New Hopkinton Grid Coach

KEN HAMWEY, Staff Sports Writer
MacLean’s Franklin Roots Big Plus in His Football Career
The transition to a different head coach should be smooth for Hopkinton’s grid squad. The players know Dan MacLean, and they’re familiar with his style. But, what they’ll likely discover along the way is that his passion and devotion to football are linked to Franklin.
Issue Date: 
August, 2019
Article Body: 

Dan MacLean is spot on when he says, “Franklin is my life.’’
Hopkinton High’s new football coach credits his Franklin roots as a key reason for his emergence in a sport that requires devotion, passion and flexibility — attributes he learned as a two-sport athlete at Franklin High.
The 47-year-old MacLean, who previously was the head football coach at Tri County Vocational and Bellingham High, is a 1990 graduate of Franklin High. He not only played football, but he also wrestled for the Panthers for three years, finishing his mat career as a fifth-place finisher at 140 pounds in the State tourney. He later was an assistant coach at his alma mater in both football and wrestling.
He’s lived in Franklin his entire life, has been a police officer in Franklin, and his wife Lyn also has Franklin roots.
“I was an assistant to Brad Sidwell for five years in football at Franklin and I assisted Carmen Colace for three years in wrestling,’’ MacLean said. “I got my start as a head football coach in Franklin with Tri County Voke. We had a lot of success in my four years there. We got to the Super Bowl in 2008 and we returned to the playoffs in 2009. That’s when I realized that football would be a big part of my future.’’
MacLean, however, is acutely aware that his competitive drive and energy are linked to his days in Franklin as a student-athlete. “Franklin High is a big school and the spirit there is dynamic,’’ he recalled. “When I wrestled, we were so good we wanted to win every match and be the best. Hopkinton reminds me of a smaller version of Franklin High.’’
For the last four years, MacLean was Hopkinton’s defensive coordinator, working for Jim Girard, who now is the coach at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional. In three of MacLean’s four seasons, the Hillers were a dominant defensive squad. They qualified for the playoffs in 2017 and his play-calling that season helped Hopkinton win the Sectional crown before bowing out in the State semifinals to Melrose. Two of the teams the Hillers defeated in the playoffs — Pembroke and Dartmouth — suffered shutouts. MacLean’s defense was ranked in the top five in the state in 2017.
Wasting very little time, Hopkinton’s administration offered MacLean the head-coaching reins and he accepted the job in March to succeed Girard.
“I’m excited and happy to be Hopkinton’s head coach,’’ MacLean noted. “The players work hard, they love football and they play with a blue-collar philosophy. My goals will focus on improving every day, to compete for the Tri Valley League Large Division crown and to qualify for the playoffs. We want to get to a Super Bowl but we know it’ll take a complete team effort.’’
MacLean is a firm believer that discipline and respect are crucial characteristics that help a football program gain success. “At Tri County, that’s what we stressed, and we had winning teams. I was fortunate to have an assistant like Ben Colella as my defensive coordinator. I was green when I coached there, but Ben taught me so much about the game.’’
Another assistant — Chris Baker — was on MacLean’s staffs at Tri County and Bellingham and will be rejoining him at Hopkinton. Baker was Medway High’s head coach last fall and led the Mustangs to the playoffs for the first time in the school’s history. He also was Coach of the Year in the TVL’s Small Division.
“Chris and I both work for the Mansfield Police Department now, and he’ll be my offensive coordinator,’’ MacLean said. Baker’s experience should be a big plus because Hopkinton lost 10 starters on offense, including quarterback Ryan Kelleher, the Large Division’s offensive MVP.
Defensively, the Hillers will return some key players but as MacLean says: “they know me and they know our defensive schemes.’’ A fan of Girard, MacLean credits his former boss for “teaching me how to be superbly organized.’’ He no doubt learned a lot from Girard, but he also learned how humbling it is to be directing a losing program. At Bellingham, MacLean’s squads averaged three to four wins a season.
“We struggled at Bellingham, losing many close games,’’ MacLean said, “but the players improved their grades, and they were respectful. Losing taught me to be patient, and I realized that it takes time to build a program.’’
When he assembles his roster this fall, MacLean, the father of two daughters, will rely on adding players who possess the kind of attributes that Colace and Sidwell admired. “We’ll have players who are mentally tough, disciplined, coachable, team-first guys, athletic and well-conditioned,’’ MacLean emphasized.