LANSING | You figured it would be a matter of a few years and Rick Runaas would turn the Lemont boys basketball program around.
The former T.F. North boys basketball coach and T.F. South athletic director took over a program three seasons ago which was 2-24. The first two years were tough with the Indians were 8-17 and 8-18 respectively.
"Our kids have just put in the work and my staff as well," Runaas said after Tuesday's win at T.F. South. "This is a fun group to be around."
Lemont's lone conference loss was to Evergreen Park and it will soon face league leader Hillcrest.
Runaas got some help this year when Juozas Balciunas transferred from St. Joseph, but the rest are home grown.
"These seniors were here last year when we won eight games," Runaas said. "The juniors, they won 12 or 13 last year as sophomores. ... We are learning to win."
With that comes support from the community. Lemont had a large contingent, including its cheerleaders at Tuesday's game.
"That is nice to see and the community has been behind us and the administration has given our program full support," Runaas said. "It is always nice when you get that support."
Lemont is not known as a basketball power. It certainly has made a name for itself in football and wrestling. Runaas is trying to get his program on the basketball map, and so far, he has done a good job.
When he left T.F. North after the 2001-02 season to take an administrative position in suburban Atlanta, it looked like the end of his coaching career and he thought so too.
"No, I didn't to tell you the truth think I would be a coach again," Runaas said. "It's funny, I come back here and then I get an opportunity when the Lemont job opens up."
Runaas did a great job at North, and did a great job as T.F. South's athletic director. The Evansville, Wis. native loved the basketball talent in the Chicago area.
"It is just so great," Runaas said. "I really enjoyed coaching before and the talent in the south suburbs is great. Coming to Lemont, it is nice to play some of the old SICA schools who are now in our conference (South Suburban Blue)."
He also loves more than just the games.
"That two hours of practice, I really enjoy teaching and preparing the kids," Runaas said. "Obviously, it is a lot more fun when you win and it was tough the first two years. With this group of kids, I enjoy working with them in practice."
Runaas has always been a class act and it is nice to see him having success. He knows he has to build from the lower levels down and is not afraid to do what it takes to give the Lemont community a winner.
This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.