The Batavia boys basketball team has a whopping 11 seniors on its roster, which might suggest gearing up for the season would be a relative snap for the Bulldogs.
Not so. Even the most veteran of teams must, in some regards, start from scratch when a new coach is calling the shots.
As a handful of area basketball programs usher in new coaches this winter, the regime change at Batavia might be most jarring to area hoops fans. That’s because a new Jim is in Batavia’s gym – Jim Nazos has taken over for Jim Roberts, who coached the Bulldogs to 455 wins during his 27-year tenure.
Nazos was only with the Bulldogs for a sliver of the summer so preseason practices the past two weeks have called for patience from Nazos and the players alike.
“There’s a lot of explaining drills and just different terminology for them,” Nazos said. “There’s going to be more teaching, more time stopping things and teaching and going over things. There’s a lot of learning going on.
“That’s OK. I’m expecting that and trying to take [the approach] at practice to get a little better each day. Small steps. It’s a long season, so just take it a small step at a time. They’re getting used to the terminology I have and I’m still learning things they can do as players and what they do naturally and trying to make it fit.”
Nazos comes to Batavia from Wheaton North, where he spent 12 years coaching the Falcons.
Wheaton to Batavia isn’t much of a road trip but Pat McNamara’s new commute is even less of a gas-guzzler.
McNamara is in his first season coaching Aurora Christian after serving as an assistant coach at nearby Aurora Central Catholic the past few seasons.
He is a veteran of the Aurora private school scene; McNamara was previously head coach at Marmion for five seasons in the mid-2000s.
While McNamara’s transition has been complicated by three projected starters still playing for the powerhouses Eagles football team, he’s enjoying the overall vibe at Aurora Christian.
“They’re nice kids,” McNamara said. “They’re terrific kids up there. My daughter graduated [from Aurora Christian] last year so I’m pretty familiar with the school and a number of athletes. I think it’s gone smooth. We’ll see how it goes once games get going, guys don’t get playing time or something like that. That’s just the nature of the beast, but so far I’m very pleased with the way things are going.”
On the girls side, former St. Charles North boys basketball coach Mark Smith is the new coach at Burlington Central.
That could make for some mixed emotions on Feb. 5 when the Rockets are slated to host the North Stars, the program for which Smith’s daughter, Kelsey, shined en route to a Division-I college career.
After his coaching tenure at North, Smith coached women’s college basketball at Harper College.
“When I switched from boys to girls, it was still sitting in a halftime locker room dissecting the same types of things,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of fun coaching the girls and I’m looking forward to it with Central.”
Rosary’s new coach also has college coaching experience. First-year Royals coach Jessie Wilcox, who graduated from Northern Illinois in 2009, was an assistant coach at Wisconsin-Oshkosh before pursuing her goal of becoming a high school head coach at Rosary.
“I’m excited to get things started, but I’m also very nervous,” Wilcox said. “A couple of weeks isn’t always enough time to get things together, whether you’re new or not.”
• Kevin Druley contributed to this report.