By BRETT MARSHALL
A decade after moving from Waukomis, Okla. to become the assistant basketball coach at Syracuse, Bill Peeper is making a similar move after resigning his post Tuesday to become the new boys' basketball coach at Iola High School, a Class 4A school in southeast Kansas.
Peeper, 36, leaves after guiding the Bulldogs for the past six years as the head coach following four years as an assistant to Andy Coleman.
The decade has been one of unprecedented success in Bulldog history for the boys program. In his six years at the helm, Peeper guided the Bulldogs to a 113-29 record (.796 winning percentage), including a 23-3 record in 2008-2009 when Syracuse placed third at the Class 2A state tournament, the school's highest ever finish.
"The main thing for me and my family is that we will be closer to our families," Peeper said. "We felt if we were going to make a move to be closer to family, this was the time to do it. Our kids are young and we just wanted to have an opportunity to be nearer to our families (who live in Stillwater and Enid, Okla.)."
When Peeper arrived in Syracuse the Bulldog basketball program had gone through decades of mediocrity with an occasional run of one or two seasons of good records.
"I think that's the thing I'm most proud of is to have had a chance to build what Andy started and to raise the expectations of the kids, the school and the community," Peeper said.
Peeper said he and his family visited Iola last week and it was then that he accepted the coaching position as well as continuing his social studies teaching duties there.
"It's the kind of place that you don't know if it is going to work, but you know that anything is possible," Peeper said of Iola. "They're a little like Syracuse and Waukomis were. They've not had a lot of success but the challenge is there."
In his four years at Waukomis, Peeper posted a 48-41 record, but won 30 games in his final two years after the team had won just three games in the previous two seasons before his arrival.
Syracuse qualified for the Class 2A state tournament from 2006-2009 before the streak was halted in March, a heartbreaking 59-58 sub-state championship battle against Spearville.
"I've been really blessed with great kids and players who dedicated themselves to a winning program," Peeper said. "I'm leaving a great situation and this move is not at all about basketball — it's about family. If it were just about basketball, I'd be staying because we've got a great group coming back next year."
The Bulldogs return Braedon Simon, James Burkett, Blake McAllister, Latigo Peterson and Gary Parks, all of whom either started or saw considerable playing time last season.
"When we came here we didn't really know too much about Syracuse, about western Kansas," Peeper said. "But we fell in love with it and with the people and we've been treated exceptionally well by everyone. The school and community has been good to us."
Peeper said the most difficult part Tuesday was meeting with the team members.
"It was tough when I left Waukomis and it didn't get any easier when I talked to the kids today," Peeper said. "There's no easy way to do this and I just tried to be up front with them as I always have tried to do. They have a great future ahead of them next year and there are more than a handful of guys who have experience and will be counted on next season."
Syracuse Principal Paul Zuzelski said the school would have an open search for Peeper's replacement.
"Coach Peeper did a wonderful job with our kids while being the head coach," Zuzelski said. "A lot of pieces of the program were set in place by Andy Coleman and we felt we had turned the corner with him. It was an easy transition when Coach Peeper took over."
Bulldog Athletic Director Marty Lehman said he understood Peeper's decision to make the move.
"He was here for 10 years and was a great service to SHS athletics," Lehman said. "He's moving closer to family and it's a great family decision."
Iola is a member of the Southeast Kansas League which is comprised of Altamont/Labette County, Chanute, Coffeyville, Columbus, Fort Scott, Independence, Parsons and Pittsburg. With an enrollment of 281, Iola is the second smallest school in the SEK (Columbus, 272). All schools in the league are 4A, except for Pittsburg which is 5A. The Mustangs were 5-14 record last season.
u u u
Syracuse football coach Chris Pollart has resigned and the school has named assistant Jared Eddy its new coach after serving under Pollart for one season. Pollart resigned for personal reasons.
Pollart, who also assists in track, had coached for 10 seasons (2001-2010) and compiled a 25-66 record (.275). He had just two winning seasons, going 6-4 in 2004 and making the Class 2A playoffs, then followed with a 5-4 mark in 2005. Last season Syracuse was 4-5.
Eddy is a 2005 Syracuse High School graduate.
"We're excited to have coach Eddy with his college playing experience," Zuzelski said. "He's a lifetime resident of Syracuse and we're looking forward to what he will do with the program."
Town: Syracuse/Hamilton County (Pop. 1,768, est. 2008)
Location: On U.S. Hwy. 50, 18 miles east of the Kansas-Colorado border.
School: Iola/Allen County (Pop. 5,782, est. 2008)
League: Southeast Kansas (Altamont/Labette County, Chanute, Coffeyville, Columbus, Fort Scott, Independence, Parsons, Pittsburg).
Location: 114 miles east of Wichita on U.S. Hwy. 54. 45 miles to Missouri border.
Distance: 370 miles east of Syracuse (est. drive time, 6 hrs., 15 min.).