Henricksen: Breaking down the high school coaching openings

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A year ago there were some coveted high school coaching vacancies, highlighted by Thornton in the south suburbs, West Aurora and Proviso East in the western suburbs and Warren in the north suburbs.

In comparison, this offseason has been pretty tame. Here are a few of the openings and a close look at those particular jobs and their coaching search.

Mount Carmel

Former coach: Mike Flaherty retired after spending four decades as one of the premier coaches in Illinois. Flaherty, who won at all three of his coaching stops –– eight seasons at Mendel Catholic, 22 at Thornridge and 10 at Mt. Carmel –– won 760 games in his career.

State of the program: This program takes a heavy hit with so many talented seniors graduating, including Christian Peevy, Jake Rhode and Nick Chambers, from a team that won 24 games and a regional title.

Despite big personnel losses, however, the program is in solid shape. You could argue it’s the best open job available this offseason. Mt. Carmel’s location and name recognition will continue to attract players, while the fact it’s now a Class 3A school will only help build the tradition with added postseason success.

The hire: TBA. But you can expect a prominent name or two to be involved in this coaching search.

St. Ignatius

Former coach: It’s a compliment to any coach when opposing teams dread playing your team –– good or bad. That’s the type of impact the highly respected Rich Kehoe had on the game and this program while coaching at Ignatius.

State of the program: While there has been a steady consistency under Kehoe, the Wolfpack may be taking a step back before its presence is felt again. Junior guard Trey Mack and 6-9 big man Robert Lindland return for St. Ignatius, but going forward the overall talent level in the program is set to take a dip.

The hire: There will be familiarity in terms of a private catholic program for new coach Matt Monroe, who has been an assistant at St. Patrick under coach Mike Bailey since 2008.

Metea Valley

Former coach: Bob Vozza, the only coach in the school’s history, made the tough decision to step down in order to spend more time with his family. It’s never easy starting a program from scratch but Vozza put Metea on the map quickly, winning 25 games and a regional title in his second season.

State of the program: Vozza left this program in solid shape, even after the program’s first season below the .500 mark this past year. But in a short time the program has established a competitive, winning culture as the Mustangs have averaged 18 wins a year in the school’s first six seasons. The top player in the program, 6-5 Malik Hall, is just a sophomore.

The hire: TBA

Waubonsie Valley

Former coach: Chaz Taft stepped down as head coach after three seasons on the job, including a 19-win season in his first season in 2013-2014.

State of the program: From the 1996-1997 season through the 2013-2014 season, the Waubonsie program averaged 19 wins a year and won six regional championships. That’s a nearly two decade run of winning basketball, with 13 of 18 years winning 18 or more games and just two losing seasons overall.

But there is a lot of work to do. The talent level has dropped and the opening of district rival Metea Valley didn’t help. The Warriors are coming off a 5-22 season and have just 15 wins overall the past two years.

The hire: There is a rebuilding job in the works at Waubonsie Valley, so the hiring of Dixon coach Jason Mead makes sense. He took over a downtrodden Dixon program and, fueled by all-stater and Nebraska recruit Isaiah Roby, led the Dukes to new heights.

After going 4-52 his first years at Dixon, Mead put together three straight 20-plus win seasons at a place that hadn’t won 20 or more in over 40 years. He also led the Dukes to its first regional title in nearly three decades.

Nazareth Academy

Former coach: After 10 seasons at Nazareth, John Bonk stepped down as head coach.

State of the program: With some young talent in place, there was going to be some growing pains with that youth as Nazareth went a combined 11-44 the past two seasons. It’s going to be a tough climb to crack the upper half of the East Suburban Catholic Conference, but the Roadrunners do have a solid sophomore class in place, led by guard Kaleb Thornton.

With Thornton and fellow sophomores Christian Payne, Josh Oglesby and Michael Adams, first-year coach Sean Pearson will have a very workable nucleus to work with over the next two years.

The hire: The former Nazareth star, Sean Pearson, is returning to help ignite the program. Pearson, an all-stater and Kansas recruit in 1991, led the Roadrunners to a memorable 28-1 record and regional title his senior year.

Joliet Central

Former coach: When Joliet Township split into two varsity basketball programs at Joliet Central and Joliet West for the 2010-2011 season, Jeff Corcoran headed up the program at Central. He slowly built the program into a competitive one, winning 18, 15 and 16 games the past three years, including a regional title this past season.

State of the program: Corcoran did a lot of heavy lifting in re-starting the program, one that had not been a stand-alone program since 1993. Now, fresh off winning the program’s first regional championship since the Joliet program split, there is some momentum.

In addition, talented and under-appreciated junior guard Jose Grubbs returns, while the Steelmen make the move from the strong Southwest Suburban Blue to the Southwest Prairie.

The hire: TBA

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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