Behind the scenes of the boys basketball teams at Catholic High (4-1) and Washington High (2-4) are two head coaches with a history, strong mutual respect and a common goal for prep basketball in Pensacola.
Catholic head coach Nick Mead and second-year Washington head coach Justin Pierce each coach at schools where they previously played, and they met during their high school years as basketball players in the late 1990s.
“There’s an impression — I guess it comes from pro-level athletics — that coaches shouldn’t get along. … That’s not the case,” Mead said, describing the relationship he shares with Pierce.
“(Pierce and I) have been very close for a number of years. Coach Pierce’s motivation is to get exposure for Pensacola basketball players and filling the stands with fans.”
Friday night, their friendship will pause for four quarters when the Wildcats host the Crusaders, but Mead said it will resume again not long after the final buzzer.
“When we play, we’ll usually talk within the next 24 hours,” Mead said. “We’ll talk about what we saw in each other’s team during the game. Eventually, we begin reminiscing on the old rivalries.”
Mead recalled several games with packed stadiums during his and Pierce’s high school days, all the way through some of his earliest years as head coach at Catholic.
Mead also mentioned the 1970s, when Catholic and Washington each earned state titles (in separate classifications) during the decade and held a rivalry that captivated the city.
Pierce seems equally fond of the history between the two schools.
“When the job came to coach at Washington, I called Nick (Mead) right after and we talked about bringing basketball in Pensacola back to a higher level,” Pierce said. “(Mead and I) like to battle on the court.
“But, the main battle we are focused on is helping out these basketball players from Pensacola. Whether they go to Catholic, Washington or wherever. … For coach Mead and I it’s about helping them get to play at the next level. We have a passion for trying to help the kids have a better life.”
Friday’s game marks the second-consecutive road game for Catholic, against a Washington team that will have to quickly rebound from Thursday night’s loss to Tate.
Want To Go?
What: Washington High vs. Catholic High
Where: Washington High School
When: 7:30 p.m. today