After a controversial year marred by a hazing incident involving several members of the boys basketball program, a new athletic director is coming to Andover with a plan to remind team leaders about the important role they hold.
Don Doucette, the athletic director at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School for the past seven years, has been appointed to replace Athletic Director Chris Bergeron, who announced last month that he was stepping down.
Doucette is known in local sports circles for coaching the University of Massachusetts Lowell basketball team to victory in the NCAA Division II National Championship in 1988. That year, he was also named “National Coach of the Year” by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Doucette, 60, said he believes the school has one of the top five Division I athletic programs in the state and is looking forward to starting his new job.
“I am anxious to get started and meet people, student athletes and coaches,” he said. “And get everything up and running with the program.”
“We are delighted that Don has chosen to take our school to the next level through the athletic lens,” said new Andover High Principal Christopher Lord. “He has a great experience in collegiate and secondary athletics that he brings to Andover. He has terrific social skills and has implemented a student leadership program at Hamilton-Wenham that Andover Warriors can now enjoy.”
Lord wrote in a letter announcing the news that one of Doucette’s primary initiatives in the fall will be a student leadership program that has been proven to help team captains understand the important role they play on their teams and for the school. The program will reach out to all of the school’s after-school programs, he said.
Doucette will officially start on Aug. 21 with a revised athletic policy approved by the School Committee at the end of June. Some changes include stricter hazing consequences, requirements for teams to perform a community service project and raising the minimum academic standards to a 2.0 grade point average for students to participate in sports.
The School Committee tabled a controversial proposal to ban freshmen from playing on a varsity team except in cases where a sport has only a varsity team. Sports at Andover High with only varsity teams include golf, skiing and gymnastics.
Doucette agreed that the athletic director position at Andover High can be pressure-packed, but said he is an energetic person ready to take on the challenge. Andover High’s athletic program is about three times larger than the one at Hamilton-Wenham, he said.
“It comes with the territory,” Doucette said. “I think any time you are on the higher level it just intensifies the drive that people have for the program.”
He said he is aware of Andover’s hazing incident and is looking to bring new ideas to school to prevent future incidents. One tradition Doucette said he will continue from his seven years at Hamilton-Wenham is meeting will all the coaches at the start of every season. He plans a larger presentation for all student athletes and their parents to ensure a clear understanding of the MIAA and its role in guiding sports programs across the state.
“It is being proactive,” Doucette said. “It provides them with as much information as possible and the consequences of things. It has been very helpful.”
Before his time at UMass Lowell, Doucette was the assistant basketball coach at Merrimack College between 1983 and 1985. Doucette has been a head coach and/or athletic director at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, Chaminade University in Hawaii, Central Missouri State University and Newbury College, according to a prepared statement from Lord.
Bergeron had been at Andover High for four years and in Salem, N.H., for eight years. He has said he and his wife, Tia, will be moving to South Carolina to be closer to family members, including his parents.
Bergeron, 40, was part of 13 state championships over his four years and had to deal with last summer’s hazing incident when two new members of the basketball team were forced to play a humiliating sex game at a summer training camp at Stonehill College in Easton.
“That was a tough time,” Bergeron previously said, referring to months of anxiety once he became aware of the hazing incident. “But what occurred is not indicative of the program. We really have so many outstanding student-athletes and coaches. As time goes, you will see more positives coming.”