Catching Up with Danny Lawson of Emmanuel College Men’s Basketball

ECMBBvsColby124

Danny Lawson (middle) was recently named earlier this month the third men’s basketball coach at Emmanuel College. (PHOTO CREDIT: David Le ’10/ Endicott College Athletics)

By NoontimeSports.com (@NoontimeSports) 

It was announced earlier this month that Danny Lawson had been named the third head coach of the Emmanuel College men’s basketball team.

Lawson arrives in Boston, Massachusetts after a successful assistant coaching stint last winter with the Endicott College men’s basketball team. He helped coach Kevin Bettencourt and the Gulls to a 19-9 record, as well as a return trip to the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) Championship against Nichols College.

No stranger to New England basketball, Lawson played at Lexington High School before continuing his career at nearby Bentley University where he guided the Falcons to an impressive 101-27 record in four years, which included a number one and two national rankings, along with an NCAA Elite Eight appearance (2007) and an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance (2005).

Since graduating Bentley, Lawson has enjoyed a great deal of success in the basketball world, working for numerous programs at all three levels in the college world, while assisting the Boston Celtics during their 2008 NBA Championship run.

Noontime Sports recently caught-up with Lawson to discuss his excitement for the upcoming season with the Emmanuel men’s basketball team.

What interested you in becoming the program’s third head coach? And just to confirm, this is your first-time head coaching position, right?

When the job opened up, I was very excited to apply. Being from the Boston area, I knew a little bit about the history of Emmanuel’s academics and how it is has really exploded as an institution within the last decade. To me, it represented a college with great leadership and continuity. Combined with a tremendous location in the city of Boston – we are next to Fenway Park – I felt it could be a great opportunity for student-athletes academically, athletically and socially. Also, it certainly has always been a goal of mine throughout my coaching career to run my own program.

What did you know prior to accepting to the head coaching position about the Emmanuel men’s basketball program? 

I knew the program was relatively new since the college went co-ed in 2001. The athletic administration structure and support was very evident and crucial for me (throughout the interview process). Also, the program enjoyed success in the early-to-mid 2000s, winning between 17-to-20 games each season. As I prepared for my interviews,  I saw the roster was filled with some talented and young student-athletes, which will be returning this upcoming season. Throughout the interview process I also gained a lot of valuable information about the character of our returning players that are eager to be successful.

You were an integral part of Endicott College’s run to the CCC Championship last winter, so what were some things you learned from that experience, whih will help you in your new role with the Saints? 

I got to work alongside three excellent coaches and close friends in Kevin Bettencourt, Luke Richards and Lance Greene. I have known all three coaches for quite some time – I grew up and played basketball with Kevin, competing on the same AAU team since seventh grade. All three coaches helped me gain an understanding of the D3 landscape, including what it takes to coach at this level to recruiting. I had only coached in Division 1 and 2 levels, so last year’s experience was really instrumental in gaining an understanding of D3 basketball, but also how to be successful at this level, too. The group of players I had a chance to coach at Endicott was a really special group that made my experience at Endicott a lot of fun.

It sounds cliche, but looking back to both your playing career (at Bentley) and other stops, both in college and with the Boston Celtics, who have been some of the coaches and people that have molded you into the coach you are today? 

Like most coaches, I’ve been molded by every coach that I have played and worked for, beginning with my high school coach at Lexington, Bob Farias. Coach Farias had a legendary hall of fame career – he was the best motivator and developer of confidence that I have ever experienced.

Certainly the biggest influence has been my father, Jay Lawson. It is indescribable how much of an impact he has made on my coaching career, specifically in teaching and leading players.

I was fortunate to work for Jim Ferry for seven seasons – he is the former head coach at Duquesne, LIU Brooklyn, Adelphi and Plymouth State. The various opportunities he provided helped me become the coach I am today.

Jack Perri, who I worked with at LIU-Brooklyn – he would eventually become the team’s head coach and lead them to the NCAA Tournament. Jack was one of my assistant coaches when I played at Bentley and is someone I consider a true mentor.

