By Joe Henricksen
When it came down to it, Proviso East wanted one of its own. And a big name would be all the better for a basketball program that can match up with any in the state since 1960.
Donnie Boyce wanted to be on the sideline coaching. But only at the school he played at and calls home. Sounds like a perfect match.
Now Boyce, who replaces former coach David Chatman, is a month away from the start of his first season as head coach at Proviso East. He inherits a program that will enter the season with enormous expectations, the same expectations — sometimes unrealistic — that doomed Chatman. But Boyce is ready and has a plan.
He admits he will dial in to his past to gain some knowledge from the mentors, role models and coaches he has had throughout his life and playing career, which included a terrific college career at Colorado in the mid-1990s. He will take a piece from each one of those influential people in his life and add to his plan.
Boyce will start with what he learned under the highly successful Bill Hitt, who took three teams to the Elite Eight, won back-to-back state titles and averaged nearly 24 wins a season in his 10 years as coach at Proviso East. Boyce remembers how early the work and belief started during the successful state title run in 1991.
“I remember out state championship team and that run and how it really all started and began with preseason conditioning,” says Boyce. “That was our first step. I remember challenging ourselves, starting to mentally prepare ourselves at that time, before a game had even been played.
“I think the biggest challenge this first year is getting everyone on board early and buying in immediately.”
Boyce’s first order of business as head coach was to fill out his staff with Proviso East “guys” who understand “Pirate Pride” and the expectations at the Maywood powerhouse. So enter the likes of Sherrell Ford, Kenny Davis, Everette Stubblefield and Cedric McCullough. Even former Proviso East star Michael Finley, who teamed with Boyce in high school and went on to have a long, stellar career in the NBA, will help when he can.
Ford teamed with Boyce and Finley — the famed “Three Amigos” — on the memorable 1991 Proviso East state title team that finished 32-1. He was an all-stater who went on to play at UIC and was a NBA first-round pick of the Seattle Supersonics.
Davis was one of the biggest winners in Proviso East history. The 5-9 guard was also a part of that easy-to-remember state title team as a sophomore, then as a junior was the leader of the surprising 32-0 state title team in 1992 and led the Pirates back to the Elite Eight as a senior in 1993.
McCullough starred at Proviso East in the 1980s and went on to play at Northern Iowa. Stubblefield, who played at Proviso East in the late 1990s, has been a part of the Pirates program as a successful coach at the sophomore level.
“I wanted to have guys who have been through the tradition of Proviso East basketball, guys who have lived it, have familiarity with what Proviso East basketball is all about,” said Boyce of his staff.
With virtually everyone back from last year’s 22-6 team, including savvy veteran Keith Carter and rising 6-5 junior Sterling Brown — the brother of former Proviso East star and current L.A. Laker Shannon Brown — Boyce has a team that will be in everyone’s preseason top five. The Pirates will be small. But after watching them throughout the summer and in fall open gyms, there may not be a faster or quicker team than Boyce’s group.
“We are going to get after it, use that quickness and the parts that we have to our advantage, especially on the defensive end with constant pressure,” says Boyce. “I’ve watched these guys from afar the past couple of years, but I’ve known most of them since they were little kids coming to the gym. Now it’s their turn.”
And it’s Boyce’s turn to take over a program that hasn’t been beyond the supersectional since 1993 and has stubbed its toe several times in March.
“A dream come true,” says Boyce of his new job. “This is the only high school job I would have ever taken. I’ve had a few opportunities to coach in the city, but this is the only place I want to coach.”
Boyce states it’s a “special and supportive community” and a chance to provide opportunities, guidance and support for kids in the community.
“This is a chance to give back,” says Boyce, who was an all-stater at Proviso East and helped lead a memorable Pirate team to the 1991 state championship and a 32-1 record. “This is a chance to help the kids from where I am from and pass along what was given to me when I went through here. It’s been like walking back in time.”
Proviso East Greatness
The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a quick look at the best players to ever come out of the Proviso East basketball program.
• Glenn “Doc” Rivers
Regarded as one of state’s all-time best prep players. Played 13 seasons in the NBA after starring at Marquette in the early 1980s. Hailed as one of best NBA coaches (Orlando and Boston). Led Celtics to world championship in 2008.
• Michael Finley
Won state title at Proviso East in 1991. Second all-time leading scorer (2,147 points) at Wisconsin. NBA world champion, 15-year NBA veteran who averaged over 15 ppg and played in 129 postseason games.
• Shannon Brown
Mr. Basketball winner in 2003. Starred at Michigan State and valuable member of world champion Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.
• Jim Brewer
First-Round NBA Draft pick in 1973 after four stellar seasons playing collegiately at Minnesota. Played in NBA from 1973-82. Won NBA title with Lakers in 1982. Member of 1972 U.S. Olympic team.
• Dee Brown
Mr. Basketball winner in 2002. The face of the University of Illinois basketball program for four years, including the 2005 run to state title game. Enjoying successful career overseas after brief NBA stays with the Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns.
• Steven Hunter
Starred at Proviso East in the late 1990s. Played two seasons at DePaul before enjoying an eight-year NBA career.
• Donnie Boyce
A member of the famed “Three Amigos” that led Proviso East to state title in 1991. The second all-time leading scorer at Colorado. Enjoyed a brief NBA stint with the Atlanta Hawks and played in 30 NBA games.
• Sherrell Ford
The top player on the 1991 state title team. Starred at UIC, where he averaged 18.8 ppg as a sophomore, 24.3 as a junior and 26.2 as a senior. Played in 28 NBA games with the Seattle Supersonics.
• Joe Ponsetto
Led Proviso East to 1974 state title and went on to star at DePaul, where scored over 1,200 career points.
• Jacob Pullen
Just capped off a brilliant career at Kansas State, where he was a fourth-team All-American and finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer. Playing overseas.