Vaught's Views: Peck can relate to Smith

March 31, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Paul Peck has no illusions about comparing his basketball program at Lindsey Wilson to the one Tubby Smith runs at Kentucky.

But Peck does believe in many of the same philosophies as Smith and he also knows something about how the UK coach felt when his team was eliminated by Alabama-Birmingham early in the NCAA Tournament.

That's because Peck's team lost a 61-58 heartbreaker to Concordia (Calif.) in the NAIA Division I national tournament Saturday in Kansas City to end what had been a terrific season two games too early for Peck and his team.

"We had no seniors, but we still won 33 games," said Peck. "But we just couldn't score at the end when we needed a basket. We had won in almost every situation like that all year."


Sounds like Kentucky, doesn't it? The Wildcats won numerous close games during their 27-win campaign before Gerald Fitch missed a game-winning shot in the final seconds against UAB. Lindsey Wilson also had a shot to win Saturday, but missed.

Lindsey Wilson was never ranked below eighth

Kentucky was highly ranked all season and went into the NCAA as the No. 1 overall seed. Lindsey Wilson was never ranked below eighth all season, held the No. 1 spot for two weeks and went into the national tourney seeded third.

"If we had one more goal, we might well have won the national championship," Peck said. "It's just like Kentucky. If Fitch makes that shot, they may well be headed to the Final Four. It's just too bad when so much comes down to one shot."

Peck returned to Danville, where he has lived the last two years, Sunday rather than keep his team at the national tourney. He'll probably spend much of the time on his daily 55.6-mile commute to Columbia where Lindsey Wilson is located thinking about what might have been for his team.

Lindsey Wilson had a 58-57 lead late in the game. His team drew three straight charges, but negated those plays with a shot-clock violation, turnover and missed 3-pointer. Again, doesn't that sound eerily like the way UK finished the game against UAB?

"We just couldn't score. We fouled their point guard and he made two free throws with about 30 seconds to play. We missed, tried to get the rebound, lost it and had to foul again," Peck said. "It was a very bad ending to a good season."

No coincidence that Peck's team plays like Smith's

It's no coincidence that Peck's team plays like Smith's. When Peck was the athletics director and head basketball coach at Cumberland University, he had Smith speak at a clinic. Lindsey Wilson used the same ball-line defensive principles that Smith emphasizes.

"We play similar to Kentucky. I am not comparing us to how good they are, but we play alike," Peck said.

Peck's basketball resume is impeccable. A Russell County native, Peck played at Lindsey Wilson where he roomed with Paul Long, now an attorney in Stanford. He's coached in the Ohio Valley Conference, Sun Belt and Southeastern Conference where he was an assistant at Mississippi.

He says the talent in the Mid-South Conference is comparable to that of the best teams in the OVC. He notes that his point guard, Scott Cook of Australia, would have been at a school like Western Kentucky or higher if he had played high school basketball in Kentucky.

"We all get Division I transfers, junior college transfers or very good high school players," Peck said. "There are no easy games in our league. It's one of the three best in NAIA."

No plans to leave

Peck has no plans to leave Lindsey Wilson, either. He likes the players he's coaching and the community support his team receives.

He also doesn't mind the daily commute since he drove 45 minutes to work daily when he lived in Nashville and coached at Cumberland University. Plus, he thoroughly enjoys getting to watch his son, Greg, play football for Boyle County.

"I was so nervous early last year when Greg played his first game at Boyle," Peck said. "I had the same kind of feeling at the national tournament. By the time Greg and Boyle got to the playoffs last year, I had such faith in Chuck Smith getting the job done that I wasn't worried. I get a lot more nervous when I have to make calls for my own team than I do watching him. I can enjoy his games."

He's also enjoyed seeing numerous Boyle fans make the trip to Columbia to watch his team.

"It's really been great to see how many people from Danville and Boyle County have been at our games," Peck said. "If we had made the championship game, some probably would have been there, too. That loss hurt, but now we just have to hope that one or two more players we bring in, along with the kids we redshirted, can help us maybe do just a little better next year."

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