DANVILLE — None of them work or compete at Schlarman Academy these days.
Four individuals — principal Bob Rice, assistant principal Mary Pat Shepherd, athletic director Jason Woodworth and athlete Tannah Petersack — all have moved on from Schlarman. Retired, stepped aside or graduated.
Keith Peoples can’t forget those folks, though.
After all, they comprised the Hilltopper girls’ basketball hiring panel in July 2011.
“They interviewed me over the phone when I was in Florida with (daughter) Anaya during a basketball tournament,” Keith Peoples said Thursday. “They took a chance. They gave me an opportunity. They believed in my vision.”
The end result — solidified this week by Peoples’ resignation from his post after eight seasons — was two Class 1A state championships, three sectional plaques, five regional crowns and a 189-49 record.
In 2011, Peoples was a junior high girls’ coach who “didn’t have a winning track record by any means.”
He spent the next eight years creating a powerhouse prep varsity program.
Getting what will be two banners hung in the Shebby Gymnasium rafters. Personally financing a renovation of the team’s locker room. Guiding four recent graduates to college hoops careers.
It’s something he hopes to repeat with the Schlarman junior high boys’ squad, a group Peoples now assumes control of and which includes rising sixth-grade son Keison.
“There’s not a whole lot more that I can accomplish at Schlarman as far as coaching the girls’ basketball program,” Keith Peoples said. “I’m looking for a new challenge.”
The Hilltoppers dominated small-school girls’ basketball in the back half of Peoples’ tenure.
With recent graduates Anaya Peoples, Sydney Gouard, Janiah Newell and Destiny Dye and rising senior Capria Brown, Schlarman composed a 114-11 record in its last four campaigns — including those two No. 1 finishes.
“I’m really excited about coaching junior high boys and using the same principles and same objectives I used for the girls’ program,” Keith Peoples said, “and trying to develop and grow a strong junior high program at Schlarman.”
Anaya is an incoming freshman with the Notre Dame women’s basketball team, and while her father acknowledged he now might have a little more space on his schedule to see her suit up in South Bend, Ind., he also said it wasn’t the impetus for his role change.
“My goal and my responsibility is to prepare our junior high teams so when they step up to the high school ranks, they’ll be able to contribute immediately,” Keith Peoples said. “My job is to just prepare these young men for the varsity level so the coach has some great pieces to work with and can win championships.”
Peoples will continue directing on-the-side training sessions with local basketball players, on top of plans to “be an advocate and help current high school coaches, junior high coaches ... that are struggling with certain issues within their basketball program.”
As far as possibly getting back into the prep sideline scene, Peoples isn’t closing the window.
“I never will deny any opportunities to coach varsity boys, girls,” Peoples said. “I would entertain any possibility in the future.”
For now, his high school resume will rest at eight fruitful seasons that produced some of the highest-quality basketball in recent Illinois history.
“The mission has been accomplished,” Peoples said. “If you were to tell me today, looking forward, that I would walk into Schlarman with no coaching experience and win four junior high state championships and two high school state championships, I would have laughed.”