During his formative years, Quincy Lewis, the son of a coach, was repeatedly offered advice by his father. That advice: Don't ever become a coach.
Too much stress. Too much time away from the family. Too many hours for too little pay. Too many stage parents.
You can guess what happened: Lewis became a coach. Starting with only a meal ticket and a little cash, he started a coaching career. Today he is the hottest prep coach in the country, leading a Lone Peak High program that has blossomed into a national powerhouse and a BYU farm team.
Lewis will be honored as the Naismith High School Coach of the Year at the Atlanta Tipoff Club on March 19. He learned of the honor over the school PA system during school announcements. The awards committee had accidentally leaked the news to the school before officially informing Lewis.
"National Coach of the Year," says Lewis. "Can you believe that?"
On Saturday, Lewis' Lone Peak Knights became the first school ever to win three consecutive 5A state championships, beating Alta in the title game, 72-39. The 26-1 Knights, who have been ranked No. 1 in the national prep polls for several weeks, are likely to be named national champions when other states complete their state tournaments.
Lone Peak's accomplishments certainly seem to merit it. To recap, the team's average score was LONE PEAK 72.7, Opponent 44.2. They were 9-1 in national tournaments. In the process they were such an unlikely story — the little Caucasian team from out-of-the-way Utah versus the big inner-city teams — that they became a national sensation, garnering attention from the New York Times, Sports Illustrated and the Today Show. The team was even featured in Seventeen Magazine — as the Crush of the Week.
After all the fuss, it was business as usual for the coach. On Sunday, Lewis, who serves in the bishopric of his LDS Church ward, was at the podium conducting a meeting — "My wife and four kids were on the front row — first time I'd seen them together in a week," he says. On Monday he was back at work attending teacher development seminars at the school.
As he sat in his office, the 41-year-old coach was asked to reflect on his career. Since taking over the Lone Peak program 10 years ago, he has won six state championships and amassed a won-loss record of 209-35. He has turned Lone Peak into a perennial member of the nation's top 20. His program has produced 17 college players, four of them for BYU. Three more from this year's team — seniors Eric Mika and Nick Emery and junior TJ Haws — have committed to BYU.
"I never expected anything like this even remotely," says the coach.
Lewis grew up in Provo. His father Tim coached basketball at Provo High for several years and then at Timpview High, where he won a state championship. Later he coached the girls team at Jordan High and won another state championship (Tim was named to the Utah coaching Hall of Fame).
Quincy grew up around coaching and basketball. After attending grade-school classes, he would run across the street to watch his dad's practices — "He was my ride home," says Quincy.
He played basketball for Timpview High and Dixie College under coach Dave Rose, who is now the BYU coach. He later played for Wagner, a small college in Staten Island, N.Y.
Perhaps with his dad's advice ringing in his ears, Lewis was uncertain about a coaching career even while pursuing a master's degree at the University of Utah, but he accepted an assistant's job at the University of BYU-Hawaii. When he showed up for the job, the coach handed him $2,200 in cash — all that he had left over from a recent road trip — and a meal ticket.
"That's how I started," says Lewis.
His coaching apprenticeship also took him to Utah Valley and to Southern Utah before he landed the Lone Peak job.
"I've found all those things my dad told me to be true, but I love the game and working with the kids and the camaraderie with other coaches," says Lewis.
He regularly consults his father about his team, talking on the phone or in person after every game. "Sometimes he tells you things you don't want to hear," says Quincy. "He's not one to mince words."
During his first year as the Lone Peak coach, when the team was undefeated, he invited his father to a practice to evaluate the team and his practice. "He wrote down 33 items," says Lewis. "Two were positive — the first two. You've got to listen to a guy who knows what he's talking about."
His father developed a passion for an up-tempo style of play while regularly attending John Wooden camps at UCLA and serving as an assistant to Provo coach Jim Spencer. Lewis has earned a reputation for the same style of play, and continues to study the game. He records NCAA tournament games and orders instructional videos to study in the off-season.14 comments on this story
"A few years ago Butler had outstanding set plays, so we actually run three of their sets now," says Lewis. "And their help defense was outstanding, too. I watched San Francisco play BYU on TV and they had some really good things they did with ball screens. And I use a little of the continuity offense that BYU uses."
So it has all worked out for the coach's son who eschewed his father's advice and followed him into the coaching profession. In a couple of weeks he will be given coaching's highest honor.
"The truth of the matter — and we all know this — is that it's a team and program honor as much as a coach's," he says.