Taking the Court
Coach John Peckinpaugh Ready to Make His Mark On Noblesville Basketball
Photographer / Amy Payne
No matter what happens throughout John Peckinpaugh’s career as a basketball coach, he’ll always consider the chance to coach at Noblesville High School as a major personal milestone.
In May Peckinpaugh, a Muncie native and former starter on back-to-back state runner-up Muncie Central High School teams in 2005 and 2006, was officially named head coach of the Millers’ boys basketball program. A self-proclaimed Indiana high school basketball enthusiast, he says that even during a stint as head coach at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia last season, he held a firm conviction that his ideal setting for coaching hoops has always been right here in the Hoosier state.
“I think so much of Indiana basketball, and Noblesville is one of the best jobs in the state,” Peckinpaugh says. “I’m excited to be here and I really like the group we have. I’m all in.”
Peckinpaugh replaces former boys head coach Brian McCauley, who compiled a 62-58 record through five seasons with the Millers.
After a head coaching tenure at the Indiana Institute of Technology from 2014 to 2017, Peckinpaugh served as an assistant at Purdue University Fort Wayne for one year before heading east to Wheeling Jesuit.
“I got thrown into the fire for my first head coaching job when I was 24, and I had to learn fast,” he says. “I had no idea what I was doing at the beginning, and by my second year I had kind of figured out who I was as a coach. I’ve come a long way since then but I’m still learning.”
The sport certainly runs in Peckinpaugh’s family. His uncle Rick coached for 32 years at McCutcheon High School, where he achieved a 477-269 overall record, 12 sectional titles and Class 4A state runner-up honors in 2016, the year before he retired.
“Basketball was always big in my household and my cousin was an Indiana all-star when I was growing up,” Peckinpaugh says. “I was your typical Indiana kid in that way I guess, and I got the competitive drive early.”
Peckinpaugh points to his own high school and college coaches, including Matt Fine at Muncie Central and former Indiana University guard Dane Fife at Purdue University Fort Wayne, as inspirations for not only his coaching style but also his tireless work ethic and willingness to draw out the best in every single one of his players.
“At an early age I knew I wasn’t going to be 6’8” and play in the NBA, so I always looked forward to being a basketball coach,” explains Peckinpaugh, whose wife Haley has also joined Noblesville High School as assistant girls basketball coach. “My coaches pushed me in all the right directions and fueled the fire to have that grit and be the best coach I could be.”
The four top scorers from the Millers’ team last season graduated in the spring, but Peckinpaugh feels optimistic about the coming season nevertheless, having worked with his incoming group of players since June.
“(Seniors) Alex Hunt and Brendan Fishers had really good summers for us and a really good fall so far, so we’re excited about those guys, and we think there are some other seniors and underclassmen who can come in and be scoring threats,” he says. “We need some underclassmen to step up and be confident on the offensive side for us.”
Those keeping a close eye on Noblesville’s team progression this winter will likely notice a different playing style on both ends of the floor compared to the last few seasons. Peckinpaugh says his coaching philosophies, particularly on the defensive end, differ from McCauley’s approach during his years with the Millers, who have won a single sectional championship (2010) since 1997.
“You’ll see a lot more man-to-man on the defensive side, and we’re going to work hard to make our opponents uncomfortable,” Peckinpaugh says. “It’s going to take some work to compete with the teams that are ahead of us right now, but I think if we roll up our sleeves and commit, this will be a successful season.”