Pepelea hired as men's basketball assistantMay 16, 2006 · MT Media Relations
Middle Tennessee men's basketball coach Kermit Davis has hired Pepelea to fill one of two vacancies left on the Blue Raider staff when former associate head coach Donnie Tyndall was named head coach at Morehead State and Matt Woodley departed for a position on the staff at Washington State.
Pepelea returns to Murfreesboro after serving the previous eight years as the top assistant to Dan Dakich on the staff at Bowling Green, following a three-year stint at Ball State. Pepelea, 35, began his college coaching career as an administrative assistant on David Farrar's first Middle Tennessee staff in 1994-95.
Much has changed during the 12 years Pepelea has been away from Murfreesboro and it's the abundant change, as well as his respect for Davis, that interested him in the Blue Raider position.
"The respect I have for coach Davis and his ability to coach and recruit was first and foremost as far as my interest in the position," Pepelea said. "When I came down here during my visit and saw how committed the athletic department is to winning, the improvements they have made to the Murphy Center, the locker rooms, just the entire campus, I was really impressed. I worked here for Coach Farrar and I was here about 10 months before I left for Ball State. I have a lot of good memories from that time."
During his time at Bowling Green, Pepelea was part of a staff that helped lead the squad to 18 or more wins in four of the previous eight seasons - a feat that has been accomplished by the Falcons just one other time since 1958. The hard-working assistant, who is widely respected in coaching circles, will assist in organizing recruiting, future scheduling, on-court coaching, day-to-day teaching of players, scouting reports, game preparation, and day-to-day operations involved in running the basketball program.
"I just want to hire guys that have an unbelievable work ethic and have shown a great amount of loyalty to the guys they have worked for," Davis said. "(Pepelea) has done a fantastic job at Bowling Green. He has recruited a number of all-league players, guys who are playing in the NBA. He also did a great job at Ball State. He's from Anderson, Ind., and that's an area where I feel we want to get more involved during recruiting.
"Not only that, but he's a really good basketball coach. He worked for an outstanding coach in Dan Dakich, who I think is one of the best college coaches in America, so he's an outstanding teacher and I think he will be a great addition to us helping develop young players in our program."
The respect Davis has for Pepelea is mutual, and the newest addition to the Blue Raider staff believes the program is on solid footing entering the fifth season under Davis. The Blue Raiders have produced four consecutive winning seasons since Davis' hire and have won at least 16 games and finished .500 or better in conference play in each of the previous four campaigns, which is the first time that has been accomplished since the 1985-89 seasons.
"I think (the Sun Belt) is a very good league and I think it's one of the better mid-major leagues in the country right now," Pepelea said. "Coach Davis, the staff, and the players have demonstrated they can be in the upper echelon of the Sun Belt and hopefully in the next few years we can be at the very top of it."
Pepelea has served on staffs that have recruited 22 All Mid-American Conference performers and he has coached three of the MAC's top 14 all-time leading scorers. Pepelea has been a part of two MAC championship teams, in 2000 at Bowling Green, and in 1998 at Ball State. In addition, he has helped squads to three NIT appearances and worked with MAC Players of the Year Keith McLeod (2002) and Anthony Stacey (2000), while at Bowling Green, and Bonzi Wells (1996 and 1998), while at Ball State. Wells now plays for the Sacramento Kings and McLeod plays for the Utah Jazz.
While at Ball State, Pepelea helped the Cardinals to a 21-8 record in 1997-98 and a berth in the NIT after tying Western Michigan for the West Division MAC championship. Ball State was 53-33 in Pepelea's three years on the staff before he moved to Bowling Green.
At Bowling Green, Pepelea was part of six winning seasons in eight years and the Falcons produced a 133-96 record during that span, including a high-water mark for wins with a 24-9 ledger in 2001-02.
Pepelea earned his undergraduate degree from Wisconsin-Parkside in 1994 in political science. He earned four letters as a member of the Parkside basketball team, starting for two seasons and leading the squad in assists. He earned second-team All-State honors during his senior year in high school in Anderson, Ind.
Pepelea and his wife, Melissa, have been married for 10 years and have two children - 5-year-old daughter Morgan and 1-year-old son Quintin.
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