Mappas, Skipjacks look to build something special again
WYE MILLS John Mappas, known almost as much for his commitment to academics as his knack for building JuCo basketball powerhouses, will return to Chesapeake College for another stint as the Skipjacks’ head coach.
"I just miss college coaching and being able to recruit the kind of players I want, which is not the same as in high school," said Mappas, who compiled a 73-43 record at Chesapeake College between 2000 and 2004. He replaces Dale Becraft, who resigned last week two years after being hired as Mappas’ replacement.
"As soon as we realized Dale would not be returning, we checked with Map to see if he had any interest in coaching again at the JuCo level," said Chesapeake College Athletic Director Frank Szymanski. "Once he said yes, our search was over. We’re obviously delighted to have him back. Map is a very special coach and person."
Mappas said his basic recruitment philosophy hasn’t changed since his first tour of duty in Wye Mills. "I like to recruit kids who hopefully are students first and then worry about basketball," said Mappas, who served this past season as head boys’ basketball coach at Westlake High School in Charles County. "I’ll take kids with a little less talent if I know they’ll be there for more than one semester. I also want good citizens because they’re representing the school."
Cathy Sewell, director of the college’s Academic Support Center, said she is excited that "a whole new group of Chesapeake athletes will benefit both sports wise and academically from working with John Mappas."
"His influence went far beyond the basketball court to the classroom where he taught math and to study halls where he worked with team members to see that they had tutoring support when they needed it," said Sewell. "His athletes left Chesapeake with the skills they needed to be well-rounded upperclassmen or to move into the working world."
Mappas, 59, will be on campus Wednesday to meet with current players and begin his preparations for next season. He said getting established should be easier than it was six years ago with the Skipjacks coming off their fifth consecutive winning season.
"It should be a little easier. The first year (2000-2001) was pretty tough," recalled Mappas. "When I came the first time we had nothing no holdover players and had to start from scratch."
Mappas ended that first season with just five players, but still matched the program’s best record (13-14) over the previous two decades. He averaged 20 wins a year his last three seasons, including a 21-9 mark in his final season that tied the school record for victories.
Adam Houck, a Kent Island High School graduate who played on Mappas’ first two Chesapeake College teams, welcomed his return.
"It’s going to be great to have him back," said Houck, who completed a bachelor’s degree in communications at Salisbury University after finishing two years at Chesapeake. "The thing that makes him so special is his relationship with the players. He was hard on us that tough-love, old-school approach but he knows how to relate to student athletes. He connected on both levels with us as students and as players."
Mappas also served four years as head coach at the College of Southern Maryland (then Charles County Community College) during the mid-1980s, compiling a 100-23 record. His teams won four consecutive National Division championships when the state conference was split in two divisions.
In addition to eight years at a junior college head coach, Mappas coached at six high schools throughout the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference (SMAC). He led Chopticon High School to the state finals and his teams were regular fixtures in SMAC title chases throughout his high school coaching career.
Mappas’ impact at Westlake this past season in his only year as the Wolverines’ head coach was typical. Westlake was 23-48 in the last three seasons before his arrival, but went 12-11 this year despite featuring an underclass-dominated squad.
Mappas’ Chesapeake teams won while adhering to his strict academic standards that included regular study halls featuring intense math tutoring sessions with the coach, who spent 30 years as a high school math teacher.
"I’d say Map spent more time working with his players on academics than he did on basketball," recalled Szymanski. "He’s an old-school coach, but the players also know that he has their best interests at heart."
Mappas built his reputation as a defensive-oriented coach, but he still understands the importance of having players who can play on the offensive end.
"I like players who are defensive minded, but they still need offensive skills to the point that you can teach them things offensively," said Mappas. "They have to be able to catch the ball and pass the ball. Most of the rest can be taught."
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