Cree hired to replace Pepple as MIHS basketball coach

Gavin Cree has more experience than most with the Mercer Island High School basketball program. He also knows how revered his former mentor Ed Pepple is and what the expectations are for the program. He will now get his chance step onto the MIHS basketball sideline as head coach. Mercer Island High School assistant principal Craig Olson announced the decision to hire Cree Monday afternoon.

“Taking over for a legend is not an easy task, but he has the ability and capability to do it,” said Olson.

Cree is a 2000 graduate of Mercer Island High School and played for Ed Pepple, the man he will replace.

“I am truly honored to be in a position to carry on the Islander basketball tradition developed over so many years by Coach Pepple,” said Cree in an email. “I am confident that under my guidance, players will continue to share in this special camaraderie. I am eager lead a basketball program that our school and community can continue to be proud of.”

Cree has been an assistant with the team for five years, grew up on the Island and played basketball at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. Cree has a Bachelors of Arts in psychology from Pomona and is currently working toward an educational endorsement from Seattle Pacific University for fitness.

“I have been working with him since he was 11, and I have watched him turn into an outstanding young man and coach,” said Pepple.

Olson is confident that Cree is the right person for the job, although he was the only person interviewed for the position and has no head coaching experience at the high school level.

“He has learned from the absolute best,” said Olson. “He played in Little Dribblers and grew up on the Island. He knows the expectations.”

And those expectations will be huge as he replaces the all-time winningest coach in Washington state history. Pepple coached at Mercer Island High School for nearly five decades, winning 952 games during his career, along with four state titles. Pepple never had a team under .500 in-league play at Mercer Island High School.

“He had Ed’s full confidence and a big recommendation,” said Olson, who — along with MIHS Principal John Harrison — made the decision.

Olson also addressed Pepple’s future role with the program.

“He can have as much or as little as he wants to do with it,” said Olson.

For Pepple’s part, he said that he will be Mercer Island’s No. 1 supporter and that it is Cree’s team now.