'Use 'em and lose 'em' philosophy costing schools good coaches

Published3/28/2008 12:11 AM

Things felt different when I covered a Glenbard North softball game this week.

For one thing it was a lot quieter.


That's because Jim McKinney is no longer coaching the Panthers. He retired from teaching, and unfortunately the school retired him from coaching.

The same thing happened to Rick Beato at Lisle and Lee Maciejewski at Glenbard West.

McKinney, Beato and Maciejewski have been fixtures on the softball scene. Together, they own a 1,324-533 record in 58 seasons. You think they know a thing or two about the game?

Yet they fell victim to, as Maciejewski put it, a "use 'em and lose 'em" philosophy. While even he acknowledges there are benefits to having a coach work in the building, schools seem too eager these days to push a retiring teacher out the coaching door.

It'll be different covering Glenbard North, Glenbard West and Lisle this season. For me McKinney, Maciejewski and Beato were more identifiable with their schools than any of their great players and teams, and certainly more than any administrator.

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Year after year after year, they invested their sweat and put their heart into their teams, devoting themselves to making their players, the program and the school better.

But the changes have been made and this spring finds three new, well-qualified coaches at the helm.

Josh Sanew has taken over the Glenbard North program. A 27-year-old math teacher who played baseball at Glenbard West and Aurora University, Sanew has coached baseball at the freshman level for four years and the sophomore team for one for the Panthers. He's been around softball throughout his life thanks to a couple sisters.

Sanew knows he has a tough act to follow in McKinney, who didn't want to leave.

"I think that was the hardest part, especially because I was friends with him from talking and working with him for the six years that I got to know him," Sanew said. "I tip my hat to everything he's done. To follow his footsteps, I can't even sleep at night. I get so nervous just thinking about the program they built around here and how successful they've been.

"My thinking is I don't want to mess anything up. I want to keep it rolling in that direction. He's a tremendous coach."

Mary McGrane is the new coach at Glenbard West. She was an assistant coach at Downers Grove North, where she was also the captain of the Daily Herald's All-Area softball team in 1998 before playing at Missouri.


The former catcher was tipped off to the job opening by none other than Maciejewski and his assistant, Al Coppersmith.

"They were kind enough to give me the heads up," said McGrane, who is teaching history and English in Glenbard West's special education department. "They left me with a great team, that's for sure."

Lisle didn't go far to find its new coach. The Lions tabbed Jen Pomatto, a math teacher who has coached in the program for the past 10 years.

She's ready to succeed Beato.

"I learned a lot from him and I feel that I am ready to take the reigns," said Pomatto, who played at Resurrection and Benedictine. "He did a great job building a program and I'm lucky to have the opportunity to hopefully continue his winning tradition."

And what do you know, Maciejewski is coaching again, only now at Hinsdale Central. After coaching freshman football at Wisconsin Dells High School this past fall, he coached sophomore boys basketball at Hinsdale Central and is now the Red Devils varsity softball coach.

"It was a good deal for me," said Maciejewski, who brought Coppersmith with him. "As bad as I felt, that's how good I feel about being rehired at Hinsdale. It's reinvigorated me."

Good luck not only to Sanew, McGrane, Pomatto and Maciejewski, but also to all the new coaches this season. Here's to hoping they build on the past by making their own mark in the future.

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