Scott Morrison took a sabbatical last winter from his job as head coach of the Lakehead University men’s basketball team in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

He lived in an apartment on the corner of State and Congress streets in Portland, and volunteered in player development and scouting for the Maine Red Claws, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Boston Celtics.

On Tuesday, the Celtics named the 37-year-old Morrison head coach of the Red Claws.

“To be honest, I went down there with the intention of learning and going back to Lakehead to be a better coach,” Morrison said from the Celtics’ training facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. “I didn’t expect this opportunity to come about so soon.”

Morrison succeeds Mike Taylor, who led the Claws to their first playoff appearance in 2013 but stumbled to 19-31 last winter and wasn’t rehired.

The Celtics were impressed enough by Morrison that they invited him to observe and help with their summer league team in Orlando, Florida. About a month ago they offered him the Red Claws job. He accepted and immediately notified his university because the Lakehead preseason camp was scheduled to start Aug. 15.

“I kind of took a bit of a risk,” said Morrison, a native of Prince Edward Island who still had to pass a background check and deal with visa issues before his new gig became official. “I was hoping things would work out.”

They did and Morrison plans to return to Portland for an introductory press conference Friday.

Growing up in the fishing village of Morell (population 300) on the north shore of PEI, Morrison was never far from a gymnasium. His father George was a high school teacher who, with his wife Anne, took over the Morell High girls’ basketball program.

High school success led to a job coaching women’s basketball at the University of Prince Edward Island, and eventually George Morrison took over the men’s team, where Scott became a point guard who graduated (with an economics degree in 2000) as the school’s career leader in assists and 3-point field goals. While in college, Morrison played against New England schools such as St. Anselm, Bentley and Husson.

“Scott grew up in a gym,” said George Morrison. “Absolutely no doubt about that.”

Scott soon followed his father into coaching, first with the women of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he earned a master’s in business administration. At age 25, he took over a struggling men’s program in Thunder Bay and endured a one-win season before building Lakehead into a perennial contender in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport system (think NCAA). Two seasons ago the Panthers reached the national title game.

“We recognized a young man with a lot of potential, an intelligent person and someone who had a work ethic as well,” said Lakehead Athletic Director Tom Warden. “He proved us right over the years.”

Warden said the Red Claws should expect good things from Morrison.

“You’ve got a quality person,” he said. “You’ve got a hard-working guy, a guy with a fire in his belly, that’s for sure. He’s very demanding. His athletes will understand what he expects of them. You’ve got a guy who’s going to develop basketball players and win basketball games.”

For his sabbatical, Morrison contacted a handful of D-League affiliates and settled on Maine, only a nine-hour drive from his hometown as opposed to the more than 30-hour journey from Thunder Bay to PEI.

“It’s the closest I’ve been to home in about 12 years,” said Morrison, who was assigned to work last season specifically with Chris Babb and Frank Gaines, and helped assistant Jim Moran with a few other players, including Chris Wright.

“The guys we helped out had good years,” Morrison said. “I don’t know if we had much to do with it, but it was nice to see them do well.”

Morrison has been in Waltham helping the Celtics with voluntary workouts in advance of preseason camp, which officially opens at the end of September.

“Coach (Brad) Stevens has been teaching a lot of his defensive and offensive stuff to small groups,” Morrison said. “One of our goals is to run a very similar system to what Boston runs on both sides of the ball.”

Morrison said he expects the Red Claws will have two full-time assistants and three or four interns helping with player development and scouting.

“Nothing is official yet,” he said.

“We have a couple offers out. Hopefully this week we’ll know more.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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