Mike Crowley back on the sidelines in Chelmsford

It’s been five years since Mike Crowley roamed the sideline as a high school varsity basketball coach.
His competitive juices never stopped flowing during that hiatus and he always had plans for a return.
Well, he’s back.
The 52-year-old Crowley, one of the most successful high school basketball coaches in area history, has been hired as the interim varsity girls basketball coach at Chelmsford High School. Due to a work conflict, Kevin Branco had to step down from the post after an excellent 20-season run of his own, which included more than 200 wins.
“I’m thrilled to get back at it,” said Crowley on Tuesday.
Crowley was recently a volunteer assistant coach for the Pelham High boys program, where his sons, Derek and Matt, starred before graduating last spring. He has been a head coach at the varsity level for 20 seasons and has 323 career wins, including going 40-7 in two seasons (2013-15) with the Tyngsboro High boys. He led the Tigers to the 2014 Division 3 state title game, where they fell to Cardinal Spellman.
Crowley spent 16 seasons as the Lowell High girls coach before stepping down in 2011. He is Lowell’s all-time winningest hoops coach with a record of 238-111. Before taking over the Tyngsboro boys program, he coached the THS girls for two seasons (2011-13) and went 45-3, including a Division 2 state title game loss to Reading in 2012.
“It stinks to lose Kevin, but Mike is outstanding,” said Chelmsford High Athletic Director Dan Hart.
Chelmsford returns four starters from a squad that went 20-3 and advanced all the way to the Division 1 North semifinals last season. The 2020-21 campaign, of course, will have a much different feel, strict safety measures, and no state tournament because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that didn’t dissuade Crowley from wanting the job.
“I had been checking some local openings in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and nothing really excited me,” said Crowley. “I almost got resigned to the fact that I would just start fresh next year somewhere. Coach Branco had to step aside at the last minute and (Chelmsford) was something that intrigued me. I’m happy to be here.
“When I was an assistant coach for four years, that was a big adjustment for me. But I had to do the right thing for the family. But the juices never stopped flowing and I’m just excited to be back. I look forward to coaching down the road as well.”
Crowley took a break from head coaching to spend more time with his family and watch his sons play. Pelham finished last season 17-5 and was set to play in a Division 2 quarterfinal last March until the pandemic shut down the remainder of the season. Derek surpassed 1,000 career points with the Pythons. He and Matt are both now attending the University of New Hampshire.
“It was a little tough on a couple of seniors seeing their careers end like that,” said Mike. “But everybody has a story that can match that (in 2020).”
Like many basketball programs across the state, Chelmsford is scheduled to hold tryouts this week. The Merrimack Valley Conference will begin competition on Jan. 11.

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