[As editor/publisher of the City/Suburban Hoops Report, a high school basketball publication for nearly two decades and recruiting service, I have awarded a Coach of the Year in Illinois for the past 21 years. The following is the 22nd recipient of the award.]
City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year: Mike Healy, Wheaton-Warrenville South
Before we get to the particulars of this magical basketball season for Wheaton-Warrenville South, lets take time to remember some particulars.
The Tigers finished last season with a decent overall record of 17-12 and finished fourth in the DuPage Valley Conference at 9-7. Their season ended with a loss in the regional semifinals.
Coach Mike Healy then said good-bye to a group of seniors, including five starters that made up 91 percent of his team’s scoring and 87 percent of his team’s rebounding.
Now remember, this isn’t a self-running program that just simply reloads with high-profile Division I prospects or transfers year after year. But Healy and the Tigers began to build cohesiveness and, what Healy says, “toughness,” in the summer.
By the time December rolled around the Tigers were 5-0 and morphing into a well-oiled machine. Healy was on the verge of putting together a better product on the floor than anyone expected. More importantly, the Tigers would go through the rest of the season playing above the talent level it had on the roster.
Now, how about those season results?
The Tigers ran the table in the DuPage Valley Conference, which included four teams that won regional championships, going 16-0. They captured a title at the tough Wheaton South Martin Luther King Holiday Tournament, won a regional and finished with a school-best 29-2 on the season.
“It all kind of just steamrolled,” says Healy of the three-plus month joyride with his team.
There wasn’t a Division I player leading the way. There was very little size and not a whole lot of athleticism. No one won more with less than Healy, the 2016-2017 City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year.
Healy saw his team develop toughness over the course of the summer as his team competed in summer leagues and shootouts at places like Bloom, Rock Island Joliet Central. That’s when he knew he would have a tough, competitive team.
Then the quick start, which included road wins over DVC favorites Wheaton North and Naperville North, made Healy a believer of what might be possible, even if he never dreamed of a 29-2 season.
“This group did whatever they needed to do to win games,” says Healy. “It’s hard to explain. But it’s as good of chemistry, unselfishness and love for each other that I’ve ever been around as a coach.”
And a coach who was able to get his team to buy into it all. Healy had a disciplined team that overachieved, yes, but it was a coach who clearly achieved one of the most difficult things to measure: getting the absolute most out of his players and team.
Past City/Suburban Hoops Report Coaches of the Year
2017: Mike Healy, Wheaton-Warrenville South
2016: Gene Heidkamp, Benet
2015: Phil Ralston, Geneva
2014: Tom Livatino, Loyola Academy
2013: Mike Taylor, Marian Catholic
2012: Robert Smith, Simeon
2011: Scott Miller, Glenbard East
2010: Gene Heidkamp, Benet
2009: Ron Ashlaw, Waukegan
2008: John Chappetto, Richards
2007: Pat Ambrose, Stevenson
2006: Gordie Kerkman, West Aurora
2005: David Weber, Glenbrook North
2004: Roy Condotti, Homewood-Flossmoor
2003: Bob Curran, Thornwood
2002: Rick Malnati, New Trier
2001: Conte Stamas, Lyons Twp.
2000: Dave Lohrke, Glenbard South
1999: Gene Pingatore, St. Joseph
1998: Mark Lindo, Naperville North
1997: Gordie Kerkman, West Aurora
1996: Rocky Hill, Thornton