Elites get coaching makeover: A look at five new coaches

There are new faces in charge at Lemont, Loyola. St. Rita, Bolingbrook and Kankakee.

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Lemont coach Willie Hayes addresses players at the end of football practice.

Lemont coach Willie Hayes addresses players at the end of football practice.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Not that long ago, Willie Hayes was one of those kids running around on the hill overlooking the south end zone at Lemont’s football stadium.

Then, he was dreaming of playing for the varsity. Now, he’s getting ready for his first season as Lemont’s head coach.

“It’s everything,” Hayes told the Sun-Times. “I graduated from here [in 2008] and I remember telling some of our teachers and staff that I hope someday I’ll be back.

“I was blessed because I knew right away what I wanted to be. I wanted to coach, I wanted to be back in education and help out kids and be a positive role model like I had growing up.”

Hayes played for Eric Michaelson, now the school’s principal, and was a senior linebacker on the 2007 team that was the Class 6A runner-up.

Then Hayes was off to North Central College to earn his physical education degree and play football. He did his student teaching at Lemont in 2012 and was hired as a paraeducator. The next school year, he got a teaching job and he’s been on staff ever since.

Hayes started his coaching career under Michaelson, who went 106-33 with two state runner-up finishes and three perfect regular seasons in 12 years. Bret Kooi took over in 2014, and the winning continued: an 82-18 record, another state runner-up finish and three more undefeated regular seasons in nine years.

Kooi stepped down after last season and Hayes, who had been defensive coordinator since 2017, took over as head coach for one of the south suburbs’ premier programs.

There’s an expectation that Lemont, which has missed the IHSA playoffs only once since 2004, will play deep into November. Hayes fully embraces that.

“I think it’s a great thing,” he said. “If you have pressure like that, it’s something you have to live up to. ... It holds you to a standard that you can’t let the kids down. You can’t let this community down. So I’m going to do everything I can to bring home a title for us.”

Hayes isn’t the only new coach taking over an elite program this fall. Here’s a list of four more:

Beau Desherow, Loyola

The Ramblers stayed in house when John Holecek stepped down after 17 seasons with a 186-35 record, three state titles and four runner-up finishes.

Desherow played for Loyola’s 1992 state runner-up team and coached at his alma mater for 16 years. He’s worked for the school since 2004 and most recently served as vice president for admission and enrollment.

Martin Hopkins, St. Rita

Like Lemont and Loyola, St. Rita hired an alum to replace a successful longtime coach.

Hopkins played for the Mustangs’ 2006 Class 7A champs coached by Todd Kuska, who stepped down after 25 years, a 216-94 record and three trips to state.

Titcus Pettigrew, Bolingbrook

Pettigrew is only the third head coach in 45 years for the Raiders, following Phil Action, who ran the program from 1978 to 2001, and John Ivlow, who stepped down after 21 seasons with a 159-64 record and a Class 8A title in 2011.

A football and basketball player at Penn State, Pettigrew had been an assistant at Bolingbrook.

Miles Osei, Kankakee

Derek Hart took the Kays to their first state-title game in 2021, when they lost to Fenwick in the Class 5A final. He left after four seasons and a 34-8 record to take the head-coaching job at Indianapolis North Central.

To replace him, Kankakee hired Osei, who played at Prospect and Illinois. Osei coached the past six seasons at Elk Grove, leading the Grenadiers to a 7-3 record and their first playoff berth since 2014 last fall.

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