MIKE NIETO: Crucial time for St. Francis de Sales athletics

2014-05-01T19:00:00Z 2014-05-01T23:47:56Z MIKE NIETO: Crucial time for St. Francis de Sales athleticsMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
May 01, 2014 7:00 pm  • 

Kevin Wolfe made it clear that when he was brought back after a one-year exile, he would be the boys basketball coach and not the director of basketball operations at St. Francis de Sales.

He will also be the fifth coach in three years if you count him twice. He coached until the end of the 2012-13 season when he was not asked back. This past season, the program had three different coaches, the last being former Bull Jeff Sanders, who was also the director of basketball operations.

Titles are nice, but winning them is even better. Last June, the then-athletic administration introduced what they called a "model" for athletics. In hindsight, it was more like one of the Soviet Union's "five-year plans." Anyway, Wolfe and former football coach John Terry are now back from the proverbial Siberia.

One thing Wolfe and Terry said they have to do – plus the whole athletic department – is reconnect with the East Side and Hegewisch communities. This is the main feeder for the school. It simply has to get the Annunciata kids and even go into South Chicago, like St. Michael the Archangel, and tell them about the school.

They have to be like beat cops, going up and down the streets and door-to-door. They have to go to grammar school coaches and convince them to give St. Francis de Sales another chance. They also have to convince them that they will still be there after one year and with Mary Reid Kujawa as director of student services, which includes athletics, there is a long-term commitment.

Kujawa understands how the school is part of the community. She lives there and her husband Bob is a St. Francis de Sales grad and former coach and athletic director.

"We have to re-gain their trust," Wolfe said. "We have good kids already here and we want kids to come here for the academics because we are a good school academically. We also know we need multi-sport athletes."

Terry said it will take time. The Pioneers join the Chicago Catholic League this fall in football. In the fall of 2013, the Pioneers forfeited several games due to lack of numbers. That was actually a smart move given you do not want 14-year-old freshmen playing against varsity players. They are members in other boys sports and the girls compete in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference.

"We aren't going to win right away, we have to get those numbers up," Terry said. "We think joining the Catholic (Red) will help us because the kids know the schools, the rivalries like Leo and Hales (Franciscan)."

I have said it many times that the school is as much part of the East Side as the streets named after the alphabet. It simply has to get its numbers up because in a private schools, filling up the desks with tuition-paying students is what pays the freight.

The school did the right thing in bringing back Wolfe and Terry. They have the "gung-ho" attitude. They basically are saying "Hey, give us another look."

They are starting to put the pieces in place.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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