Damon Pigrom was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore.
This wasn’t a Michael Jordan story, where he spent the year on junior varsity due to a coach’s policy of playing only upperclassmen. Pigrom, admittedly out of shape, didn’t make any team at his New Jersey school.
“To this day, I still think it’s kind of garbage,” Pigrom said. “But, nonetheless, I don’t think he cut me with the intention of saying, ‘Well, this is going to motivate him to get better.’ I just think he just thought I wasn’t good enough.”
Pigrom didn’t dwell on his setback, though. He joined a recreational league, got into shape and made the school team the following year.
Entering his second year as Montgomery Blair High School’s head coach, Pigrom doesn’t want Blair dwelling on its past either. Blair has finished no better than 7-16 in at least the past seven years.
But Pigrom is trying to change that, and he has the credibility to do it. Pigrom guided James H. Blake to the state semifinals in 2003 and the state final in 2005 after going 0-23 his first year.
So, a 7-16 first season at Blair puts him ahead of his pace at Blake.
“Everything that he did at Blake, I think he’ll eventually do at Blair,” said Blake coach Marcus Wiggins, who served as Pigrom’s assistant before taking the top spot when Pigrom left for an assistant coaching position at Catholic University in 2006. “It’s just going to take some time.”
Wiggins pointed to Pigrom’s attention to detail as the main reason Pigrom has been successful.
“He could go into his files and find every practice,” Wiggins said. “Every practice he’s ever been a part of, it’s typed up, it’s computerized.”
Pigrom returned to coaching high school to spend more time with his family, and before coming to Blair, he spent two regrettable years at Bethesda-Chevy Chase. He was still teaching at Blake, and because his players didn’t see his laid-back demeanor during the school day, he says his intense coaching methods appeared overly harsh.
Now a teacher at Blair, Pigrom wishes he could re-do his first year at his new school, too.
“Last year, as a coaching staff, I think we tried to do too much,” Pigrom said. “We tried to be good at everything, and I think because we tried to be good in so many areas, it wasn’t possible.”
Even though Pigrom cherishes his time at Blake, he even still has regrets about his tenure there, too.
“To go to Comcast Center and being able to coach in that kind of environment, it’s the biggest stage that we can coach in a public school. To be there for a state championship, I’ll never forget that moment,” Pigrom said. “Actually, I regret that I didn’t take enough time to take it in. I was so into the game, I never really looked up to see how many people were there and the excitement of the crowd.”
So, Pigrom is driven to get back with Blair, to have another crack at enjoying the experience.
Really, Pigrom is driven by all his regrets — especially being cut from his high school team, which he calls, “one of the best things that’s happened to me professionally.”
“That’s part of the reason I’m so hard on my kids because I wasted opportunities and wasted potential,” Pigrom said. “I wasted a year of basketball because I didn’t treat conditioning and getting better as important. It’s definitely a life lesson.”