SOUTH HOLLAND | Mark Anderson and Gary Lagesse stood on the softball field at Thornwood on Tuesday while the Thunderbirds worked on their baserunning techniques.
Anderson is the new head coach, while Lagesse, who built Thornwood into a state power, is his assistant.
Both were out of high school coaching for six years. Anderson retired from coaching at Bloom Township and Lagesse at Thornwood.
Anderson blurted out to Lagesse: "May 10, 2006. Mean anything to you, Gary?"
That was the last time the two faced each other as head coaches. Bloom Township won 2-1. Now the two are trying to rejuvenate a program that struggled after Lagesse stepped down.
"We are actually more like 'Grumpy Old Men,' the movie," laughed Anderson. "Gary, by the way, it was on last night (Monday) and I watched it."
Both said they took the job because they like the challenge. Anderson said Lagesse is his assistant in name only. Lagesse won 694 games and Anderson 314.
That is over 1,000 wins combined and close to 60 years of head coaching experience for the two Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame members.
This is a tough job, but athletic director Rod Galvan could not have found two better people to get things going in the right direction.
Lagesse won three Class AA titles. The two are doing more than teaching fundamentals. They took the team for a walk down the hallway where Thornwood's many athletic feats are on the walls.
Lagesse went down the history of the program and the kids listened. Senior Crystal Nwaokocha said it had a positive effect on her and her teammates.
"That really made us realize how good those teams were and while we may not be that good this year, we are going to work at getting better," Nwaokocha said.
"They have so much knowledge and we are just very, very fortunate to have them as coaches."
Sophomore Hannah McPherson said the hard work will pay off.
"We do a lot of extra things and we are earning new things," McPherson said. "They stress the fundamentals and that is what it comes down to if you are going to win games or not.
"You have to know the fundamentals of the game."
For Lagesse, he is excited as he was when he got the job in 1977, though he knows it is not the same program he left.
"One of the things Mark and I are going to do is build up the feeder system and get the girls involved in summer ball," Lagesse said. "I think we have good kids here and are willing to work hard.
"It won't happen overnight, but I think we can get the program in the right direction."
Just having Anderson and Lagesse aboard is a start.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.