I also spent a great season learning under Steve Evans at LeMoyne College. Steve had a lot of success at LeMoyne from a recruiting and coaching – he is one of the best teachers of the zone defense.

Finally, my season with the Boston Celtics was about as great first basketball coaching experience. Learning and watching from guys like Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Danny Ainge, Mike Longabardi and Ryan McDonough, as well as the players really helped shape my daily work ethic and approach.

Speaking of the Celtics, you were a member of the team’s 17th championship run, so how much do you think about that experience and being able to celebrate a title with a group that certainly seemed to buy-in from the get-go? 

I was very fortunate to be a part of the Celtics organization during their 17th championship season. To say it was an unbelievable experience would probably be an understatement. One of the biggest things I took away from the experience was how important an unselfish mentality and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good of the team is to a program’s success. Boston’s big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen only cared about winning. They became totally invested in the team’s success right from the start when the team began its season training in Italy. And they had a great veteran bench presence combined with some young talent, as well. They also had a high level coaching staff and management team, but it all just came together at the right time and at the right point in their careers. It was really special.

Are you a Celtics fan or root for another team? 

Yes, absolutely. I grew up here and have always been a Celtics fan.

What does a new coach need to do to get prepared for a new season with a new program? How will you use the next few weeks and months to make sure the team will be ready to go come mid-October? 

Obviously there are a million things you need to accomplish when you take over a new program, but my focus this summer is all about building relationships, beginning with the current players in our program. Additionally, I look forward to meeting and building relationships on campus with other coaches, administrators, faculty and staff, too. I’m currently working on hiring the rest of our coaching staff for the upcoming season, while building and fostering recruiting relationships, as well. I am also working on completing and finalizing our game and practice schedule, while establishing our program’s identity.

Talk about building relationships with your players – how important is to begin those relationships now? 

It’s huge (and) has definitely been a primary focus for me the last two weeks. I have been able to meet with about half the team in-person, while conversing multiple times by phone or text with others. We need to build that mutual trust and respect on both sides, and then we can get on the court.

 

What is your all-time favorite basketball (or sports) movie?  

“Above the Rim” is definitely my favorite. I like others, as well, including “Blue Chips,” “Hoop Dreams” and more.  “Above The Rim” was ahead of its time with Kyle Lee Watson, Tommy Shepard, Birdie, and a lot of great actors and characters.

Finally, when you were growing up, who was a player or two that you idled? What did you like about their game? 

Like most people my age, I was a big Michael Jordan guy growing up. Also, Larry Bird, too. I loved their skill packages and competitiveness, as well as Bird’s passing ability, too.

Friday Promises To Be A ‘Sweet’ Moment For 10 New England D3 Basketball Teams

9euaymx8sg0a5eid

Babson’s Jacqueline Jozefick netted the go-ahead layup on Saturday to lift the Beavers to a dramatic overtime second round win. (PHOTO CREDIT: Babson College Athletics)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11) 

The third round – or as some call it, ‘the sweet 16’ – is set to begin tomorrow as 32 NCAA Division III basketball teams (16 men’s and 16 women’s), including 10 New England squads, continue their quest toward the ultimate prize, a national championship.

At Babson College, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be in action tomorrow – it is the first-time in school history that both teams will be competing in the ‘sweet 16’ in the same season.

“It’s been a great environment, everybody has been rallying around the two teams,” said Babson women’s basketball coach Judy Blinstrub. “It is really a great atmosphere on campus right now.”

Added Babson men’s basketball coach Stephen Brennan, “I think there is a lot of good energy on campus. We’re really excited for the women’s team for winning the NEWMAC Championship, they have had such a good season.”

Last weekend, Blinstrub’s squad earned a pair of impressive wins, including a dramatic overtime victory over host FDU-Florham, which saw first-year Jacqueline Jozefick net the game-winning lay-up with five seconds remaining in the extra session.

The win over FDU-Florham earned the Beavers a date with Amherst College, which secured back-to-back wins last weekend over Mary Washington and Regis College.

Both Babson and Amherst competed against each other earlier this season with the Purple & White claiming a 67-62 victory.

