everett), Hassan Jenkins (New Mission), and Nahkeem Singleton (Burke) are all back and poised for big seasons.

Correspondent Nate Weitzer contributed to this story.