LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Mike Pegues's earliest basketball memories take him back to a chair in the corner of his mother's room. An eight-year-old boy watching television and listening to her tell him to be play like the young man on TV. That young player Pegues's mother was pointing at, was Pervis Ellison.
Now, his basketball journey comes full circle, as he joins the coaching staff of the university that "Never Nervous Pervis" led to the 1986 NCAA Championship as his family watched from Washington D.C..
"As a kid growing up in D.C., I was well aware of the Louisville basketball program," Pegues said. "Pervis Ellison was my mom’s favorite player because he just went about his business and played hard. I remember her telling me ‘ You watch how he plays. He plays the game the right way, not about the theatrics.’ So how honored am I to be here? It’s overwhelming."
Pegues joins Chris Mack's staff at UofL after years of coaching alongside him, and establishing a reputation as a meticulous member of the coaching staff. He attended DeMatha Catholic High School. A high school known for legendary coach Morgan Wootten, who turned out NBA players and NCAA coaches like Adrian Dantley, Mike Brey. Sidney Lowe. Adrian Branch and many others.
After high school, Pegues went to Delaware to play for Brey. His name is now in the record books at Delaware, and the coaching career that followed has led him back to a chance to play his former head coach in Brey, now at Notre Dame.
"He’s a great offensive coach, I hope we can stop him," Pegues said. "I know the great job he does at getting his guys to play hard. I know he can push the right buttons, he used to push my buttons pretty good that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to being a part of this program, having the opportunity to play everybody in this league. It will be pretty special and unique to shake his hand before and after the game."
Pegues, who admittly humbly he "only grew to 6'5"" had to learn the ins and outs of the game in order to outwit his opponents. This student of the game, brings a perfectionism to his coaching style that head coach Chris Mack's noticed in his years with Pegues.
"He was schooled in fundamentals," Mack said. "Mike has a gift, he has a gift for teaching the game of basketball, specifically to post players and guys that do the majority of their work on the interior. He’s going to be a god-send for people like Malik Williams, Steven Enoch all of our bigger guys even if they’re not true back-to-the-basket players."
Pegues has already been working with UofL's Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, and said he likes the different looks those players give the team.
"Steve, I get the sense right now is probably our only true back-to-the-basket kind of guy," Pegues said. "With Malik being more of a face-up guy that can stretch the floor. But I love what he brings to the table because it’s a different dynamic. He’s going to make bigger, lumbering guys have to guard him on the perimeter and the three-point line. That’s a huge challenge for other teams. But I’m also really looking forward to watching him grow, and get stronger physically and working with him on his back-to-the-basket game."
Coming into town and meeting what he and Mack repeatedly referred to as the "nucleus" of the team, Pegues was impressed with the guys' competitiveness.
"Guys play hard, that’s the main thing I’ve seen," Pegues said. "These guys play hard, they compete, they want to win. They’re pulling for each other. And that’s always a great foundation."
Pegues' smile was everpresent during his remarks, and through his complimentary commentary on the team, the city and the facilities, it's clear Pegues is happy in this next chapter of his basketball journey.
"Just really excited about being here, being a part of this family, being a part of this culture, tremendous basketball tradition" Pegues said. "I’m lucky to be here. I’m still overjoyed and excited, I feel like a kid on Christmas."
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