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Citing a decision to “go all in” on both coaching and being an educator in the same building, Kristen McDonnell stepped down after a celebrated 10-season run as the girls’ basketball coach at Braintree High to become the boys’ basketball coach at Norwood High, where she is the school’s director of guidance.

“I’ve coached at Braintree for 10 years and it was incredible,” said McDonnell, who guided the Wamps to four MIAA Division 1 titles, culminating with back-to-back championships in 2018-19, seven South titles, and a 211-32 record.

“It was just about being in the same building with kids that I know in a different capacity. Being able to go in on both is something I always wanted to do and the timing was right.”

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In a release, Norwood principal Dr. Hugh Galligan said, “We are extremely excited to welcome Coach McDonnell to NHS athletics.”

“Ms. McDonnell has been an integral part of the NHS family for a long time and we know that her presence as [boys’ basketball coach]will positively influence not only the basketball program, but the entire school community.”

McDonnell had conversations with those in Norwood about the position, but did not seriously consider it until the past few weeks, at the start of the interview process.

In its first season in the Tri-Valley League, after ending its long membership in the Bay State Conference, Norwood finished 6-14 overall. But according to McDonnell, “The exciting part is that I don’t think they’re far off at all .. . . I think a lot of it is already there,” McDonnell said. “They have height, they have good ball handlers, they have kids who can move up and down the court.”

In April 2017, McDonnell stepped down as coach at Braintree, citing “a heavy heart” and dealing with parental interference. She returned, however, that July, and directed the Wamps to the D1 title in the 2017-18 season. None of that interference, however, impacted her decision to accept the position at Norwood. She notified the Braintree players of her departure via email and will meet with them on Monday before meeting with the Norwood boys.

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“It’s not about what Braintree did or didn’t do,” McDonnell said.

Braintree athletic director Mike Denise saluted McDonnell for her passion and dedication to the program.

“After 10 years of an individual pouring their heart and soul into an athletic program that you oversee, there’s nothing more to do than wish Kristen the best of luck in her next coaching endeavor,” Denise said.

“It was obvious Kristen knew the game of basketball when she was hired [at Braintree]. She used her previous high school (Boston Latin) and collegiate (Stonehill) playing experiences, along with outstanding coaching mentors as resources to construct a legitimate Division 1 girls’ basketball program.”

In 2013, Jenna Galster was hired at Holliston as the first female to coach varsity boys’ basketball in the Tri-Valley League. She coached through this past season.

That dynamic, McDonnell said, made her hesitate before taking the job, citing her fierce advocacy for girls’ basketball, but she feels she can still promote the girls’ game in her new position.

“I’m not trying to be a trailblazer,” McDonnell said. “Basketball is basketball . . . there’s so much that’s transferrable that I think it will be a smooth transition.”


Brandon Chase can be reached at brandon.chase@globe.com.

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