Ed Pepple would surely approve of the maroon tracksuit that Scott A. Weiss proudly sported recently.
The legendary Mercer Island High School (MIHS) boys’ basketball head coach, a four-time 3A state champion, fully embraced the maroon outfit and Pepple asked his players to don blazers in the colors of the school while representing the school and the city on their journey through the hoops.
Mercer Island basketball does not just reside on the court, but is a major unifying factor in the community. Hoops and city pride for all.
“He was able to touch a nerve and create a passion for the sport,” Weiss said of Pepple bringing discipline and structure to the gym and rallying islanders behind his teams, which won championships. state in 1985, 1993, 1997 and 1999.
Pepple retired from MIHS in March 2009 after 42 seasons at the helm and is Washington State’s winningest basketball coach with 952 wins. He died of cancer at the age of 88 on September 14, 2020.
In February, Weiss — an island resident and 1993 MIHS graduate — put his book on Pepple and how he led the 1985 Islanders to win their first state crown, “Tradition: The Quest for a Championship,” on its Headliner Books imprint. The success story, which highlights the perseverance and determination of Islanders to overcome myriad obstacles to reach the pinnacle of high school sports, is told through articles by Mercer Island Reporter sports journalists covering the seasons from 1980 to 1985.
Some of Pepple’s overriding core values, according to his players, were hard work, enthusiasm, tenacity and determination, as stated in a previous Journalist item.
The stellar 1985 Islanders – which featured superstar Division I rookies Quin Snyder and Brian Schwabe – undoubtedly dove into Pepple’s essential merits playbook in their magical season and ultimately lifted the trophy. ‘State.
In describing the book, Weiss said, “It’s about Pepple’s quest to get his first state championship, which he won after many tries in 1985. So he talks about all the steps leading up to that. So this is a mini-biography of Pepple, but it really focuses on those crucial five seasons in Mercer Island basketball history.
A critical step on the road to securing that first title was when the Islanders lost in the 1981 state championship game to Shadle Park, 66-65, on a buzzer. This loss was shrouded in controversy as initially the shot was ruled as going through the hoop after time expired and the scoreboard showed the Islanders winning, 65-64. MIHS lost its appeal with the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) and the school was placed on probation for a year due to unsportsmanlike conduct after the game.
“So Quin and Brian were eighth graders, maybe, when they sat and watched Mercer Island win and then lose to Shadle Park. So they saw Pepple’s son rise through the ranks to start cutting the net. Kyle, the team’s point guard, and then to see the scoreboard show that Mercer Island did indeed lose, went down. And so they were heartbroken,” Weiss said.
“Whether they looked each other in the eye and said, ‘We’re going to deliver this title to Mercer Island,’ or it was like pre-written. There was something about them, I think, in that moment where it’s almost like they took it on their shoulders and were like, ‘We’re going to give Pepple his state championship,'” a said Weiss, adding that MIHS was on the verge of winning. state the following year, but lost in the final to Roosevelt, 58-52.
Weiss, whose family moved to Mercer Island from Southern California in 1988, became a strong supporter of Island basketball and saw the team win the state title his senior year. Later, as a senior at the University of Arizona, Weiss enjoyed another title when the Wildcats men’s basketball team won the national championship.
He returned to the island about eight years ago with his family and remains fully rooted in the community. His passion for high school basketball is stronger than ever.
And his reverence for Pepple is clearly displayed by publishing the book and when he speaks enthusiastically about “the icon”.
“If you’re an islander now, no matter when you moved here or how long you’ve been here, you don’t necessarily have to go buy that book, but you have to know that story because it’s part of your life. story and it will help you understand in part why things are the way they are here and why there is such a deep passion for Mercer Island and for the islanders,” Weiss said.
Pepple connections abound on the island, whether it’s people who have played for him or know someone who has. The book is like a relationship builder, Weiss said, and something everyone can rally around again.
The book is available from Island Books and can be ordered at: https://www.amazon.com/Tradition-Quest-Championship-Scott-Weiss/dp/0578337002.