By John Shimer
Pentucket coach John McNamara often comments that he would not be the coach he is today without the support of his staff, particularly in the daughter-father combo of Amy and Bob Beaton.
A seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher at Dr. A.B. Consentino School in Haverhill, who just completed her master's degree Wednesday, Amy would seem to be an ideal candidate for any high school program looking for a new young head coach.
After a high school basketball career on the North Shore for Haverhill, she played college ball for Colby Sawyer up in New Hampshire. But beyond her own game, the 26-year-old Beaton has served under one of the North Shore's most successful programs for the past five years.
"She's a great role model for the kids, someone they can relate to because she's been there and done it," said McNamara of his fiery assistant. "When we have her suit up for practice with us, she's probably the toughest kid on the court when she plays.
"When she practices with us, it's amazing to watch; that's why she's such a great role model," John said. 'She's going for her master's, she's a teacher, she's a young adult, she's got that fire and passion, and she shows kids its OK for a female to go out there and compete, because sometimes girls don't like to compete against each other. They think they're going to offend somebody, and she just shows them it's fine. You can still be friendly off the court, but you can compete on the court. I think somewhere down the road she's going to look at being a head coach, and she's going to be a good one, as well."
Right now, having a comfortable situation with her dad alongside her for a tip-top program, the timing isn't quite right.
"I've learned more than I could imagine from (John), and I know that eventually I'll move on," Amy said. "It's hard because I've got such ties to the girls right now, so I think maybe in a couple years or so (I'll start looking).
"I've been asked a bunch of times if I'd go to Haverhill because that's where I played," added Beaton, who was the only one of her 16 brothers or cousins that didn't attend Pentucket. "I don't know. It's hard leaving or thinking about leaving such a successful program to go some place it won't be as successful. It's tough, but I know eventually that I'll hopefully move on."
There's no denying her talent, though, as a coach. Just the other night, Amy made three crucial in-game calls that helped propel the Sachems to victory at the TD Bank Garden against Fairhaven.
The first was a defensive adjustment coming out of the break to double-team Fairhaven center Kara Charette and disrupt the Blue Devils' ability to break Pentucket's press. The switch was vital to slowing down the Blue Devils transition and allowing Pentucket to force a few turnovers, leading to transition buckets.
Then, late in the game during the fourth quarter, with the Sachems needing a couple of buckets to ice the game, Amy reminded McNamara of a play the team wanted to run. It led to a Sarah Higgins layup. On the next trip up, the assistant coach said they should look for the call again, only with the second option, and once again it was executed to perfection, with Kelsi McNamara drilling a three.
"She ran all the right decisions for us Tuesday at the Garden, and she's done that for us all year," McNamara said.
Amy is much like McNamara in so many ways. Defense, defense and more defense has been the staple of the Pentucket program for the past six years under McNamara, a philosophy Amy embraces.
"I think its nice we're both so defensively driven; its nice to know we're on the same page with that," Amy said. "I stress defense more than anything, and he's the same way. Even at the JV level — if they do nothing else right — if they play defense, I'm happy, and I think that's why the varsity, too, have been so successful. The importance of stressing defense, obviously, since we're going to be in the state title Saturday."
And the two are also known for being pretty animated during practices and games.
"Our 2010 year, I was bragging to the team about how I bought a big whiteboard, so I could write the plays when the crowd's loud, and it didn't make it through a game; she broke it on me," said McNamara while chuckling. "She was a little timid to tell me because I was so proud that I went out and got one, and she goes, 'Yeah, I think I broke your whiteboard.' It wasn't just broken, it was cracked right through the middle. I don't know what she did, I think she did it over her knee. It was like Jim Rice breaking it over his knee in the old days. I'm lucky she didn't hit it over my head over something I called."
But it's her passion and something she would like to do for a long time, even when her playing days are long behind her.
"I enjoy kind of beating up on the girls sometimes and practicing with them. I feel like I'm getting old sometimes because I complain about getting sore, and John will make fun of me, and I'll just say, 'Leave me alone, I'm getting old,'" Amy said.
"At least if I can't always be playing the sport, I'll have ties to the sport ,and I will be able to coach it, which is really fun for me," Amy said. "I enjoy it, and I get to coach with my dad, which is awesome."