Sunday, March 16, 2008

Michael Peck- Program Builder

Findlay College Prep (NV) is not a well-known prep school for basketball, but this season, the squad squashed any notions that teams from the West cannot compete with those on the East, specifically those in New England. Findlay Head Coach Michael Peck brought his team from being a relative unknown to being at the forefront of prep school basketball. Peck has gotten players such DeAndre Liggins, a Kentucky commit, and Brice Massamba, a UNLV commit, and his team went all the way to the national championship game. Findlay took an undefeated record to Fordham University in Bronx, New York for the Prep National Championships, where the team was the two seed, and knocked off Harmony (OH) and Notre Dame (MA) on its way to the title game, where the team met Hargrave Military Academy (VA), another undefeated club. Michael Peck kept his team in the game throughout, and his squad almost picked up a come from behind win, but fell just short, 75-73. Coach Peck and I spoke for a few minutes after the tough loss.

NB: So, you guys had a great season, [but] came [up] a little short. What happened in the game today?
MP: Oh, I just think [that] like any good game--Hollywood, we said before to our guys, Hollywood couldn’t script it any better, number one versus number two, both teams undefeated going into it, and then there ends up to be a two point game, [and it] goes down to the final 1.4 seconds. That’s a great story, but I think . . . the ebb and flow, there’s ups and downs to any game, there’s swings our way, there’s swings their way, [and] I just think their guards just really controlled the pace offensively for them. . . . Two days before this I saw their guards, those guards just continue to make shots, big shots, deep threes. . . . When you’re making shots--I always tell our guys all year, it doesn’t matter if a team’s not very good, what their record is. . . . if kids are making shots it’s going to be a ball game because the bottom line is [that] you got to defend and stop, and if their scoring, . . . scoring isn’t a luxury, you’re going to have to score just to be in the game, and that’s kind of what happened. . . . I think their guards did one heck of a job for them, and just made some big shots and we answered, but obviously came up a little short.

NB: You mentioned big shots. Down the stretch you guys hit a lot of those. How were you guys able to really make that into a game?
MP: Well, it’s kind of funny. One of the things that we practiced before we left [Las] Vegas to come out here, is we practiced a lot of situations [at the] end of games. . . . We were undefeated [and] our margin of victory was about 30, so we didn’t have a ton of close games, but one thing we knew coming out here [was that] we were going to have to prepare for that. So we tried to practice and simulate end-of-game situations. Okay, you’re down seven [with] 2:37 left, . . . we’re going to play it out, and lo and behold, we did not practice it very well. Our guys just did not have much success coming from behind or holding a lead even, in those situations, but like anything, I think when you put our guys in an actual situation when it’s a do-or-die, there have been drills in practice that we’ve done . . . when it’s on the line and it’s for real they respond and they get results usually. So, this unfortunately was the first time . . . where it was played for real, and they didn’t get the outcome that they usually get, and it hurts, it hurts, and it should, but nonetheless, we’ll go through a little mourning now, but then we’ve got to regroup and look at the bigger picture.

NB: Did it mean anything special to you guys being the only team from the West Coast at this tournament, or were you guys not even thinking about that?
MP: Yeah, teams say that, but my argument on that is . . . [that] if I enter contest and I come in first place, but I’m the only one that enters it, does it mean as much? . . . There’s only three teams that I know of out there that are sort of in this world of prep school [basketball]. . . . New England, the NEPSC, kind of is the end-all be-all of what people know in terms of prep school [basketball], and then out in California there’s Summit and Stoneridge, and then us. So it’s not like there’s a whole list of them out there, so being the only school from the West, I think it’s neat and it has some appeal to it from a fan standpoint or a media standpoint, but for us I don’t think we thought too much about it to be honest.

NB: You mentioned that the New England schools are the most well-known. So, . . . how does this tournament, knocking off a school like Harmony [and] a school like Notre Dame really help you guys to establish your reputation as a top-notch prep school?
MP: Well, I think that’s one of the things we did. We played a national schedule this year. This was our ninth trip East. We played those teams, we played South Kent three times this year, [and] beat them all three times. . . . We went to the National Prep Invitational in Rhode Island. We beat Brewster out there, we beat New Hampton. . . . We knew we had to play those teams in order to get the credit that we felt we deserved and needed to ultimately be one of eight to make it here and get invited here, and then to compete, and so that’s what we set out [to do]. We didn’t pad our schedule too much, we wanted to play the best, because one) that makes you better, and two) . . . in our second year, that’s going to give us the recognition and the credit that we needed.

NB: If you had one word to sum up the whole season, what would it be?
MP: [Pause] It was long, it was long, it was a long season, but it was fun. Our guys, like I’ve always said, when you have talent, and they play hard, and they play together, what more can you ask for? I think that our group of guys was a group of guys that bought into our system, and embraced it, and our play showed [that].

NB: How are you going to replace guys like Brice [Massamba] and DeAndre [Liggins]?
MP: I have no idea, that’s a great question. If anybody’s got any ideas, I’m willing to take calls, e-mails, [and] what-have-you. We’re working on that right now, we’re in that process. We know that these guys have set a standard that’s pretty high, and the expectations [are as well]. I think we can get back to being very competitive and then being very good, but it’s not . . . going to be the same group of guys. We got to, as coaches, we got to know that, and as our fans and people back home got to understand, we’re not going to have Jacques [Streeter], we’re not going to have DeAndre. . . . Now, we’re going to have different players that we think are going to be as good, and we’re going to make them better and help them, but it’s going to be different. So, it might . . . taste good, but it’s going to be a different product. [The] steak’s going to be a little bit different, but we think it’s going to be good.

Michael Peck is clearly a proud coach, and for good reason. Coach Peck has molded his team at Findlay into a national title contender, and he has done a great job. Peck had a roster of stars this season, and Findlay's roster should remain loaded, as long as Michael Peck is in charge. He has found a way to have his team compete with the big dogs, and not just play the, but beat them. Michael Peck and Findlay Prep are here to stay.

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