“It was a great weekend for us,” said Blinstrub of her team’s first-and-second round wins. “I am just so happy for the team … this is a great situation to be in, playing in (the ‘sweet 16’) and I think they’ll rise to the occasion.”

As for Brennan’s unit, they earned two hard-fought wins last weekend, beginning with a 92-76 win over Husson University followed by a 72-65 victory against Skidmore College.

Against the Thoroughbreds, Babson senior Joey Flannery recorded a double-double of 25 points and 10 rebounds, while sinking the game’s final three free throws.

“I thought that down the stretch our defense, talk and toughness helped us overcome a slow start to the second half,” Brennan said of his team’s seven-point win over Skidmore.

Similar to the women’s team, the men’s team will meet a familiar foe on Friday, as Babson will welcome Tufts University to Babson Park with tip-off scheduled for 8:00 p.m.

170225_2740_mbball080.JPG

Tufts’ Vince Pace and the Jumbos will face Babson for the second time this season on Friday. (PHOTO CREDIT: Tufts University Athletics)

The Jumbos, who earned a second meeting with the Beavers this season, scored a pair of first and second round wins last weekend, defeating Salem State University, 84-81, before knocking off host St. John Fisher, thanks to a game-high 37 points from junior Vincent Pace.

“We have a lot of familiarity (with the Jumbos),” said Brennan, “but it still comes down to how you’re going to play on Friday.”

A win for the Beavers would send them to the sectional finals – it would be the program’s second appearance in three seasons. They would face the winner of Christopher Newport-Keene State, which will play the first game at 5:00 p.m. – both sectional semifinals will take place at Babson.

Keene State, which earned a trip to the ‘big dance’ for the third consecutive season, claimed a pair of big wins last weekend, defeating Amherst, 69-66, before edging Ramapo, 92-91, in overtime. First-year Jake Collagan’s go-ahead triple with 48 seconds remaining in the additional frame helped the Owls secure the win.

Last season, Christopher Newport defeated Keene State in the ‘round of 16,’ thanks to team-high 22 points from current junior Marcus Carter. The Captains would win their following contest – an ‘elite eight’ victory over Wooster before concluding their season in the semifinals to the eventual champions, the University of St. Thomas.

In addition to a pair of men’s basketball games at Babson, Middlebury College will host a sectional semifinal against Endicott College – both teams met earlier this season with the Gulls claiming a 93-89 victory in Vermont. Williams College and Susquehanna University will also compete in Vermont – the winners of both games will square-off on Saturday in the sectional finals.

Middlebury, which captured its second-straight New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) championship two weeks ago, scored a pair of back-to-back wins last weekend, defeating Farmingdale State (84-75) and Lycoming (95-76). Both wins occurred in Vermont.

The Gulls, who earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament, made history last weekend, knocking off both Salisbury University and Nichols College en route to the program’s initial ‘sweet 16’ appearance. Endicott senior Max Motroni led the Green and Blue with a game and season-high 34 points as the Gulls defeated the Bison, 111-75.

“We are just thrilled to still be playing and having another week together,” said Endicott men’s basketball coach Kevin Bettencourt.

endicott-seniors-800x444

Senior leadership has helped Endicott enjoy an exciting NCAA Tournament run. (PHOTO CREDIT: Endicott College Athletics)

A big reason Endicott has enjoyed an exciting tournament run thus far is because of the squad’s senior class – six student-athletes, to be exact. They were all sophomores when Bettencourt arrived on campus in August 2014, and have helped the Gulls take a step forward each season toward the program’s ultimate goal of a national championship.

“Our seniors just love playing basketball together,” said Bettencourt, “so it was really special to see it all come together as a whole last weekend.”

In addition to the seniors, a few New England coaches, including Nichols men’s basketball coach Tom Glynn, credit Endicott’s success to Bettencourt – they certainly know the impact he has made on the program.

“Kevin has elevated the program at Endicott and our league to new levels with his accomplishments since taking over the program in 2014,” said Glynn. “I have so much respect for him as a coach, and his teams are always difficult to prepare for, and his players represent his program with class, which is a testament to his leadership.”

