Annie Byrne, who coached Marian Catholic to the school’s first girls state basketball title in 2012-13, has resigned.
Byrne, who also was an associate athletic director at the school, is leaving Marian to accept a position as the director of operations at Legends Sportsplex in Bourbonnais.
“It (the decision) was a combination of things, but this is a great position,” Byrne said of her new post. “It’s going to really be a new challenge professionally. I’m very excited about the people I’m going to work for.”
It was the second resignation involving an area defending state champion coach in the past year. Jerry Verde, who coached Crete-Monee to the Class 6A football title in 2012, left to accept the football post at Marian.
“Nothing comes out of left field,” Marian athletic director Dave Mattio said. “If there is an opportunity somewhere else or something is more appealing, people have to look at it, especially these days with the economy the way it is.
“We’re just in the process of trying to organize everything and go forward from here. We’ll accept applications, there will be an interview process and somebody will be named the next coach.”
Byrne said she informed Mattio of her decision Wednesday and told the team after a Thursday practice. She said she intends to continue working with the team through the rest of the summer.
Since becoming coach at Marian in 2005, Byrne has posted a 216-51 record. Last season, her Spartans were 33-1, capturing the Class 4A state title.
“Last year, yes, we won state,” Byrne said. “But more (fulfilling) was the experience of the season and watching the kids stepping up to every challenge and the sacrifices they made to improve.
“The year before that we had the worst record (21-12) we ever had at Marian while I was there.
“They’re the ones, the young people who decided, ‘We’re going to put in the work and we’re going to give it at least the best shot we can.’ I’m so glad I got to experience that. I’ll never forget that group.”
Byrne, a graduate and former player at Joliet Catholic and St. Xavier, began her coaching career as an assistant coach at St. Xavier, and spent two more seasons as head coach at Illinois Institute of Technology before beginning an eight-year run at Marian. She leaves with the highest winning percentage (.809) in the program’s history.
“I just think it’s a huge privilege to be a coach and to be able to have a constant impact on young peoples’ lives,” Byrne said. “It’s a lot more than just coaching. Coaching is so much fun and you learn so much from it, but it’s also a life lesson, especially in my own life.
“Basketball has taught me a lot about myself. There is so much you learn from the sport itself, and on top of that you have the privilege of being a part of 40 young ladies’ lives, seeing them on a daily basis, making sure their grades are on track, making sure they have a smile on their face. Those are the things it’s really all about.”
Byrne was the SouthtownStar Coach of the Year in 2008-09.
“She’s done a great job keeping things coordinated here,” Mattio said. “Obviously, winning a state title and getting to a couple of other state tournament series … she’s just been very consistent with the performance that she’s had with the kids.”
One of Byrne’s former players, Kathlyn McClain, knows the lasting legacy Byrne will leave at the school.
“She was an intense coach who always demanded the best from you every single day on the floor and in the classroom,” said McClain, a 2006 graduate and a sophomore assistant coach at Marian. “I suppose whoever gets the job has very big shoes to fill.”
Candidates for the Marian position (a valid teaching certificate or ACEP certification is mandatory) can submit resumes and references to Principal Sr. Kathleen Anne Tait at email@example.com or c/o Marian Catholic High School, 700 Ashland Ave., Chicago Heights, IL 60411.