Some decisions are both easy and hard, as John Tsarouchas can attest.
Tsarouchas, who played high school football at Taft and came back to coach there for 10 years — leading the program the past five years — resigned on Tuesday.
He’s moving to Spanish Fort, Alabama, where he’ll teach English and coach offensive linemen at Foley High,
“In short, life happened,” Tsarouchas said Tuesday night. “I’ve been telling people a bunch of dominoes would have to fall for anything like this to be possible. They fell in a short period of time.”
In particular, Tsarouchas said, “I definitely have always prioritized family. My in-laws live in Alabama, we are going down there to be with family.”
But leaving Taft will be hard, especially after the Eagles have emerged as one of the Public League’s elite programs on Tsarouchas’ watch.
He led them to a conference title in the Chicago Big Shoulders and Class 8A playoff berth in 2016, an 8A playoff berth and the school’s first Public League football title in 46 years in 2018, and a third IHSA playoff bid in 2019.
The Eagles were 3-2 in the abbreviated pandemic season, giving Tsarouchas a 26-20 overall record.
“It’s been so fulfilling and rewarding to lead my alma mater,” Tsarouchas said. “Thankfully we’ve been growing and getting better. It’s been a joy.”
That said, he added, “I feel like I’m leaving with some unfinished business.”
The Eagles have been competitive with Simeon in 2019 and Phillips this spring, but couldn’t knock off the traditional CPS powers. And Taft is 0-7 all-time in state playoff games.
Still, Tsarouchas believes he’s leaving the program in a good place. He credits players for buying in.
“I am most grateful for the first group of kids who really had no reason to believe they could be (this) good. Their attitude and effort and trust in the process laid the foundation.”
Taft now has its own lighted, on-campus stadium, making Friday night lights a reality on the Northwest Side. And there are both talent and numbers on the lower levels. Taft’s B team, made up mostly of sophomores, took over Roosevelt’s schedule this spring when the Rough Riders opted out, and won the Chicago Madison Street title.
Even though he won’t be the Eagles’ head coach any longer, Tsarouchas will never stop being true to his old school.
“I’m a Taft kid,” he said. “I’ve always had the Taft chip on my shoulder to this day. Anybody wants to knock it off, they’re going to have an issue.”