Lemont names Bret Kooi football coach

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Bret Kooi wasn’t going to chase just any job — just the right one.

The former Lockport and Joliet West coach thinks he found just what he was looking for on Monday night. That’s when the District 210 school board approved the hiring of Kooi as Lemont’s football coach. He replaces Eric Michaelsen, who stepped down after 12 seasons to become the school’s principal.

Kooi has been an assistant coach the past three seasons, but he never lost the desire to run his own program again.

“To be honest with you, I’ve been out there looking,” he said Monday night. “Some opportunities came close, some fell through.

“I told myself if the perfect opportunity opens up, then I’ll go for it. My wife said (of Lemont), it’s one of those ones that’s the perfect one.”

That’s in large part due to the foundation laid down by Michaelsen. The Indians took nine straight trips to the IHSA playoffs from 2004 to 2012, had double-digit wins seven times in nine seasons and were the Class 6A state runners-up in 2007 and ‘08.

“Obviously, things aren’t going wrong here,” said Kooi, who plans to meet with Lemont players and assistant coaches on Tuesday. “I’m going to sit back and observe and take it in.”

The Indians’ playoff streak ended with a 3-6 season in 2013, but Kooi doesn’t see the need for a major rebuilding job.

“I’ve always heard fantastic things about the school and the school community,” he said.

Kooi played at T.F. South for Tom Padjen, who’s one of the coaches he’ll be facing next season in the South Suburban Blue. He coached and taught at Providence before getting his first head coaching job at Joliet West in 1989, finishing 11-16 in three seasons.

Kooi then went to Lockport (where he will remain as a teacher), guiding the Porters to a 105-69 record in 17 seasons from 1994 to 2010. He took Lockport to the playoffs 10 times, winning Class 8A titles in 2002 and ‘03.

He spent a season as an assistant on his brother Bert’s staff at Minooka in 2011 before going to Lincoln-Way North.

Now he’s back in charge and ready to get started.

“You know the guys are doing it right (at Lemont),” he said. “I’m smart enough to know I’m walking into an awesome situation.”

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