For most of his first three decades coaching the Galesburg High School girls basketball team, Evan Massey had known nothing but success.
He had turned the Silver Streaks into one of the premier powers in Illinois. Everywhere they went, everyone knew exactly who they were.
His teams had won at least 20 games for 21 straight seasons. They’d won 19 regional championships during that time. They took home nine consecutive sectional plaques from 1995-2003. They put up seven banners in the John Thiel Gymnasium rafters for making trips to the state tournament, including six straight appearances from 1996-2001.
And here he was, after his worst season with the Streaks, with his wife asking him if it was time to stop coaching.
“It was obvious to her,” he said, “that I wasn’t having fun.”
Now he’s having the time of his life.
The Silver Streaks are back in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2003 after their 74-46 pasting of Peoria Richwoods in Thursday’s Class 3A Metamora Sectional championship, one that might solidify this overachieving, never-say-never group of Streaks as Massey’s best coaching job ever.
You certainly know the story by now. After a frustrating 14-18 season that ended with a regional championship loss in 2008, Massey overhauled Galesburg’s halfcourt offense and turned the Streaks into a running and gunning group of record-breaking 3-point shooters with a relentless full-court press.
He spent hours researching The System, made famous by Grinnell College’s men’s basketball team, and a new brand of Galesburg basketball was born.
“When Galesburg was successful, our trademark was we just played hard all the time,” Massey said. “I wanted something in which the biggest thing was to just play hard, and they bought in.”
The Streaks went 17-14 in that first season of The System, but skeptics still remained. It’s only a gimmick, they said. There’s no way they can beat good teams playing that way, others added.
Don’t look now, but the 28-6 Streaks are one of those good teams.
And unlike that bunch two years ago that lost low-scoring slugfests with some bad attitudes (“Not everybody was pulling the rope in the same direction,” Massey said.), this team is winning in style with good ones.
“I don’t think it so much has to do with how we play, but just our attitudes toward each other,” said senior guard Jessica Howard, a starter on that 2008 squad.
Winning, of course, can also cure a lot of ills, and there’s little doubt Massey had a lot to do with that. He’ll be the first to admit that the Streaks aren’t the tallest or fastest bunch around.
So if there’s not loads of talent on the floor and the team is racking up wins, it’s only natural to look at the guy on the bench.
Howard said Massey’s “constantly” researching System concepts, whether it be talking to other coaches or scouring the Internet for another wrinkle. Longtime assistant Mike Rux said Massey handed him a 30-page book of notes on The System the summer he made the switch.
“He’s very good at what he does and there’s a reason for that,” Howard said. “He invests so much time in what he does because he loves it so much, and you have to love someone that does that.”
Is it time for Massey? Oh, yes.
Time to get ready for another game.