For the second time in his Pekin coaching career, Brett McGinnis is finding himself filling big shoes.
McGinnis took over for Bob Neal as boys golf coach in 2015. Neal’s teams won 13 conference, seven regional and four sectional championship plus the 1993 state championship during a remarkable 23-year run.
Now McGinnis is the new Pekin girls basketball coach after stepping down as boys golf coach this spring. He’s replacing Becky Fulkerson, whose 118 victories over her 10 seasons as coach are the most by a coach in Pekin girls basketball program history.
This is the first time McGinnis has been a girls coach.
He previously was on the boys basketball coaching staffs at Minonk Fieldcrest for two years and Pekin for four years in addition to his three years as Pekin boys golf coach, which included a 12th-place team finish in the Class 3A state tournament in 2017.
“It’s a new world,” McGinnis said Monday night when asked about coaching girls as his team returned from Macomb following a 51-36 victory over the host team in the season-opening Macomb Thanksgiving Tournament.
To help him navigate his new world, McGinnis has brought in some not-so-new faces on his coaching staff.
Chris Neville, the Pekin girls basketball coach from 1994-2001 and girls golf coach since 1992, is the assistant coach.
Lauren (Cash) Blondell is the sophomore coach and T.J. Orrick is the freshman coach.
Blondell and Orrick are former Pekin basketball players. Blondell was the player of the year in the Midwest Collegiate Conference and a third-team NAIA All-American in 2014 in her senior year at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.
McGinnis also is a former basketball player.
The 2007 Pekin grad was the starting point guard for the Dragons for three years before playing four years including three years as a starter as St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.
McGinnis said having Neville around is a big reason why he’s coaching the girls basketball team.
“Before I applied for the job, I asked Chris if he was interested in being the assistant coach. When he said yes, I applied,” McGinnis said.
McGinnis has a young team -- just two seniors -- but it’s a deeper team than in recent years with 13 players on the roster. The Dragons’ roster was in the single digits the past few seasons.
“Part of the reason for having that many girls on the roster is we need to take a look at everyone and see how they do at the varsity level,” McGinnis said. “Plus, this is a new coaching staff.”
Pekin faced a style of play Monday it probably won’t see again all season.
Macomb plays an up-tempo, Grinnell College-style of basketball that emphasizes three-point shots, a game-long full-court press and full-scale, frequent substitutions.
Still, the Dragons persevered. They outscored Macomb 16-4 in the fourth quarter after leading just 35-32 after three quarters.
“We were sloppy the first three quarters, playing like a young team, but we played well in the fourth quarter,” McGinnis said. “We were strong defensively, we took care of the ball, and we made the right passes.”
Five players scored all of Pekin’s 51 points: Lauren Juergens (14), Taylor Goss (14), Jenna Taphorn (12), Tess Cascia (9) and Natalie Righi (2).
Goss was 7-for-11 at the free throw line, but she was 8-for-10 in the fourth quarter. Taphorn had the team’s lone 3-pointer. It came in the first quarter.
McGinnis will have plenty of opportunities to watch his team play this week. The Dragons will play five games in six days at Macomb in the round-robin tournament, making four trips to the home of the Bombers.
After facing Illini Bluffs on Wednesday, Pekin will play Pleasant Plains on Friday and Havana and Moline on Saturday.
“We’ll get a good idea of who we are as a team this week,” McGinnis said. “Plus, we’ll get a chance to do some team bonding with all the time we’ll be on the road.”
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.