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The Daily Item: A (Coaching) Tree Grows at Salem State

The Daily Item: A (Coaching) Tree Grows at Salem State

SALEM — When the Lynn English boys basketball team defeated Gloucester last week, Antonio Anderson secured his first state tournament appearance as coach of the Bulldogs. English needed 10 victories to secure its bid — it only took Anderson and the Bulldogs 11 games to get it done. Needless to say, things are going well for Anderson in his first season on the English sideline.

Perhaps it’s no surprise Anderson’s off to an ideal start in his first head coaching job, given where he’s come from in his coaching career. He spent the 2015-2016 season learning as an assistant to Salem State’s Chris Harvey, one of the area’s most decorated college coaches.  

“It was an awesome experience,” Anderson, who played in the NBA for Oklahoma City in 2010, said. “Coach Harvey’s a lot of fun. He allows his coaches to coach and really respects their input. He’s been around a long time and he’s been very successful. Working under him was awesome, I learned a lot about coaching from him.”

As he approaches the closing stretch of his 11th season at Salem, Harvey’s closing in on his 200th victory as the Vikings’ coach. The all-time leader in coaching wins at Salem, Harvey has led the Vikings to five regular season MASCAC titles and four NCAA Division III Tournament bids.

Anderson, a Lynn native, isn’t the only North Shore native to grow from Harvey’s coaching tree. Peabody’s Kevin Bettencourt, who coached the Endicott men’s basketball team to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III Tournament last year, spent one season (2007-2008) serving on Harvey’s staff. Saugus’ Titus Manderson served on Harvey’s staff from 2008-2013 and is currently at the helm of the men’s team at Fitchburg State.

“I take a lot of pride in seeing these guys go out, have success and want to be involved in coaching,” Harvey said. “I think we’ve empowered assistants. I’m not one of those coaches that has his assistants sit down and recruit. I like to have my assistants empower me. Whether it’s Kevin and Antonio with their playing experience, or Titus with his in-game coaching. I give them the opportunity and I want them to take ownership.”

Harvey, a Somerville native, has served as an integral part of the coaching careers of Anderson, Bettencourt and Manderson. All three have seen success and continue to do so.

“It makes sense that we’re able to get guys of their caliber that are tied to the North Shore area,” Harvey said. “Even though they didn’t play at Salem State, they know the history of the school and the success. They’re tied into the kids. There’s the competitive side to all of us but there’s the bond that we have where we all want to see each other win. We’re always pulling for each other.”

Manderson coached the Falcons to their first NCAA Tournament victory in 2015-2016 when they defeated Plattsburgh State in the opening round. Bettencourt led Endicott to its most successful season in program history last winter, while claiming two CCC championships in his first three years. Anderson’s 12-1 in his first season at English.

“I’m not surprised by their success,” Harvey said. “But I also think it’s very easy to look at Kevin (Bucknell) and Antonio (Memphis) as Division I players and think they’re going to have success. It’s not easy. What Kevin has is a relatability factor to his players. He’s got such a gift of working with his players. With Antonio, you’re talking about a player with major experience. He’s in an ideal spot to begin his coaching career. He’s a guy that can truly teach skill. He’s really good at what he does.”

It’s not a rare occasion for Harvey to look down the sideline and find himself coaching against one of his former assistants. The Vikings play Fitchburg twice a year in MASCAC play and Endicott once a season in non-conference action. A similar reunion also takes place when Salem battles Framingham State where another former Harvey assistant, Peter Mugar, coaches the Rams.

“With Kevin and Titus, it’s very cool to coach against them,” Harvey said. “Truthfully, I’m happy when they win. Seeing Titus wait so long to get a coaching opportunity, I took a lot of pride in that. He took that program and turned it around in a few years. Seeing Kevin go from Salem to  Bentley, and then to Endicott, it’s a pretty neat thing. There’s a lot of friendship there, there’s loyalty and there’s admiration.”

Harvey’s biggest pieces of advice for his assistants range from habitual note-taking to prioritizing preparation. He also encourages his staff members to raise questions while engaging in discussions.

“One of the things I’ve always told to any assistant is to write stuff down,” Harvey said. “Whether it’s stuff they like or things they might question. I always tell them to ask themselves ‘what would I do?’ I always tell them to treat this job like it’s the best job in the world. The way they prepare is the way they’re going to prepare when they get a head job. They have to fall in love with all aspects of the job.”

Anderson, who joined the staff at Division II Franklin Pierce after his tenure at Salem, recalls being pushed to grow as a coach in his season assisting Harvey. To this day, he still seeks coaching advice from Harvey.

“Coach Harvey pushes his staff,” Anderson said. “He recommends his coaches everywhere. I took a Division II job after my year there. He was all about it, 100 percent. To this day, I still talk to him and seek his advice. He breeds a lot of people, a lot of local coaches have worked under him.”

Harvey’s Vikings are 18-3 this season and currently ride an 11-game winning streak, well on their way toward threatening for another MASCAC title. The Vikings are undefeated, 8-0, in conference play.

“We have a good group,” Harvey said. “We’ve had a great start to the season. We’re finding a way. We haven’t played great basketball yet but the group works hard every night. This group tries to go 1-0 every night and that’s the approach we take.”

Despite the individual accolades, conference crowns and impressive win total, Harvey takes the most pride in seeing his assistants and players progress toward reaching their career goals.

“I want to see all these guys have success,” Harvey said. “I want to see Kevin continue to build at Endicott and Titus continue to succeed at Fitchburg. It’s not about winning and losing. To me, this means a lot more than a record. A lot of people don’t understand how hard it is. The coaches go home with tough losses and second guessing. It really defines us and we’re the ones who have to carry it. It’s about a lot more than winning games.”