Mark Morgan waited a long time for his first head football coaching job and the longtime assistant with various programs is anxious about taking over at Washington High School on Chicago's East Side.
He succeeds Jimmy Smith, who died in February.
"I want to take the program where we can win a state title," Morgan said. "A lot of people have told me that is impossible and it is if you don't strive high."
The Patriots were 5-4 last year in the Public League's Windy City division. They need to finish in the top two of the conference to qualify for the playoffs. His goal is to move the team up to the upper divisions of the Public League.
"The foundation is here and Jimmy did a great job here in his four years," Morgan said. "Jimmy had them on the right track and we want to finish up and build on what he did."
Morgan, a 1973 Bishop McNamara grad, started coaching as an assistant football coach for Pete Billick and assistant basketball coach for Dan Rogovich at Andrean. the 1980 59ers made it to the Final Four in basketball.
He has also been an assistant at Mendel Catholic, St. Francis de Sales, twice at Thornridge, Homewood-Flossmoor, Thornwood and Chicago Christian. He also was a graduate assistant at Southern Illinois in 1984.
"I have learned from a lot of great coaches and I've been fortunate to have served under them," Morgan said. "I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to be a head coach."
Washington athletic director Ish Jaquez said Morgan's enthusiasm caught his eye right away.
"He talked about building a program and not once did he ask how much the job paid," Jaquez said. "You can tell he is dedicated to the kids."
Morgan said the key is to keep the neighborhood kids at home.
"We have some talent and they know how to win," Morgan said. "We have to preach that they do not have to travel to another school miles away. They can go to Washington and help build something."