A fistful of hours before loading his players onto a plane Friday night for a trip to an invitational basketball tournament in Springfield, Mass., Lone Peak High coach Quincy Lewis ran his team through a practice, doing what he does: sweating the miniscule, microscopic, sub-atomic stuff.
Pacing the floor, arms folded, as his players blurred back and forth in a passing drill, the 41-year-old Lewis studied every second, every sequence, every thing. He watched like a terrier on a T-bone, one moment barking orders to the entire group — “You’ve done this before, we’ll do it until you do it right!” — and another calmly offering a minor-but-specific suggestion to a specific player, in this case guard Nick Emery, about a specific body movement in a specific situation that might nudge the kid forward in his development and, most importantly, make Lewis’ team better.
“He puts you in the position to fulfill your potential,” said Emery, who will play his college ball at BYU. “He’s very precise about it.”
“He goes to extremes,” said TJ Haws, also headed for BYU.
Senior Talon Shumway, who was recruited by BYU basketball but accepted a scholarship from Cougar football, was more direct: “He’s OCD. He’s intense. He expects a lot.”
He’s getting what he expects.
Lewis has had some fine teams. The Lone Peak record book is filled with the names of his guys, including Jackson Emery and Tyler Haws. He’s won five state championships in eight years here, and, barring a crazy upset, he’ll get a sixth in his ninth. This team is probably his best.
In addition to Nick Emery, TJ Haws and Shumway, Lone Peak has center Eric Mika, also headed for BYU. Lewis thinks guards Conner Toolson and Zach Frampton are Division I players, too.
The Knights are 14-1 despite playing in some challenging out-of-state tournaments. They’ve already won their games in the Chicago Elite Classic and the Brandon Jennings Invitational in Milwaukee. They were beat in the final of the City of Palms Classic in Florida, the Mount Everest of high school tournaments, and they’ve been ranked among the nation’s top teams. Now they’re playing in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield.
“This group has great chemistry,” Lewis said. “They’re unselfish, and they have a high talent level.”
But then Lewis’ teams almost always do. His record: 197-35.
The obvious question: How has it happened?
The obvious answer: A lot of terrific players.
The majority of Lone Peak’s talent has come from within its school boundaries. Some of the names of players may sound familiar because their fathers played at BYU.
Beyond that, when Lewis was hired at Lone Peak, he knew what was necessary to win. He launched a developmental camp/clinics that drew 88 kids from third to 12th grades in that first year. The camp/clinics had 491 kids from K-12 last summer. Lewis taught the attendees what they needed and motivated them to improve on their own.
It worked. It works.
Lewis garnered his knowledge from his father, Tim, who was a long-time high school coach. Quincy had watched him do his business for years, eventually playing for him at Timpview in the late 1980s. Tim hardly encouraged his son to follow his path, telling him: “If you’re crazy enough to get into coaching, you will get fired.”
Lewis didn’t listen. After playing at Dixie for two years, recruited there by a young assistant named Dave Rose, Lewis went to Wagner College, a tiny Presbyterian school on Staten Island. A notable quote from his coach there: “We have black players, white players, four Yugoslavians and a Mormon. Our biggest decision isn’t what type of offense or defense to run. It’s what kind of warm-up music to play.”
After getting a master’s degree at Utah, Lewis fell for coaching when he was offered an assistant’s job at BYU-Hawaii. He assisted at Utah Valley for five seasons and married his wife, Debbie, that last year, before getting fired. He was an assistant for a year at Southern Utah but wanted to quit because of the silly time requirements. That’s when the job opened at Lone Peak, and Debbie talked her husband into taking it.
Lewis now is gallivanting around the country with his team, winning titles. About that OCD thing, that sick attention to every detail, he called himself a “basketball nerd,” saying that’s what a coach has to be to win.
“I don’t know if I’m a lifer, because you have to spend so much time away from the family,” he said. “I’m deep in the woods. But if you want to be good …”
You have to be a geek.
Lewis has had chances to go elsewhere. He had the job at Dixie seven years ago but didn’t take it. His name was mentioned as an assistant at BYU, but it didn’t happen. He would jump to college, if the circumstances were right. They’d have to be real right to beat what he already has.
“I’ve got a great deal,” he said, “right where I am.”
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.