Mike Peck was named the ninth coach in the history of the Idaho Stampede in September. His team began the season with four road losses, and will be looking for its first victory Friday night when it hosts the Austin Toros.
Peck, who spent the previous six seasons at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev., met with Statesman reporter Chris Langrill on Wednesday. Here is the bulk of that interview.
Question: The most obvious place to begin is with the four road losses. The schedule-makers didnt do you any favors there, did they?
Answer: No, but looking at the silver lining, it was good for our guys, as young as they are, to go through an experience that was probably as tough as it can be, in terms of the travel and the days that we played and the teams that we played. Those were some of the better teams in the league. So it was a good indoctrination.
Q: Were there any positives you take away from the four losses?
A: In the last game, we showed significant improvement in the first half. We showed what Ive been preaching and hounding these guys with, and we had a sense of urgency in terms of movement. Ive always used the analogy that its like somebody breaking through your front door and saying, In 30 seconds, this house is not going to be here. So youve got 30 seconds to get what you need or want. Thats how you have to move and react on the court for 48 minutes.
Q: What is the one area where your team needs to improve the most?
A: Its twofold. Defensively, its moving with a sense of urgency and understanding the significance of that. Offensively, I would say its the importance of timing and spacing. There cant be any delays or hiccups, because with a 24-second shot clock and veteran players youre playing against it will kill you.
Q: Is there one player who stood out in the four games.
A: I think in stretches there were players who stood out. For example, (forward) Sean Evans had an unbelievable performance in the last game. But we played him way too many minutes, 39 minutes at his position and what we want and expect out of that is way too many. And then there was (guard) Justin Holiday, who came out with some activeness and energy, where he was getting tips and deflections.
Q: A lot of new players for the fans in this first game Friday. Are they going to be drawn to one or two because of their athleticism or the way they play?
A: Again, it depends. We have several guys who are capable of producting highlight-type moments and for people to get excited about. Obviously, Durrell Summers has been good for us in terms of scoring and I think thats what catches the common fans eye, and he does it in several ways. He can go to the rim and finish and hes capable of knocking down the corner 3. I think it just depends on who is feeling it and who is working within the flow of the game.
Q: Lets talk about you as coach whats your background?
A: Well, Ive been doing it for 16 years. I played Division II basketball, and coached for five years at that level. I coached for three years at the Division I level at UNLV, and the past six years Ive been at Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev. Its a high level high school where we produced three first-round draft picks and four guys currently active in the NBA. We won three national championships and participated in four national championship games in my six years, my five as a head coach.
Q: How is this coaching job different than your previous job?
A: In terms of the talent level youre dealing with its kind of similar. Our guys here are a little older, obviously so this is their complete focus. I dont have to worry about the academic component.
Q: Do you feel like the bulk of your experience will translate at the pro level?
A: To be honest with you, I do. One of the things we dealt with at Findlay is we had top-level players from all over the world. So its kind of like assembling an all-star team and getting guys to understand that, Hey, look, youre not going to get 23 shots on any given night. We dont need you to score the 30 that I know youre capable of scoring. What we need you to do is to be effective and efficient within your role. But go improve your game in other areas. Improve your rebounding. So the communication part of it, and getting guys to buy in and understand what you want, that part will probably somewhat similar.
Q: Lets talk about your personal life a little. Tell us about your family.
A: I have a wife (Terri), and weve been married 16 years. We have two children, our 13-year-old daughter is Madison, and our 4-year-old son is Gavin. People always say thats a big gap, but our daughter Madison was born with a rare genetic disorder called 18q Minus, so shes a special needs child and is wheelchair-bound and has a whole host of health issues and is completely dependent on adult care. Shes been the biggest teacher in my life in terms of patience, understanding, compassion. Shes been an angel for us. Our son, from a developmental standpoint, is on the other end of the charts. Hes all over the charts, and weve had to take it up a notch, in terms of our level of energy.
Q: Are you a fan of sports other than basketball?
A: I like college football, but Im not like a junkie. Im not going to throw on my jersey on Saturday morning and make sure Im watching GameDay.
Q: What is your favorite sports team, and no fair saying the Portland Trail Blazers (Idahos NBA affiliate)?
A: You know what? Ive never been one where Ive worn the colors. Ive always felt if Im not a true part of an organization, then Ive never felt good about wearing the shirt, even as a fan. Im not making an impact, Im not a part of that, so why should I advertise thats who I am? Im not saying thats correct thinking, but thats how I feel about it.
Q: Favorite athlete of all time?
A: I dont know if I have a favorite, but a guy you have respect for ... the obvious one that comes to mind is Michael Jordan, for what he accomplished, but also for his mind-set. People dont realize, when the lights and cameras werent on and he was by himself he was working and honing his craft.
Q: What do you do for recreation away from basketball?
A: (Running) is my No. 1 stress release. I need that. I usually run 4 miles five or six days a week.
Q: What do you listen to when youre driving around in your car?
A: You know what Im into right now? Absolutely favorite time of the year is Christmas. I forget what station it is, but its all Christmas music all day and thats what I listen to. Im huge 80s guy after that, and easy listening, Dan Fogelberg. Im kind of a sit-on-the-porch guy. When I run I run to different stuff, though.