January 24, 2011

Pirates keep it rolling

Kevin McCarthy

One of my favorite movies is “Harvey,” made in 1950 and starring the late Jimmy Stewart. In it, a psychiatrist exclaims after learning his world of books and papers and symposiums have left him worldly myopic: Flyspecks - flyspecks! I’ve been spending my life among flyspecks - while miracles have been leaning on lamp posts at Eighteenth and Fairfax!" So let’s type this: "Flyspecks, flyspecks. I’ve been spending my life among flyspecks while revelations have been taking place in the gym near the corner of Piedmont Road and Ruskin Avenue."

photo of Piedmont Hills High School Pirates

That location is Piedmont Hills (PH) High School, not an area heretofore known for inexplicable phenomenon. The responsible individuals for creating this atmosphere: Alex Aguilar, Stephen Anderson, Juan Avila, Andrew Belonia, Jalen Charleson, Martin Greer, Chris Hampton, Bryce Itatani, Alonso Martinez, P.J. Nelson , Andrew Nwachukwu, Sean Parado, Keon Paulino, Thaddeus Philyaw, Raymond Raymundo and Jalen Robertson. The head wizard: Coach Pete Simos.

Just what has this collective achieved? Try 16-1 overall, 7-0 Mount Hamilton League tallies to date in a grouping consisting of these high schools: Independence, Leigh, Leland, Oak Grove, Santa Teresa, Westmont and Willow Glen.

Here the breakdown of the Piedmont Hills’ squad achievements:

Granted, most of the opponents aren’t (to mix sports metaphors) the equivalent of the 1927 New York Yankees but PH is a public school in the Santa Clara Valley, an area not exactly known as a college basketball recruiting hotbed. Plus, the matchup with Mitty was very close into the third quarter until a scoring splurge put the game out of reach.

During Simos’ tenure, the Pirates have posted (working backwards) 27-2/13-1, 25-4/14-0 and 20-8/11-3 records. He didn’t coach during the 2009-2010 season after donating a kidney to his sister. Before Simos arrived, Piedmont Hills went 9-15/4-8 in 2005-2006.

So why the sea change?

Deflecting any kudos, Simos offered, "The guys work as hard as anybody in the summer, in open gyms and with conditioning and I have an incredibly hard-working staff, plus a junior varsity coach who has been with us since we got here."

Continuing on, he explained, "We really work on preparation and intensity of play. We want the kids to play hard every night while being as humble as possible. It’s important to have enough character to not overlook our league, which is a tough one. It’s also important to keep the guys accountable on and off the court."

The latter is significant.

Asked how he gets his players to buy in, Simos said, "It’s a very layered process. The biggest thing is accountability -- if you don’t buy in, you don’t play. Every single kid is as important and as accountable. I will sit someone who does something out of our framework -- it’s a great lesson for life because the last time I checked, they can always get someone to replace you at any job."

He went on, "Jealousy, selfishness and envy tear teams apart -- accountability causes cohesion. We work on team cohesion, understanding that there are different personalities and learning to appreciate each other. The goal is to create more than players -- we’re a family."

Asked if he has plans to take his philosophy and talents to a larger stage a la the D-1 collegiate level, Simos was clear in his response. "I don’t want to be on the road 200 days a year. I like my wife, we’ve been together since we were 18. She’s the best thing in my life and I look forward to going home at the end of the day."

That definitively answers the query.

Piedmont Hills boys basketball is an example of what can be achieved when the necessary elements converge -- it’s an antithesis of the perfect storm. Call it synergy, with the whole becoming greater than the sum of its parts. It’s never easy but oh so rewarding, for all.