Coach Lacey Settles in at Pinecrest
How does it feel to be 29-years-old and the new head coach of a 4-A high school boys’ basketball program, coming off back-to-back conference titles and averaging 22 wins the past four seasons?
For new Pinecrest boys’ coach Andrew Lacey, it feels like an opportunity.
“I think anybody that is a head coach that goes into a new job is looking for a challenge,” Lacey said before a recent practice. “I think that’s why we coach. I know most people look at it as a pressure situation, but I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as a great opportunity.”
He makes his debut with a Patriot team that has five new starters from a year ago in Monday’s season-opener at home against Jack Britt.
During the summer, Lacey was tapped by Pinecrest to fill the shoes of Mike Apple, who took the job as coach at Sandhills Community College after a successful eight-year tenure leading the Patriots. The graduate of Washington and Lee High School in Montross, Va., and Bridgewater College (Va.) has six years of coaching experience, the last four at the varsity girls level.
A four-sport athlete in high school, Washington and Lee won a state basketball title in 1998 when Lacey was a sophomore. He was more highly recruited as a football quarterback who earned all-state honors as a junior. A reserve guard at Bridgewater, he was a teammate of former Pinecrest player Rocky Rhodes.
In his senior year of college, Bridgewater coach Bill Leatherman suggested to Lacey that he consider becoming a coach. After earning a degree in business administration, he made a 10-day trip abroad exploring professional basketball opportunities before accepting a middle school teaching position and coaching junior varsity boys.
Next was a two-year stint as the varsity girls’ coach at brand new Skyline High School in Front Royal, Va. During that time, he became the father of a son, Jayden Marcell Lacey, who is 2 and lives with his mother in Virginia. The last two seasons were spent at AAA North Stafford High School in northern Virginia, where he was 8-8 in a snowstorm-shortened first year and 10-13 last season.
Lacey credits Leatherman, his high school coach Mark Comer and Virginia coaching colleague Chris Dodson, who owns a state girls’ title, with providing the foundation for his basketball philosophies and style. He continues to stay in touch and seek the counsel of all of them.
Leatherman won 335 games before retiring at Bridgewater.
“How I coach basketball really started with Coach Leatherman,” Lacey said. “Coach Comer has been like a coaching father to me. Coach Dodson and I work camps together. A lot of how I approach the game in tenacity and skill development I got from him. You learn something from everyone you come in contact with.”
Looking for a change back to boys’ basketball, Lacey found the Pinecrest opening on the internet. He is teaching career management at the school and is also certified in health and physical education.
Pinecrest athletic director Ernie Purnsley was attracted by the young coach’s passion for teaching basketball. He describes him a real student of the game.
“He loves the game of basketball and I like the way he breaks it down,” Purnsley said. “He’s going to be a good teacher of basketball and I wouldn’t be surprised if he inspires some of our young men to get into coaching.”
Lacey describes himself as a laidback person who plans to use all of the things he has learned from mentors to continue developing as a coach.
“Careless mistakes are what really sets me off, but as long as you’re working hard, I’m going to fuss at you in the same tone as when I give you a positive comment,” he said. “You make the same mistake three times in a row and my tone is going to change, but it goes right back into the caring mode.”
Thanks to the assistance of Purnsley and others at the school, Lacey describes the move from Virginia as a smooth one. The coaching staff includes most of the personnel from a year ago with Larry Shields and Josh Newton serving as varsity assistants, Ronshau Cole as the jayvee coach and Antwan Murchison new in the position of freshmen coach.
“This is a great, great group of guys,” he said.
And he finds plenty of positives connected with coming into a successful program.
“Not only was it successful at the varsity level, but it was successful at the jayvee and freshmen levels,” he said. “So you are not getting kids that haven’t experienced success. There is a tradition.
“The biggest thing is that I have to make sure everybody in the program, coaches and players, understand what we’re trying to do and where we want to go. If we’re all on the same page, winning will take care of itself.”
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