Ironwood Ridge High boys basketball coach Brian Peabody and Santa Rita’s Jim Ferguson each led their respective teams to within seconds of state championships this season – Peabody in Class 5A Division II, Ferguson in 4A-II.
The two have elevated themselves to elite status in the Arizona coaching ranks and were named Tucson Citizen Co-Coaches of the Year for the past season.
Even with their success – each has won state titles and has coached in several more – they have to combine their career records to match that of their mentor, the coach each once played for at Sahuaro High, Dick McConnell.
“It will never be matched, what he did,” said Ferguson of McConnell’s success at Sahuaro, where he accumulated the majority of his state-record 714 wins. “Maybe Brian (Peabody) can get close, he’s young enough. Maybe his son, Rick (McConnell) up at (Mesa) Dobson might make a run, but it’s going to be tough to match what he accomplished right here.”
Ferguson and Peabody, who joined their coach Monday in Sahuaro’s McConnell Gymnasium, are two of many McConnell pupils coaching around Arizona.
“I’d say 99.9 percent of what I do is directly because I learned it from him” Peabody said. “He’s the greatest mentor any coach could have. We still eat dinner two or three times a week and every time we’re out, there’s someone that comes up to him and thanks him for something he did for them. . . . He’s touched more lives than you could even imagine.”