It all came down to a closed session of the Mexico School Board last week, and when everything was said and done, Darren Pappas had been approved as the new Mexico varsity boys basketball coach.
"Activities Director Jeff Anderson called me after the board meeting on June 20th and told me I was approved as the next head basketball coach," Pappas said. "I was thrilled to hear the official word that I'd been hired. This process has been busy with planning and implementing a basketball camp from May 30 - June 2, scheduling practices twice a week in June, taking teams to three days of CMU shootouts and the Van-Far shootout and making sure guys get in the weight room three days a week."
One group Pappas wanted to thank for all their assistance keeping this program moving in the right direction prior to this decision was his coaching staff. This includes Deon Nunnelly, Brandon Schafer, Travis Blevins and Kurt Loyd.
"We as a coaching staff are looking forward to building a winning program on and off the court. Overall, we're getting back to basics on both ends of the floor," said Pappas. "Strengthening our overall fundamentals will be the foundation of our program. We're looking forward to the process and establishing consistency throughout the program. We're also excited to build young men of character. We know we can use the game to teach valuable life skills and lessons."
Outside the program Pappas has found a wealth of support in regards to the challenges that lie ahead for he and the Bulldogs. The players appear to be on board with this decision, as well, making for a healthy start to what many hope will be the beginning of a new era in Mexico boys' basketball.
"I heard from a few current and past players once the decision was announced. Many of them congratulated me (via text or social media) and previous players said they can't wait to come watch us play this season. So the reaction has been positive," Pappas said. "Current players seem to have bought into the offensive system and defensive schemes we are teaching. It is a process and we still have a lot of teaching to do in regards to our system, but we are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead."
Part of what made Pappas the right man for this job is that he played for the Bulldogs from 1999-2002. He's also been coaching there since 2007 and looks to create the type of memories for these players that previous coaches helped make for him.
"As for our offensive system and defensive schemes we are going to try to play uptempo when we can, but will also pull it back out and run some sets. I want the guys to be able to play freely within the structure of our system and read/react to what opponents are doing defensively against us," said Pappas. "We will run a lot of the secondary break system that Coach (Nick) Bradford put in place in transition, but in the half-court setting we will run a pick and roll system."
The reason Pappas wants to adjust the way this team evaluates and executes its half-court game is because of the specific talent he has on the roster right now. Not only does this approach allow the Bulldogs to play to their strengths as athletes, but it also helps individuals read and react to opposing defenses.
"On the defensive side we will continue to get better on our defensive efficiency. We have to be able to get back in transition and then guard in the half-court. Man to man concepts will continue to be taught as that is the foundation of all defenses," Pappas said. "As we progress as a program, I want to be able to get out and pressure teams in the full court. The goal is to have players at all levels within the program to be able to guard first and then we can mix it up depending on scouting reports."