Pinecrest's Apple to Coach SCC Hoops
About five hours after deciding to make a major career change, Mike Apple was a spectator at Thursday’s conference track meet at Pinecrest — excited about the new challenges that lie ahead of him.
Coming off back-to-back 24-win seasons as the boys’ basketball coach at Pinecrest, Apple accepted an offer to become the head men’s coach at Sandhills Community College. He replaces Aaron Denton, who will continue to serve as the school’s athletic director.
Earlier in the day, Apple resigned from his duties as the coach at Pinecrest and met with the Patriot players. He will continue to teach in the math department. He was scheduled to meet members of the Sandhills team on Friday.
“I had very mixed feelings about doing this,” Apple said, leaning over the fence as runners flew by on the track. “There is no finer place to be a high school basketball coach in this state than Pinecrest High School. I was very humbled and flattered that Aaron Denton would consider me as a candidate.
“At the same time, a dream of mine has been to be a college basketball coach. When you don’t have to move and leave familiar settings, it was an opportunity I just didn’t want to pass up.”
A lifelong resident of Moore County, Apple, 48, and his wife Dawn have two sons, Andrew and Will. He played basketball at Union Pines and Guilford College. He later served as an assistant coach at his high school alma mater before becoming a head coach for the first time at Western Harnett.
Apple came to Pinecrest in 2003 and leaves with a Patriot career mark of 143-72. His overall record is 213-127, including his time at Western Harnett. His last two Pinecrest teams won both conference regular season and conference tournament championships.
“Coach Apple has been an asset to Pinecrest High School and this community,” Pinecrest athletic director Ernie Purnsley said on Friday. “We appreciate how he has built up the basketball program and hope he has the same success at Sandhills.”
Apple is taking over a three-year old Flyer program that has blossomed beyond expectations under Denton. The Flyers finished the recently completed season with a record of 24-7. They were Region X regular season champions and were No. 8 in the final National Junior College Athletic Association Division III rankings.
Hilary McLaurin, Phillip Moultrie and Daquain Towns were members of the Flyer team formerly coached by Apple at Pinecrest.
Apple was first approached by Denton as to a possible interest in the Flyer job at the start of last season. The Patriot coach asked him to ask again after the season was over.
Denton was asked what led to his decision to relinquish the coaching duties.
“This was a decision I considered for some time,” he said. “I feel our student athletes, coaches, faculty and staff and community will best be served with a coach who can focus more on the team, and an athletic director who can commit more time to all sports. In the three years since SCC added athletics, our sports have grown in participation and popularity.”
A frequent spectator at Pinecrest games over the last three years, Denton knows a lot about his new coach’s style and the quality of his teams.
“In addition to a wealth of experience and coaching success, Mike will raise the level of intensity and commitment in our program,” he said. “Coach is a program builder. He’s proven in two opportunities as a head coach that with proper preparation and effort, he motivates students to succeed. I look forward to the energy and new ideas he will bring to our athletic program.”
Apple feels his philosophy of playing 94 feet on offense and defense should fit the junior college mold well. One of the new challenges will be the recruitment of players. On an afternoon that his cell phone was ringing off the hook, one of the calls concerned a prospective recruit.
“I think the style I want to play is very receptive to kids — one they’ll enjoy,” he said. “First of all, they’ll have to be in good shape and they’ll have to work hard.
“Aaron Denton is without a doubt an excellent basketball coach and a friend of mine. He certainly had the program in a lofty place in only three years. My deal is to try to improve upon it in every way possible. “
Phillip Wallace, the point guard on the Patriots’ two 24-win teams, is among a number of the team’s seniors considering their college basketball options. He has two college visits scheduled this weekend. Also among the track watchers, he talked about his now-former coach.
“I’m happy for him because I know this is something he probably always wanted to do,” he said. “A lot of coaches want to coach in college and never get the chance.”
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