Fort Wayne men's basketball coach Jon Coffman didn't have to search long (less than a week) or far (2.7 miles to be exact) to fill the recent opening on his men's basketball staff following the resignation of former Mastodon assistant Mark Downey to become the head coach at Northeastern State (Okla.) University.
Coffman has selected former Fort Wayne player and current Indiana Tech head coach John Peckinpaugh to join his staff.
“I'm very excited,” Peckinpaugh told The News-Sentinel. “It's a good opportunity and I'm very grateful for what (President Dr. Arthur Snyder) did for me at Indiana Tech. For the opportunity that he gave me, I'll be in debt to him the rest of my life.”
Peckinpaugh is leaving the Warrior program the second time for his alma mater. After graduating from IPFW, Peckinpaugh served one season as an assistant to Warriors' former coach Al Grushkin, before returning to Fort Wayne as a graduate assistant for a year.
"Having former players that have a passion toward your university and your program," Coffman said, "I believe is invaluable. He helped build the foundation for what our program is today."
At just 25 years of age, Dr. Snyder took a leap of faith and gave Peckinpaugh the chance to lead his own program in 2014 and his foresight proved correct.
Peckinpaugh got off to a rough start as Indiana Tech won just 10 games in his initial season, but the Warriors won 43 games over the past two seasons and achieved a number of notable feats.
Indiana Tech advanced to the NAIA Division II National Tournament in 2016 and it won a program-best 17 victories in Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference play in 2015-16.
This past season, Peckinpaugh's team beat nationally-ranked opponents three times, including a win at 8th-ranked Davenport.
“It was one of the hardest decisions that I've had to make in my life,” Peckinpaugh said, “because of all of the work that we put in and the returning players that we had. They were all my recruits. I was really looking forward to working with those guys more.
“But as I told them, this is kind of a once in a lifetime offer that I have here. I don't know when another offer like this would come.”
Peckinpaugh exemplified the spirit of the Mastodon program when he signed out of Muncie Central High School. Fort Wayne was his only NCAA Division I offer and he made the most of it.
In his four seasons with Fort Wayne, he helped the Mastodons improve from 14 to 18 victories and he ultimately developed into a starting forward (61 career starts). That level of tenacity and work ethic showed as he grew as a coach over the past three seasons.
“I've learned a lot,” Peckinpaugh said of his head coaching tenure. “I've learned that I don't know everything. I still have a lot to learn, but I think that I have matured. I'll be a much better assistant now than I would've been three years ago.”
From Coffman's perspective, he will be able to bring in a new coach very seamlessly.
Due to his proximity, Peckinpaugh has maintained a strong following of the Fort Wayne program and speaks with Coffman and his former high school and college teammate, current Mastodon assistant Ben Botts, frequently.
In addition, there were a number of Mastodon home games over the past three seasons that Peckinpaugh was able to attend, so he knows quite a bit about the Fort Wayne program already.
“Coach Coffman has been great to me ever since my senior year when he joined the staff as an assistant,” Peckinpaugh said. “I learned a ton from him when I was (a graduate assistant) there. I would probably talk to him every day if I didn't feel like I was bugging him.
“I know how they do things and how they want things done. That is going to make it an easy transition for me.”
Peckinpaugh joins Botts and Fort Wayne native Ryan Sims as the three full-time assistant coaches with the program.
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