End Of An Era As Grant Leaves Millis After 20 Years
A.D. Took Millis Sports To Elite Level
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
The Chuck Grant era at Millis High School has ended.
The 58-year-old Grant, who has been a fixture as Millis High’s athletic director for 20 years, will be in a new school system in a different state when the fall sports season gets underway this month.
Grant is now commuting to Tiverton, R. I., where he’s the high school’s athletic director. At Millis, Grant also was the school’s Director of Student Affairs, both at the high school and middle school where he dealt with disciplinary issues.
“I felt a change was needed because the added duties were stifling and overshadowing my passion for athletics,’’ Grant said. “Tiverton is virtually identical to Millis — a small school that takes pride in its athletic achievements. There are a lot of banners on the gymnasium walls, especially in football and boys and girls soccer. Like Millis, they also have 14 varsity sports.’’
The enrollments of the two schools are fairly close: Tiverton has 511 students and Millis has approximately 350.
Nicknamed the “Tigers,’’ Tiverton will be getting an athletic director who’s well-versed in all the areas that lead to success. During Grant’s 20 years, Millis won 14 state championships, 19 sectional titles and 8 Tri Valley League crowns.
The key to winning at Millis was Grant’s formula that inspired student-athletes and coaches. “The student-athletes and coaches focused on what they could control,’’ Grant said. “We were a small school, usually an underdog, but we controlled what we could to offset our opponents’ advantages. Nobody was going to outwork us and we strived to qualify for tournaments. That’s where parity was waiting for us.’’
At Tiverton, Grant has two goals, one of which coincides with an objective he tried to achieve at Millis. “First, I want to reinforce accountability,’’ he emphasized. “Our coaches and players must assume responsibility and demonstrate initiative. We want our students to be quality leaders. I also want to help the school enhance its fields and facilities. They deserve to be on par with other schools.’’
Grant tried for years to upgrade the Mohawks’ football field, laying out a variety of ways to improve Welch Field. “Early on, when our work ethic enabled us to win, we needed an upgrade to the field and other facilities. I laid out plans, but we couldn’t get it done. My two least favorite situations at Millis were the pandemic and the inability to upgrade facilities.’’
As Grant reflects on the last two decades, he recalls his top thrill and two other major achievements.
“My top thrill was in 2008 when our girls’ basketball team beat Georgetown for the state championship,’’ he said. “It’s significant because it was a state title and the game was played at Boston Garden. I remember when I first started at Millis. A girl told me she liked basketball but the team didn’t win much and was never going to win. I told her that things were going to change. Winning a state crown was evidence that a mental change was occurring and that we weren’t going to be outworked.’’
The other achievements Grant is proud of are Millis athletes who became players of the year or all-scholastics, and the boys soccer team that won the TVL title last fall for the first time in the program’s history.
“The boys’ title was an incredible achievement and it came in my last year there,’’ Grant noted. “They paid the price, they went to camps and they made noise in the tourney. Coach Jason O’Brien did a great job leading the kids to the Small Division title.’’
Twenty years is a lengthy time to cultivate relationships and it will be those links Grant says he’ll miss but always cherish.
“I’ll miss the relationships with the teaching and coaching staffs, the kids, the alumni, and the families in the community,’’ Grant said. “Millis is a wonderful town that was good to me and my family. I left Walpole, a blue-collar town, and came to another blue-collar town. Both communities have a lunch-pail mentality.’’
Grant, who was the dean of TVL athletic directors, will also miss the camaraderie and colleagues he worked with in a conference that grew and became one of the best in the state. “We all aimed at taking the TVL to a higher plateau,’’ he emphasized. “We maintained high standards and I’ll always admire the A.D.s. Early on, guys like Dennis Baker (Bellingham), Phil Moresi (Ashland), Rob Pearl (Medway) and Jon Kirby (Medfield) were very helpful.’’
Grant’s background in athletics and as an educator is impressive. Before taking the administrative reins at Millis, he was an assistant ice hockey coach for Harvard’s women’s team. Before his role at Harvard, Grant coached and taught at Walpole High for 11 years. He taught history, law and banking, and he coached football, baseball, ice hockey and track. During his eight years as the Rebels varsity grid coach, his teams won two of three Super Bowls (Tewksbury and Lincoln-Sudbury).
Grant graduated in 1981 from Walpole High where he played football, hockey and baseball. A goalie in hockey, he was selected as the Bay State Conference’s MVP as a senior. After a year at the Taft School in Connecticut, he enrolled at Providence College where he earned his bachelor’s degree in business and history. Grant has a master’s in school administration from Cambridge College.
His philosophy of athletic competition starts first with developing good people, then focusing on “reaching one’s potential, ensuring that athletes enjoy their sports journey and striving to win.’’
Grant’s time at Millis also stressed that athletic venues should be used to teach life lessons.
“Kids learned how to overcome adversity, how to be good teammates, to be good leaders, to set goals and manage their time,’’ he noted. “Sports also help students to develop emotional intelligence. It’s about having the intellect to make solid choices.’’
Grant and his wife (Joanne) will continue to live in Norfolk where they’ve resided for the last 19 years. They have a son (Charlie, 18) and a daughter (Lainey, 17).
Grant mulled the Tiverton offer and discussed it with his father (“Chick’’) who at 82, was experiencing poor health. “I didn’t want to change jobs when my dad was ill,’’ Grant said. “I held off but when he passed away in April, I knew I had his blessing.’’
Other blessings he’s thankful for are the attributes he has that have been catalysts for his dynamic leadership style.
“I had good parenting that shaped my character and ethics,’’ Grant said. “I also played for great coaches who influenced me. At Providence College, I played hockey for Lou Lammarillo, who later became a coach and general manager in the National Hockey League. I relied on patience, dedication and commitment, and building strong relationships was a big plus.’’
Grant will be replaced by Derek Phinney, a health and wellness teacher at Millis. Phinney took care of many administrative duties in the athletic department. “Derek has a great relationship with students and he’ll do a great job,’’ Grant offered.
Chuck Grant will be missed because he was the symbol of success at Millis. And, the endorsement of his successor is simply another key to what makes him tick — he’s quick to give credit to those who demonstrate a strong work ethic.