MIKE NIETO: Modzelewski ready to lead St. Francis de Sales athletics

2013-01-10T19:00:00Z 2014-04-24T22:57:13Z MIKE NIETO: Modzelewski ready to lead St. Francis de Sales athleticsMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
January 10, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

His career has taken him across the sea and now back to the east side of Chicago.

New St. Francis de Sales athletic director Greg Modzelewski has so much enthusiasm for the school, I am not sure you could bottle it. You might need new a whole bottling plant if you wanted to capture the passion when he talks about the school.

He is very excited about Saturday, which is the day of the school's entrance exam. Anyone who takes the exam Saturday is eligible to win one of two full tuition scholarships the school is offering.

"St. Francis de Sales is a great school and you can get a great education here," Modzelewski said. "We definitely want to get the enrollment up, and 600 or 800 down the road is not out of the question."

The Loyola Academy grad said he was a late bloomer and did not play high school basketball, but he played at North Park University and Plymouth State (N.H.). He played professionally as well as coached in Europe.

Most recently, he rebuilt an under-performing basketball program at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England.

This is not about coaching, but having a program or system, which he has, and making it work at St. Francis de Sales.

"I have a program, a foundation in place," Modzelewski said. "It is a system of being involved in the community. It is community-based."

That will work well because the community where the school is located is known for its civic involvement. Modzelewski is ready to reach out and start at a grass-roots level. And why stop there? There are plenty of St. Francis grads in the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana who may want to try their alma mater for their children.

Sports is not the end-all, but can be a great part of the educational experience. Modzelewski understands that the school has to reach out to its alumni and make them feel welcome when they come back to the school.

If you are a St. Francis de Sales grad, back him and the school. Give him a chance. He may have been an outsider, but he isn't now. Sometimes going outside is a good thing. It can be a breath of fresh air and Modzelewski is that.

I do not think he is just talking a big game. Past performance shows he gets things done. With his connections and know-how, he may take fund raising to a new level.

His concern is not just athletics, but the school. Some of it is appearances.

"We want to get the gym bleachers blue and gold (school colors) like they used to be," Modzelewski said.

This program can be a small-school power and having someone with a vision and the know-how to make that come true is a plus. He understands the importance of filling those desks with tuition-paying students.

His job will not be easy, but he will find a way to make St. Francis de Sales a success on the athletic field.

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

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