Donnie Boyce has had some time to reflect on his first year as head basketball coach at his alma mater, Proviso East, and his team's 50-48 loss to Simeon in the Class 4A championship game.So he finished 32-1. If you had it to do over again, what would you do? What did you learn as a rookie coach? How will it affect you as a second-year coach?"I'm already planning for next year," Boyce said. "I will assign an assistant coach to every three or four players to work with them over the summer. I want to build a trust with the staff. I want to allow each player to have a buffer to go through. As a player, I felt more comfortable going to an assistant coach rather than the head coach. I think it will help our team chemistry to grow."Boyce predicts his 2012-13 team will have a chance to go back to Peoria and be competitive in the Class 4A tournament. Two returning starters, Sterling Brown and Paris Lee, will be the team leaders. And he will have help from a 24-4 sophomore class, including 6-foot-4 Jesse Shaw and point guard Malik Carter, brother of this year's star, Keith Carter.But Boyce still can't help but look back on the state final and reflect on what might have been. He admits it took a week after the game before he could bring himself to look at the film. But he only watched it once."At the end of the game, some calls could have gone our way but didn't," he said. "We missed a lot of shots we normally make, Keith Carter particularly. He normally makes shots but he didn't. We also missed so many easy layups."Their length had a lot to do with that. If we finished stronger at the basket, it could have been a difference. I wanted the game to be in the 70-80 range. But we didn't attack as much as possible. They did a good job of controlling the tempo. I felt we had control of the game except for the last three or four minutes of the fourth quarter."But it wasn't the end of the world. In the championship game, we were in position to win. That's all you can ask for as a coach, that the players execute the game plan and have a chance to win late in the game. Simeon made some free throws or we could have been 33-0."If he had it to do over again, however, Boyce admits he would have substituted another shooter and played more zone defense. He should have switched Sterling Brown on Simeon's Steve Taylor, he said, but he didn't do it because Sterling had such a good rhythm going on offense and he wanted the youngster to have more energy left for the final push."In hindsight, you can always look back and think of things you might have done," Boyce said. "I thought all year, for the first time, we were able to handle any pressure that was handed our way. But for a minute or two in the fourth quarter, for the first time, we got gun shy and didn't pull the trigger on three-point shots and played tight for a stretch."But I liked our chances. We had a good game plan and we executed it. It came down to who makes the most plays and they made more than we did. Their experience was the difference. When I thought we had them rattled, they kept their composure. The tough games they played all year paid off for them. We went ahead by five points and had the ball going into the fourth quarter. Then Sterling missed a layup. I thought he got fouled. If we make it, we put a lot more pressure on them."So it's over. Wait til next year. What did Boyce learn as a rookie that will make him a better coach in 2012-13? How does he characterize his first season as the boss of one of the state's most storied and successful programs?"I had a lot of ups and downs. I made a lot of mistakes," he said. "But when you have as uch talent as we had, they made up for a lot of mistakes. The guards (Keith Carter, Paris Lee, Paris Burns) did a great job of playing together and sacrificing their game for the betterment of the team."It was a remarkable season. I couldn't have imagined in my first year going 32-0 and being four minutes from a perfect season. It was like baking a cake. I like strawberry shortcake. We put all the ingredients together and added the icing. The only thing we didn't do was put a cherry on the top."Grateful for the opportunity to return to the Maywood school that launched him on his path to success as a basketball player on Proviso East's state championship team in 1991, Boyce said he wants to thank school board president Chris Welch and athletic director Milton Patch for "showing a lot of faith and trust in bringing me in." Patch told him: "Run the program the way you feel like." Boyce couldn't ask for more support than that. "What I learned most as a rookie head coach is to not think as a player but think more as a coach," Boyce said. "There was a progression as a coach. I let my frustrations as a player affect me early in the season. I rode officials too much. But I got only one technical all year. It was a learning experience for me, a game within a game you have to play with the referees. And I learned to have more input with my coaching staff during games."
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