Added Salem State coach Chris Harvey, “His teams play hard, are fundamentally sound and truly play for each other. Kevin is a great teacher of the game and allows his players to use their creativity as well, too.”

Switching to the women’s tournament, Tufts will look to continue their march toward a spot in next weekend’s semifinals when they face the University of Scranton on Friday with tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

The contest between Tufts and Scranton will take place at Washington University.

Last season, the Jumbos defeated the Royals in the sectional finals, thanks to senior Michela North (13 points and 10 rebounds) and junior Melissa Baptista (23 points). Both players combined for 19 points and 20 rebounds in their second round clash last weekend with Husson as Tufts scored a 64-44 win in Medford.

Said North, “We had a battle against (Scranton) last year, so I’m really excited to play them again.”

A win for the Jumbos would set-up a sectional final against either host Washington University or Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Finally, one should not overlook the UMass Dartmouth women’s basketball team, which also made history last weekend, defeating La Roche and Montclair State to earn a trip to this weekend’s third round in Amherst.

Matt Ducharme’s Corsairs, who earned an at-large bid to this year’s tournament, scored a pair of exciting wins, defeating La Roche and host Montclair State. UMass Dartmouth collaborated for 71 points in each game.

“It was a surreal moment at the time when we won our second round contest,” said Ducharme. “I just remember saying, ‘wow,’ and I don’t want this to stop.”

7wjmtz7z5z3305bv

UMass Dartmouth earned an impressive second round win to advance to this weekend’s third round against SUNY New Paltz. (PHOTO CREDIT: UMass Dartmouth Athletics)

That euphoric feeling – or not wanting this exciting run to conclude – will be put to the test tomorrow when the Corsairs attempt to take another step forward toward next weekend’s semifinals.

Standing in their way: SUNY New Paltz, which captured back-to-back contests last weekend against Bowdoin College and Ithaca College.

Similar to the Corsairs, this will be the Hawks’ first-ever appearance in the ‘round of 16.’

A win for the Corsairs – or the Hawks – would set-up an exciting sectional final against either host Amherst or Babson. UMass Dartmouth played Babson earlier this season, defeating the Beavers, 70-62.

In their first round contest against La Roche, UMass Dartmouth struggled in the opening quarter – they trailed, 23-12. Yet, once the so-called ‘nerves’ disappeared, the Corsairs found their groove en route to an exciting 71-64 win.

The following evening against Montclair State, UMass Dartmouth raced out to a 10-point lead (23-13) – the game featured four lead changes and three ties – and kept the momentum heading into the final session.

Although, once Montclair State pulled within two-points (51-49) early in the fourth quarter, Ducharme called a timeout – he and the squad hoped the short breather would halt the Red Hawks’ comeback.

And it certainly did.

UMass Dartmouth responded with a 9-5 spurt, which helped the Corsairs eventually pull away and claim a 71-63 victory.

Said Ducharme of his team’s fourth quarter timeout, “I remember saying that no team is going to give you a shot at the ‘sweet 16,’ so if you want this game, then you have to take it and finish it … I was so proud of the way our team contained (Montclair State’s) runs down the stretch, too.”

Once the final horn sounded, UMass Dartmouth celebrated the exciting victory – again, no Corsairs squad has reached the ‘sweet 16’ in program history, so Ducharme, along with his players and assistant coach Jess Shiel know this run has been very exciting, but the focus must remain on their next opponent.

“There is no easy games at this point of the season and there is no looking to tomorrow,” said Shiel, “so you have to keep the focus on the next game.”

New England D3 Notebook: Eastern Conn. State Starts New Year With Win Over Amherst

Eastern Connecticut State University kicked-off the second half of its 2016-17 campaign with an impressive win over Amherst College earlier this week. (PHOTO CREDIT: Eastern Connecticut State University Athletics)

Eastern Connecticut State University kicked-off the second half of its 2016-17 campaign with an impressive win over Amherst College earlier this week. (PHOTO CREDIT: Eastern Connecticut State University Athletics)

By Matt Noonan (@MattNoonan11)

Happy 2017, everyone!

