Just seven days before the first game of the WBAL season for the Pinewood boys varsity basketball, the team found out that the now former coach, Olatunji Dean, was no longer a part of the program and his replacement was to be Jason Peery – a beloved former coach.
This announcement came after much discussion between Pinewood Athletic Director Matt Stimson and Pinewood President Scott Riches.
“We felt like [Dean] was going in a different direction than we had intended,” Stimson said. “But more importantly we felt like the coaching staff wasn’t connecting with the players.”
After the team lost Dean, the school turned to former head coach Peery. Peery, a former player on the Pinewood varsity team, was also head coach from 2008-2012, taking them to two CCS Championships and a Northern California division Final Game. Peery was remembered by the Pinewood community as a great coach – even to the players who never played for him.
“I had heard so many great things former players said about him, and I was super excited when I heard he was going to be our coach,” senior and team captain Kyle Murphy said.
As news reached the players, the team was overjoyed, and no one was more excited than the seniors.
“My initial reaction was shock…. Jason had been someone I had always wished to play for and the shock came from knowing that I would finally get to play for my dream coach,” senior and team captain Nathan Beak said.
The team went from a non-league 3-5 record with Dean to a league record with Peery of 5-1. This change of coaching staff is having a huge impact on the team so far, Stimson said.
“If you watch any of the games now and see when players buy into what a coach does, the results are tremendous and I think you can see that with our group and how our players have bought into Jason,” Stimson said.
Peery was also excited to be the new head coach.
“I’ve always wanted to coach this group of boys, especially my son [junior Matt Peery] and the seniors, because their freshman year was the first year that I wasn’t coaching so I wanted to help them have a positive experience with the rest of this year,” Peery said. “I felt like I understood their strengths and I felt like I understood that they had a lot of talent and speed and experience and that they were a good fit with my coaching style.”
This new coaching style has had many results not only with a new winning record, but it has resonated with the players and the team as a whole.
“He has already had such a huge impact on our team and the team just feels a lot more united now thanks to him,” Murphy said.
“After playing for him, he has reaffirmed my previous views towards him,” Beak said. “He is a charismatic leader with an undying belief in our abilities. His will to win is second to none and his love for Pinewood, the players, and our success is genuine and it’s an honor to play for him.”
The team has started off with only a single loss in their six games so far this regular season, and while most look to the future and predict where the team is headed, Peery is keeping his mind on the present.
“Right now we have four concrete goals: qualify for CCS, win CCS, win NorCal, and then win state. We only look at the goal right in front of us,” Peery said. “We only think about one team after we’ve played the team right in front of us. In the end I want the kids to look back and have loved this season and loved playing together and feel the did the best that they could do.”