Marian Catholic coach Annie Byrne has been leading a busy life since the team won the Class 4A state title on March 2, but she isn't minding the extra obligations.
"For me, it's been a little hectic," said Byrne, the Times Illinois Girls Basketball Coach of the Year. "We've had a lot of things going on and a lot of things to follow up on, which isn't a bad problem to have."
Byrne and her squad finished the season with a 33-1 record with a state championship, so the coach and her players just may be stopped in the halls a little more often than usual. Marian Catholic avenged a 61-55 loss to Rolling Meadows on Dec. 28 -- its only blemish on the season -- and picked up a dramatic 48-47 win in the state title game. Byrne and her team have developed a team-first philosophy, and she said having a great group of girls sure didn't hurt the Spartan's path to a title.
"The kids weren't worried about themselves or their individual accomplishments," Byrne said. "It was all about how could they help each other to be better. It was about we, not me. We really have great kids."
Byrne credits leadership as the biggest reason the girls were able to win a state title, and she credits senior Megan Walsh for being the Spartan's biggest leader.
"I think Megan Walsh could possibly have been the best leader that we've ever had," Byrne said. "For anything we did, whether it was putting a ball in the basket or even her composure if we needed it. Playing hard in practice, helping keep the drama to a minimum, whatever the case may be, she was all about it."
With the success of the girls program and the boys basketball team reaching the elite eight, Byrne acknowledged that now is a great time around the halls of Marian Catholic. Byrne is 216-51 in eight seasons and is the school's winningest coach in any sport.
"There's a lot of excitement around Marian," she said. "It's a great time to want to be a Spartan. It's a great place."
Byrne said she has learned plenty along the way from her players, and she also credits being a mom as helping to continually teach her more skills she can apply when coaching.
"The power of positive reinforcement," Byrne said. "That really has made a huge impact on me as a coach this year. And having your own child really changes your perspective a lot. I know it did for me."