I hope the New Year is treating you (and your family and friends) well.

It has been a while since I pumped out a New England D3Hoops notebook, so my goal for the remainder of the season to publish at least one (maybe two) per week.

Let’s kick off this notebook with a big win from Connecticut earlier this week where the Eastern Connecticut State University men’s basketball scored an impressive win over Amherst College. Senior Hugh Lindo helped the Warriors secure their eighth win of the season by tallying 21 points, while pulling down 14 rebounds.

One of Lindo’s 21 points happened to be his 1,000th point of his career.

Lindo became the program’s all-time leading rebounder last month when the Warriors defeated Southern Maine. He currently leads the unit with 159 caroms.

Eastern Connecticut has won four consecutive contests, dating back to an 89-72 win last month over Eastern at the Hoop Miami Holiday Slam. Additionally, the Warriors have captured six of their last seven games and will look to extend their current winning streak to five-straight wins when they host Plymouth State on Saturday, January 7 with tip-off scheduled for 3:00 p.m.

Could the Babson College women’s basketball team be the ‘team to beat’ in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC)?

I think so!

The Beavers rebounded after a tough loss a few days ago – technically, last year (December) – by starting the New Year with a 65-47 win over WPI.

The game, which was held in Worcester, Massachusetts, was a rematch of last year’s tournament final.

Junior Brenna LeGacy led the Green and White with 18 points, while the Beavers combined for 12 of 13 free throws en route to their 10th win of the season. Babson is now 34-21 all-time against WPI and has won 16 of their last 18 meetings against the Engineers, according to yesterday’s release.

Babson will look to capture their fifth-straight NEWMAC contest on Saturday when they host Mount Holyoke.

Staying in the NEWMAC, the Springfield College men’s basketball team scored an impressive win last night, defeating WPI, 71-63. The win was the Pride’s fourth-straight victory, dating back to their initial win of their current steak over Amherst.

First-year Jake Ross helped the Pride earn their initial league win by netting 29 points (that matched his career-high point total), while adding seven rebounds, five steals and a quartet of swipes.

Ross was tabbed this week’s NEWMAC Co-Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week.

Springfield also received career-best 25 points from junior Andy McNulty – 15 of his 25 points came from beyond the arc.

Springfield is my pick to challenge Babson for the NEWMAC crown – I am expecting the Pride and Beavers to reach the league championship, but let’s not forget about MIT and WPI – both teams could also appear in the league’s finale, too.

The Endicott College men’s basketball team has yet to lose a Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) tilt this season. Recently, they defeated Wentworth, 76-67, to bump their league record to 4-0.

This evening, the Gulls host Gordon College, which lost a heartbreaker to Nichols College on Tuesday. Nichols and Endicott are tied for first place in the conference, but keep an eye on the Fighting Scots over the next few weeks.

Following their contest against Gordon, Endicott will hit the road for a pair of league tilts, beginning Saturday at Western New England followed by a visit to Salve Regina next Wednesday.

Prior to their win over Wentworth, Endicott captured the Salem State Holiday Classic, defeating both Regis College and Southern Maine. The win over the Pride provided head coach Kevin Bettencourt with his 50th career victory with the Gulls.

Looking for a good game to watch online (or follow via live stats) this evening? Tune into Roger Williams versus University of New England women’s basketball with tip-off scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

A few coaches have told me the Hawks should be a ‘team to watch’ over the next few weeks – don’t be shocked if they crack our Noontime Sports Top 10 Women’s Basketball Poll.

A win over the Nor’easters would be Roger Williams’ first win since edging University of New England in overtime on February 21, 2015.

Senior Bridget Quilty and junior Anna Walther have paced the Blue and Gold’s offense, netting 151 and 128 points, respectively. Quilty also leads the team in rebounds with 67, while junior Mariah Nichols is second with 59.

Have a question or thought or opinion? Let us know by sending us either a tweet or tweet message to @NoontimeSports or @MattNoonan11