Evan Massey wins #500

by John Ring

Saturday was a big day for Silver Streak Coach Evan Massey.

The Streaks had two wins that day against Geneseo and Sherrard.

The Wisconsin Badgers upset the Fighting Illini at Madison in a Big 10 conference game.

And -- oh yeah -- the win against Sherrard was the 500th in his coaching career at Galesburg.

Not bad for a guy who was rejected by Aledo and Limestone when he applied to teach there years ago. Not bad for a guy who didn't win a Regional Championship until his 10th season with the Streaks.

And not bad for a coach who has guided the Silver Streaks to an unprecedented six straight trips to the Elite Eight.

''I remember the first time I went to a basketball practice as a coach,'' said Massey. ''I was an assistant to Barry Swanson and the boys team. I had always been involved in basketball and there I was getting paid for it. It seemed weird.''

Times have changed. But Massey hasn't. Always quick to credit others, the Streaks coach quietly accepted congratulations on number 500.

''Our program has been blessed with great coaches like Steve Peachey, Mike Rux and Jay Barshinger who are wonderful with young people. We have players who are willing to work and are incredibly loyal. We have parents who support the players but step back and let the coaches coach. We also have great wives who put up with our moods and our hours.''

The time seemed right for an interview with a guy, who along with John Thiel, is responsible for making Galesburg a high school basketball mecca in the State of Illinois.

A lot of people talk about the system-- your system. A system that teaches the same offense, defense and fastbreak to the youngest basketball players in Galesburg. When did you start to focus on that part of the program?

When I first started coaching in boys basketball here, everyone talked about how coordinated the program had been under John Thiel. When I scouted for the boys, it was obvious that the better programs like Jerry Leggett at Quincy were doing the same things at that very level. So I think when I started coaching the girls program I wanted to try and coordinate it as much as possible. The problem for me early was I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and it was tough to coordinate it if you didn't have a system. It was developed gradually. A great example of our program was when Coach Tim Redington brought some of his basketball players to a high school game and one of his players commented, 'Look, the varsity is running our play!' What Coach Rux and Coach Peachey have done is unbelievable. I get the credit but they make things work.

At what point did you feel that girls basketball started to get some respect?

I think the Sectional win at Galesburg over Quincy is really a game that changed peoples' perceptions about girls basketball. We had a huge crowd and it was a great game with Stef Mitchell hitting the three toward the end. I think a lot of people started following us then.

What's the most rewarding thing about being a coach?

I really enjoy practices, the team feeling and the competition. Practices are never work, it's really fun trying to put together strategy. The sense of team with not only players but with the other coaches is unbelievable. Now with a son, it's really fun to have him around at practice. He has a really great indoor playground in the winter during practices. For now, fatherhood and coaching go together.

Your winning percentage as a coach is nearly 80 percent but how do you handle a loss?

It would probably be better if you asked my wife. At the end of the Moline game in the Sectionals at Streator, before Megan Pacheco hit the big three-point shot, Amy told Allen, 'You'll need to stay away from Daddy for the next few days because he's not going to be very happy.'

Aren't some losses harder than others?

Usually my wife and I do stats off the game tapes after I get home. I take notes on the game and give the girls the stats and a written analysis the next morning. Doing that and staying up after defeats helps handling that because you're doing something constructive. Some losses are harder than others. Last year's loss to Sterling was hard to shake as there were some last second situations that I felt I miscoached.

Do you remember your first visit to Galesburg?

My mother, Marjorie Evans, was raised in Galesburg and graduated from GHS. My grandparents lived in Galesburg so I visited regularly. I interviewed for jobs teaching at Limestone and Aledo but they rejected me so when I was offered the job here I was thrilled.

Looking back, the Streaks had a long wait for their first Regional Championship and then another one for a Sectional Title. Did that make you a better coach instead of having instant success?

There were a lot of frustrations but I have always been blessed working with some great kids. Some of the teams that I had in the 80s are teams that I would take back in a heartbeat. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every one of my teams. I'd like to think that early frustrations have helped me keep things in perspective and realize that players win games -- not coaches.

So what's the secret to the success of Silver Streak basketball?

If I told you, I guess it wouldn't be a secret any more. Getting players to commit to self-improvement is huge. When our players come out they have to do ten minutes of fundamentals every day before we start practice. Sara Wood, Molly Watson and Bonny Apsey were kids who had their own routines that they would do for 30-40 minutes after practice. Linda Carlson and Brenda Stewart were the first two that really got the ball rolling with working in the off season in their driveways. Also, I think we have done a good job of getting kids to play in the summer. We have more kids at camp and playing in leagues than anyone in the state. People on the outside may not believe it but the key is that we really try to make it fun so kids are doing things because they like it.

Winning is almost never mentioned in terms of a goal. Most of the time, it's playing hard, playing smart and putting out 100 percent isn't it?

We try to place values above winning. We may not always succeed but our goals are really not focused on winning. We try to emphasize things like teamwork, unselfishness, loyalty and work ethic. I had a tremendous experience playing for Coach [Harley] Knosher at Knox. Being a basketball player was a special experience at Knox because the focus was on values, not winning. I hope that is what our program is all about.

If you had to vote for the most exciting of your 500 wins, which game is it?

That is a question that if you asked me again next week, I would keep coming up with a different answer. In my third year, we lost to East Moline by 35. We didn't have Amy Crisman that night and they kind of rubbed it in. But we beat them later at Galesburg with Amy Crisman and that was a thrill. But one of my favorite memories is the win over Belvidere in the Super Sectional at Dixon the first year when we went to State. It was a great come-from-behind win and we made big free throws to seal it.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online January 8, 2002

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