Photo by Chung Chow
Max Pecarsky knows the value of an education. It provided him with a degree from UBC and a career as a kinesiologist.
A passion for basketball, and learning the intricacies of the game, is also proving fruitful.
Just 24 years old, Pecarsky is already enjoying coaching success. With the veteran presence of Tony Wong-Hen and enthusiastic Ricky Hernandez rounding out the staff, the one-time McMath Wildcat player has led his alma matar to the provincial senior high school AAA boys’ basketball championships March 7 to 10 in Langley.
Runners-up to Burnaby’s Byrne Creek Bulldogs at last week’s Lower Mainland playdowns, McMath topped the Richmond league with a 10-0 record and then proceeded to add the city playoff title.
“It’s pretty surreal to be this young and to have the opportunity to coach this team to a provincial run,” says Pecarsky. “Me and Ricky are the same age and grew up playing basketball together. We have learned a lot over our relatively short time playing and coaching, and I am proud of our team for working hard this year and giving themselves an opportunity to put up a provincial banner.”
But Pecarsky says the job is far from complete.
“I have a lot to learn in the coaching world. I see a lot of older coaches still going and they are definitely to be looked up to. (But) if you are studious in an academic setting, you can be the same in a basketball setting. A lot of the boys on the team do well in school, and for some of them, it translates onto the basketball court.”
Drawing on his own experiences as a student and player, Pecarsky says both discipline and basketball IQ are essential to winning. It’s a process that he has been expounding all season.
“I was a very average student because I wasn’t very serious about school. I thought basketball was everything, and the only thing. Not only did I later realize that it was wrong for me to think that way, I paid the consequences by getting a harsh reality check when I entered post-secondary education. My study habits weren’t up to standard.”
Pecarsky adjusted, and learned at the same time that he didn’t have to sacrifice his love of basketball to gain even more.
“I definitely tell the players I coach that academics should always come first, no matter how frustrating it may be,” he says. “You have to be disciplined on the court and in the school.”
He also proudly extols the virtues of sport, extending well beyond simply winning and losing and providing life lessons that individuals may apply to their future lives.
“Every time our team loses a game, I always try to bring out as many positives as possible,” he says. “Regardless of how successful the team is, the goal is for them to have fun while doing it. This is probably the biggest challenge with the teams that I have coached, because it's hard for kids to have fun while losing and be optimistic about a loss. It's our job as coaches to help the kids see these positives, learn, and move on from a loss.”
Off the court, Pecarsky finds great fulfillment as a kinesiologist for JR Rehab Services. He mainly works in a gym or pool setting with clients who have been injured at their jobs.
“The thing I enjoy most is helping people get back to their normal lives. I see a lot of clients who have lost a lot, and to see them progress, albeit slowly, really brings a lot of joy, purpose and value to my own life.”
Pecarsky’s biggest inspiration has always been his dad, Steve.
“He was someone I could always look up to in how to be a better man,” he explains. “He pushed me pretty hard growing up to try to be my best. He has worked very hard to give me a privileged life and I definitely wouldn’t be the man I am today without him giving me as much as he has.”
Pecarsky’s lifelong love of athletics began early. He started out playing a bit of soccer and engaging in some martial arts, learning through the latter the importance of discipline which he says is the biggest key in youth sports “because it adds structure.”
Infatuated by the Vancouver Grizzlies, he was in Grade 3 when he joined the Richmond Youth Basketball League. From there, the love affair with basketball has only escalated.
“The thing I enjoy most about basketball is the competitive nature,” says Pecarsky, who lists Jason
Belonio, his coach when he played at McMath, as his greatest basketball influence.
“I started coaching because I really wanted to be around basketball, and to pass on my passion to younger players.”
Steve Nash, the two-time NBA all-star from Victoria, was also a big influence, Pecarsky says.
“He played the game the right way and was someone I strove to be like.”
Coaching colleague Wong-Hen says Pecarsky is extremely personable and loved by his players.
“He’s forthright and honest, and has a passion for basketball and coaching,” explains Wong-Hen. “And he’s extremely bright and intuitive.”