What has been only a rumor for the past few weeks has now become official - Scott Hazelton has been hired as a full-time assistant coach for the UMass Lowell women's basketball team. Lowell is moving up from Division II to D-I this fall, leaving the Northeast-10 for the America East.
"It has always been a lifelong dream of mine to coach Division I basketball" Hazelton told the NH Notebook. "Although similar opportunities have come up before, this particular one seems to be the best fit for me personally, and for my family."
Hazelton has spent the past few years building one of the top girls AAU programs in the country with the Rivals Basketball Club and led the Bishop Guertin girls basketball team to back-to-back finals appearances including a state title in 2012.
"It was a difficult decision to leave behind both the Rivals AAU Program, and Bishop Guertin High School" explained Hazelton. "For people who know me, especially the players who have played for me can attest to the great pride and passion I hold for programs . My players deserve so much credit, because a great deal of my success came because of them, and their hard work . I've only been coaching on the girls' side for about 3 and 1/2 years now and in that time we have been able to accomplish so much! I've been blessed with great players who have had just as much, if not more respect , pride , and passion for the game of basketball than I had as a player . I have also been fortunate to work with truly supportive parents , and work for administrators who believed in me and my coaching philosophies. Most of whom have become lifelong friends."
At UMass Lowell, Hazelton will coach three players who played AAU for him with the Rivals. They are former Manchester Memorial standout Amra Elezovic, Melissa Frase from Kennett High (both enter their sophomore seasons with the Riverhawks. He will also coach Nicole Hayner, a recently graduated senior from Bishop Guertin who played high school and AAU ball for Hazelton.
"The Rivals program was something that we built from the ground up 4 years ago" Hazelton said. "When we first started there were only 4 teams . 2 HS teams and 2 middle school teams . With the help of some great people, in a very short time our program was able to receive national recognition. What I am most proud of is that 29 girls from our program are now in college, playing college basketball and that doesn't count the current class of 2014's who will be entering their senior year! To me that's a great accomplishment and my sole reason for coaching . I wanted to be able to help kids reach their dreams!"
BG was Hazelton's first high school coaching position and he made the most of it. In addition to getting making the finals 2 straight years and winning a state title he coached three future D-I college players in Hayner, Meghan Green (Boston University) and Jamie Sherburne (Niagara).
Bishop Guertin was my first HS coaching job . Prior to interviewing at BG, I interviewed for 7 other HS position in both NH and MA and was turned away by all 7 . All 7 game the reason that I lacked true coaching experience . Embarrassing, but true. I was turned down by a school that had not won a game in three years ! I cannot begin to tell you how happy and honored I was to be given the opportunity to coach at Bishop Guertin . I had a chance to work with two great Athletic Directors in Tony Johnson, and Pete Paladino . Pete was my athletic director when I was in HS at Central Catholic and has always been great to me . Jim Migneault, the boys coach at Guertin also was a great mentor, and friend from the start. He helped me learn the ins and outs of HS basketball, which made my transition so much easier . The school administrators Linda Broduer , Jason Tescini , and Brother Mark I also credit for making my HS experience a great one , and lastly my players I can't say enough about ! They were simply a special group of individuals who helped me become a much better coach . I learned something new everyday from them . They worked extremely hard for me and gave it their all every time they took the floor . In two season we had over 50 wins and loss only three times . They won a state championship and finished as a runner up ! Something we are all very proud of .
Hazelton, who is from Massachusetts, played his high school ball at Central Catholic in Lawrence, MA. He was a McDonald's All-American in high school, played in college at Connecticut and Rhode Island before playing professionally in Europe.
Personally, I have seen Hazelton coach and play in person many times and every time I am amazed by his competitive drive, it's a joy to watch. Simply put, the guy wants to win.
"As for the competitive drive, that is something that stems back from the days when I was a kid, just discovering this game of basketball" Hazelton continued. "I did not grow up in the best of circumstances, I used basketball as my "out," as my "escape" from everything else going in my life. Many people do know not that side of me- I didn't have any easy road to where I am today. I knew basketball was my ticket out, and I was willing to sacrifice everything to attain that. That is the only way I know how to do anything concerning the game of basketball, giving 110%- whether it be playing or coaching."
There is little doubt that Hazelton will be successful at UMass Lowell and wherever he coaches in the future. And whoever replaces him at BG has some very big (literally) shoes to fill.
"I'm very excited to join the coaching staff at UMass Lowell" Hazelton concluded. "I know we can build upon the great athletic tradition that has been established as we transition into the Division I America East Conference. I'm grateful for the opportunity Coach Behn has given me and I'm eager for our season to begin."