— Editor’s note: This is the third of four features on the finalists for the men's head basketball position at Dalton State College.
There will not be any games on the schedule at first, but Randy Peele said “anxiety” still will come with the job.
But the payoff will be once the games begin.
Peele, a resident of Rock Hill, S.C., is one of the four finalists named Tuesday for the Dalton State College men’s basketball head coaching position. DSC Athletic Director Derek Waugh said the finalists will come in for on-campus interviews this week and early next week. In addition to Peele, the finalists are former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga head coach Henry Dickerson; Dalton native and former Kennesaw State University head coach Tony Ingle; and former Georgia Southern assistant coach Carl Nash.
Peele, 55, has 28 years of college coaching experience and is the only finalist without coaching ties to Georgia or southeast Tennessee. He was an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina Greensboro from 1991 to 1995 and head coach from 1995 to 1996. Then he was the Virginia Tech assistant coach from 1999 to 2002 before becoming the Winthrop University (Rock Hill) assistant coach from 2002 to 2008 and head coach from 2008 to 2012.
Even without any coaching ties to the nearby area, he vividly remembers playing for Frederick Military Academy and making a trip in 1976 to then-called Dalton Junior College for a game.
“I remember the atmosphere was electric,” he said in a phone interview. “I remember talking to someone who I thought was a janitor and he said, ‘Watch out for the point guard.’ Well apparently the guard was that person and he lit us up. It’s a funny story I remember.”
Peele’s list of accomplishments includes five trips to the NCAA tournament, including two as Winthrop’s head coach. In 2007, as an assistant coach, his team upset Notre Dame in the first round. He is the ninth-winningest coach in Big South Conference history.
“For us, there was a level of expectation not only in getting there,” he said of his tenure at Winthrop. “Our goal was to get to the NCAA tournament with a chance to win.”
If named the new Roadrunners coach, he wants to bring the same mindset to DSC, even in the beginning when some might not expect tons of success.
“I’m not going to settle,” he said. “If things work out, I’m going to recruit Division-I players. All I’ve done is coached in Division I lately. Like I told the committee, I’m going to try and recruit Division-I players that nobody is recruiting, and it’s really hard to do that.”
But the potential opportunity with the Roadrunners, who are relaunching athletics for the 2013-14 school year 30 years after endings its men’s basketball program, would be unchartered territory for Peele.
“In all honesty, I can’t think I’ve ever been through a situation like this,” he said. “I think that is attractive. There’s also feelings of anxiety. There’s so much that has to be done. You have to recruit an entire team in one year. I know I can do that, but it’s really hard.”
Add in the other items on the to-do list — uniforms, practice gear, a full schedule — and the stress probably will last more than just one year.
“It’s going to take an unbelievable effort the first three years on the job,” Peele said.
He believes he’s ready, though, and he thinks his track record speaks for itself when it comes to putting in the extra hours. He was on staff at UNC-Greensboro when it shifted from Division II to Division I in 1991 and started without a conference home, similar to how the Roadrunners may begin.
“In our third year, we won 23 games,” he said. “In the first year, 1991-92, it is so hard to recruit when you’re not in a league. We were a Division-I school and you couldn’t sell a kid an opportunity to live his dream, to play in the NCAA Tournament. Three years later we were in the NCAA Tournament.
“We did not take a day off for 365 days,” Peele said. “We took off Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We were in the office working on Sunday nights at 9 p.m.”