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St. Francis de Sales restructures athletic department

2013-06-25T19:00:00Z 2013-09-16T18:49:11Z St. Francis de Sales restructures athletic departmentMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
June 25, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | St. Francis de Sales is looking to make a name for itself in the athletic arenas and went out and got two big names to join its athletic staff.

The school announced Tuesday former Chicago Bulls 1989 first-round draft pick Jeff Sanders as director of boys basketball operations and former Notre Dame lineman Tom Gullickson as director of football operations.

John Terry was named football coach and Ken Mattini was named girls basketball coach.

Sanders, who is president of the Chicago chapter of the NBA Retired Players Association, said he is excited about his new role.

"Anything I can do to make the kids enjoy the game and school," Sanders said. "I think what (athletic director) Greg (Modzelewski) said about preparing the kids for later, well that is what we are trying to do here."

Sanders was selected by the Bulls 20th overall in the 1989 NBA draft. He played four seasons in the NBA with the Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks, appearing in 55 games.

A boys basketball coach has not been named, but Modzelewski said he hopes to have one shortly. The appointment of Sanders and Gullickson is part of a restructuring of the school's athletic program.

"This is set up to help the student-athlete not only while they are her for four years, but after they get out of high school," Modzelewski said. "We will be unique with this structure and it is one that is a structure of accountability."

While Modzelewski and school president Ray Nedohon said they do not have a "win-at-all costs" mentality, they do want to win. One sport that has struggled has been football and marketing director Rodney Lopez said it is important that the Pioneers improve their program as they are expected to join the Chicago Catholic League in either 2014 or 2015.

St. Francis is an independent in football, but is in the 100-year-old conference for all other boys sports and in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference for girls sports.

"We all know athletics is a big part of the Catholic League,"  Lopez said. "Football is what drives the bus, particularly in the Catholic League."

Gullickson played for Ara Parseghian and Dan Devine at Notre Dame. He was the head football coach at Peoria Notre Dame, guiding the Fighting Irish to their first winning season since 2001. Recently, he was a special teams coach with St. Xavier University in 2011. The Cougars won the NAIA national championship. He is the older brother of former major league pitcher Scott Gullickson. Both are Joliet Catholic grads.

"I think we can get it done here, but it won't be done overnight," Gullickson said. "Like everything, it takes time to build a successful program the right way. I met a lot of the kids and we have good kids here. This neighborhood reminds a lot of the East Joliet neighborhood I grew up in."

Terry said he has has about 50 kids out for football, including 15 freshmen.

"We have to build our numbers up," Terry said. "We have a good group, we just need some more to come out."

Mattini takes over a program which has won three straight Class 2A regionals under Terrence Streater, who left to take a similar position at Eisenhower. Mattini coached Elgin St. Edward's to the 1985 Class A girls basketball state title.

"We want to keep that tradition going," Mattini said. "I met with some of the girls and I think we have a good group returning. We want to keep thinking big and working hard."

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