Ranking the top basketball coaching jobs in the Public League

Coaches throughout the Public League, both past and present, along with others with strong ties to city basketball, were polled.

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Young coach Tyrone Slaughter talks to his team during a game against Hyde Park.

Young coach Tyrone Slaughter talks to his team during a game against Hyde Park.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Public League basketball is unique. There is a reverence for the sport in the city that is unlike maybe any other major metropolitan area in the country. 

The history and roots are so deep. The gyms across the city are distinctive. The players produced are a who’s who in basketball. The personalities are legendary. The South Side vs. West Side debate over many decades. 

Many of the schools, resources and neighborhoods have changed so dramatically over the years, that the basketball programs have often risen or fallen with those transformations. 

Anyone with any prep basketball familiarity knows King basketball has permanent name recognition in this state as a dominating power in the 1980s and into the 1990s. But today it’s a selective enrollment magnet high school toiling in the second-tier White Division. 

The talent that Westinghouse churned out for decades was a constant. Mark Aguirre, Eddie Johnson, Hersey Hawkins, Kiwane Garris, DeAndre Thomas, Cedrick Banks and the Bailey brothers are a few. 

Westinghouse has changed from an area vocational high school to a college preparatory high school with select enrollment, knocking down the old historical building and opening a new one in 2009. But it’s one people still think has an upside. 

Other powers have come and gone –– and sometimes returned after a lengthy absence from relevance. 

Although Simeon has been the one constant over the past 40 years, today the top, most coveted coaching jobs in the Public League would look a lot different than if you surveyed the landscape in the 1980s, 1990s, or even just 10 years ago. 

What was most interesting in this survey in comparison to the one done with the Catholic League and the south suburbs was the importance of principals and overall administration. It was repeatedly cited as the most critical part of having a successful program and, thus, a good basketball job in the Public League. 

Coaches throughout the Public League, both past and present, along with others with strong ties to city basketball, were polled. They were to consider several factors in ranking the best basketball coaching jobs, including: 

• Winning and tradition.

• Location and access to players.

• Salary/pay for coaches and teachers

• Facilities and resources. 

Those surveyed were asked to rank the top five coaching jobs based on the aforementioned criteria. Altogether, 18 individuals submitted votes. First-place votes received 10 points, second-place votes received eight points, third-place votes seven points, fourth-place votes five points and fifth-place votes three points. 

The final results were as follows:

Young (165)

Simeon (138)

Kenwood (87)

Curie (73)

Lane (43)

Westinghouse (22)

Lincoln Park (18)

Brooks (11)

Orr (11)

King (8)

North Lawndale (7)

Phillips (5)

Hyde Park (3)

Interesting results from the voting: 

Young overwhelmingly had the most first-place votes as 12 of the 18 surveyed said it’s the best basketball job in the city. 

Simeon had five first-place votes and Kenwood received one. 

Young and Simeon were the only two schools that were placed among the top five in every vote. 

Here are a few of the off-the-record quotes from those who were surveyed: 

Young

Best job in the city and it’s not even close. … The school has a great academic reputation, it’s located in a gentrified area, the median income of the parents is higher than most CPS schools and the diversity is attractive. … Central location with a desirable academic reputation for families. … Don’t underestimate their culture there and overall success athletically, academically, and socially. Families and parents WANT their kids at Young. … Has an academic center for 7th and 8th-grade students to already get them in their building. … The recent winning tradition is huge. … Has access to all the top academic students due to selective enrollment status. … Access to the top athletes due to a farm system with Meanstreets. … Facilities are above average with the super large gym they have. Terrific facilities for a city school. … There are no parents who will tell a coach “no” when the recruitment begins at Young. … Good gym with two courts. … The administrators love sports and let the coach do his thing. … What people don’t think about it is that good athletics create a good climate in the school. They win state championships there and that does something for that building. 

Simeon

There is a reason why this has been the best program now for close to 50 years. No one has Simeon’s track record. That’s today. When Robert Smith leaves? We’ll see. … Tradition and location will keep families wanting to send their kids to Simeon. … The tradition. Second to none in the city. … Another program with great access to the Meanstreets program. … Recent alums with NBA name recognition. … Kids will go there just because. The tradition is amazing. … Doesn’t have the greatest academic reputation, isn’t in the safest neighborhood, and it doesn’t have the best facilities. But thanks to Bob Hambric and Coach Smith, Simeon’s program is among the best and without them their enrollment would suffer like all of the other vocational schools on the South Side. 

Curie

Diverse enrollment and a mixture of academic programs that make parents say, “yes.” … The gym was just redone, so that’s going to help. … They win. Year after year they win. The program has established a winning reputation and done so with a certain type of kid. Tough, competitive. Winning tradition that attracts players. … Their location — south and central location — gains access to top athletes from all over the city. Plus, their connection through Team Rose. … Newly renovated gym should only increase their status and use as a valuable resource. … Spacious facilities for a city school. … There are a lot of different programs and the southwest location offers opportunities to attract students from multiple areas. … Neighborhood isn’t as bad as others in the city. … Their new gym a big help for an already successful program. 

Kenwood

Has a good academic reputation but, unlike Whitney Young, can be versatile with who they bring in because there are multiple academic programs that kids can be admitted to. You don’t necessarily have to be in the top five percent of your 8th grade class to go to Kenwood. But you can’t be in the lower 25 percent if you aren’t from the attendance area. … They have two gyms and located in Hyde Park, a desirable and relatively safe neighborhood. … Good social scene in area that is safe and teenage boys like. … Admin is eager to win and will work with the coaches. … The talent you can get to Kenwood is endless with its location and access to the school. … Has been and continues to be the sleeping giant in the city. … Desirable school and terrific location for South Side kids. … Sports culture is important to administration there. … Another school with 7th and 8th-grade students to get kids in their building. … The lack of history and success is the downside, but it’s a committed administration and the location is outstanding. Great place with a lot to sell. … The administration there has clearly shown they are going to support athletics there. 

Westinghouse 

Underrated job today. You can win there. … Their winning tradition for decades still haunts other city schools in comparison. … Legendary coaches in the past. Still some really good things to sell, especially with the rest of the West Side drying up. … Has access to top academic students. … One of the newer schools in the CPS and one that offers great resources. 

Lane

Massive school with nice facilities for CPS. … More teaching positions offer more opportunities for coaches. … This should be a powerhouse in the city. The potential is there to be. … Over 4,000 students. Everyone on the North Side of the city tries to go to Lane. If you’re a good student, it’s a good school. It’s a good job. Red-North you can compete in. Pull from a lot of different kids. … I don’t know why it can’t be a bigger factor than it is. 

Lincoln Park

Facilities really hurt that program, but it’s one with potential. They should really thrive being one of the lone options on the North Side for basketball. 

Brooks

Brooks has been called a sleeper for so long — and they did have their moment — but will it ever become a consistent power? The potential is there. … Such a good job where you can win and get players in that area. … An academic school that’s basically being run by the alderman. As a result, he’s invested in the school and since he’s an avid sports fan, he’s invested in athletics. … Brooks may have the best gym in the CPL. Also, their school is a bonafide campus with a football field and a baseball field. So that tells you that sports matter. … The neighborhood is not good, but the school being gated makes it a little better. 

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