EASTHAM — The Nauset High boys basketball program moved into a new era following the departure of longtime Head Coach John McCarthy before the 2022-23 season. A familiar face and a familiar staff with deep roots in Nauset basketball have stepped in to guide the Warriors.
Kevin Harrigan is approaching the end of his first season as coach. He’s a Nauset grad, class of 2004, and spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach under McCarthy.
“Our goal is to find the most qualified and experienced person for our program,” said Nauset Athletic Director John Mattson. “Kevin’s knowledge and passion for the game stood out. He is in it for the right reasons.”
Harrigan is now having to balance building on the foundation McCarthy created in 10 years at the helm at Nauset, where he amassed over 100 wins, with implementing his own philosophy and direction. And he’s having to do it with a squad that has just two players who logged varsity minutes last season.
“We have a team where there’s only a couple of guys who have had varsity experience — myself included — and we’re learning how to handle the ebbs and flows of the season,” said Harrigan. “We’re trying to build good habits, where some things work and some things don’t, but we’ll figure it out.
“I coached under John for five years, and he was a really good coach and communicator, and I always told him I’d be happy to stay on as his assistant for as long as he wanted me. We’re an extension of what he built. Nauset has a history of great coaches, and I just want to do my best to serve the group well and have meaningful moments.”
Harrigan’s staff is all former Nauset players and former teammates, including Tim Collins, Ryan Cullinan, and Derek Evans. Harrigan coached Harry Blanchard.
There have certainly been growing pains but also plenty of positives. The Warriors have been competitive in every game except one — six of their seven losses have been by single-digits margins, including three by just three points — and they had the chance to play on the hallowed floor of TD Garden at the 2023 Andrew James Lawson Foundation Invitational on Jan. 21.
Harrigan, meanwhile, has had an interesting journey back to Nauset’s sidelines.
The 36-year-old left the area in 2007 for the bright lights of Los Angeles, where he worked for his own company, Grandview Productions, alongside two friends as well as independently as a writer, producer, and actor. Harrigan claimed awards at independent film festivals in Austin, Provincetown, Newport Beach, and Woods Hole for his work on the films The Golden Scallop and Come on Down.
But in January 2017, after a Thanksgiving holiday visit, he returned to the Cape to work alongside McCarthy, and things fell into place. This led to a position as the director of the AAU program SIMS Basketball Academy. It was then he realized that being back on the sideline was where he belonged.
“I think everyone is looking for a purpose and something that you really love to do,” said Harrigan. “I had been reasonably successful doing what I was doing but not necessarily loving it or thinking I could do it for the rest of my life. Once I started back with basketball, it was like, ‘All right, this is the full sense of purpose that everyone hopes to find.’ ”
Harrigan’s brand of basketball is up-tempo and exciting. There are mistakes and turnovers, but despite those, Harrigan remains upbeat as he directs his team, waving his dry-erase marker. His team talks are reassuring, his timeouts positive. His experience and love for basketball shows.
“Everyone trusts what he has to say — that’s a big part of having success, and he definitely has that connection with his players,” said senior captain Andrew Berardi. “He approaches the job with a plan in mind, and it made it easy to commit to what he wanted to implement.”
The Warriors, who have five seniors and five juniors on the roster, are 9-7 on the season, now at a crucial juncture. They have four regular season games remaining: a home contest against Falmouth High School and an away game against Dennis-Yarmouth Regional. Only teams in the top 32 of the MIAA Division 2 rankings or with a .500 or better record make the postseason. They are currently ranked 47th and riding a four-game winning streak.
The long-term goal is to give the program a steady foundation — and that begins with creating a culture of good habits.
“The most rewarding thing in the world as a coach is to see them come back to the school, whether they’ve been playing basketball or not, and be thriving,” Harrigan said. “It makes you feel good about what you’re doing.”