Do the math
Mappas nets two coaching milestones, but former math teacher takes it all in stride
WYE MILLS In the numbers-driven, records-conscious world of athletics, John Mappas is something of an anomaly.
Mappas notched his 100th win at Chesapeake College and the 200th men’s basketball victory of his college coaching career Saturday night and had no clue about either milestone.
"I had no idea," said Mappas when he was informed of the twin milestones after Saturday’s 99-77 win over Montgomery College/Takoma Park. "It’s not something I give a lot of thought to."
The milestones may not be a big deal to Mappas, but they are to the people who know what he’s accomplished in a decade as a Maryland Junior College Athletic Conference head coach. Mappas has put together a 200-83 record in six seasons at Chesapeake and four more at Charles County Community College, including six 20-win seasons that could stretch to seven if this year’s 13-2 Skipjacks stay on their present course.
Frank Szymanski, who has twice hired Mappas as Chesapeake College’s head men’s basketball coach, said it’s no mystery why Mappas is one of the top JuCo coaches in the state and region.
"His knowledge of the game, his commitment to the college and his players, and his work ethic are all exceptional," said Szymanski. "He’s an educator and a teacher and those skills help make excellent coaches. He’s also a leader who players will follow."
Retired Charles County Community College Athletic Director Trevor Carpenter said he knew Mappas was an outstanding coach from watching him coach both high school basketball and as a Hawks assistant during the 1982-83 season.
"When I became A.D., he was an assistant coach at Charles," recalled Carpenter. "After observing and interacting with him for a year, I knew he had to be the head coach.
"He is a student of the game, very intelligent and a basketball purist," added Carpenter. "When you combine those traits with his ability to relate to young men, you have a great coach. In addition, Map can look at an opponent and analyze their strengths and weaknesses as well as any coach I’ve observed."
Mappas’ first 100 wins came in just 123 games at Charles County Community College (now called the College of Southern Maryland). His Hawks won four straight National Division titles back in an era when Maryland JuCo was split into two divisions for regular-season play.
Those Charles County squads consistently beat just about every team in Maryland JuCo outside of Allegany Community College. Mappas’ first Charles County team reached the state finals and his last advanced to the region title game, both times losing to Allegany.
"At Charles County we just had such an overwhelming amount of talent. We were able to recruit nationally, and we had players from just about everywhere," said Mappas. "Those teams could probably have coached themselves."
Mappas summed up the talent he had to work with at Charles County by relating a story of a preseason scrimmage from one of those seasons.
"We went to the Naval Academy to scrimmage their junior varsity," recalled Mappas, "and we were just crushing their J.V. So I asked their coach if he could bring down some of their varsity players and we beat them badly, too. That’s when (varsity head coach) Paul Evans asked, ’Do you want me to send down David (Robinson, Navy’s future NBA star) for a few minutes?’ And I quickly said, ’No, thanks.’ "
While those Hawk teams were unquestionably talented, Carpenter said Mappas’ coaching ability was an important ingredient in four straight 20-win seasons, including 26 victories in each of his last three seasons at Charles County.
"I learned a lot about coaching just by watching his practices," said Carpenter. "One true measure of a good coach is that his teams improve during the season. When Map coached at Charles, that was always the case. It was a joy to watch the development of his teams."
Mappas left Charles County Community College in 1987 and returned to high school coaching, but came back to the collegiate coaching ranks in 2000 at Chesapeake after retiring from teaching. He went 73-43 in four seasons with Chesapeake, including 41-19 in his final two seasons.
Chesapeake knocked off Cecil Community College which was ranked seventh in the nation at the time in the 2003 state tournament and tied a school record with 21 wins the following season. Mappas then retired from college coaching, spent two years coaching high school basketball back in Southern Maryland, and returned to the Skipjacks in 2006.
"I just missed coaching on the college level," said Mappas, whose current Chesapeake College coaching record is 100-60.
Last year’s Skipjacks were average (13-13) in the regular season, but reached the Region XX title game where, ironically, they lost to Allegany exactly 20 years after Mappas’ last Charles County squad lost the region title game to those very same Trojans.
This year’s team has been strong from the start, opening with nine straight wins.
"I knew we had a lot of offensive talent, and a lot of kids with a high skill level," said Mappas, whose Skipjacks are averaging nearly 88 points per game this season.
"Map has outstanding talent, but we all know talent isn’t the only thing that determines who wins," said Szymanski. "You have to be able to fit the pieces together, and that’s where Map excels."
While this year’s squad is built around a high-powered offense, the defense-oriented Mappas said ultimately his team’s success will depend upon how well it plays on the other end of the court.
"The question will be how we respond in big games when we need (defensive) stops at the end of the game," said Mappas. "You’re not always going to be able to score, particularly when you get to the postseason. You have to come up with stops to win when it really matters."
If the Skipjacks can do that, they may be able to continue adding to Mappas’ win total just don’t expect him to keep track of those victories.
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