Former Waubonsee College men’s and women’s basketball assistant Jim Sury of St. Charles is taking the reins of the women’s program, and he’s eager to make an impression. Sury steps in for Dana Wagner, a Kaneland product who stepped down at the end of the 2013-14 season but will remain at the school as an assistant athletic manager. A 1970 Marmion graduate and Navy veteran, Sury spent four years working with troubled youth through Chicago’s Christopher House. In the latest edition of the Weekend Chit-chat, Sury explores his basketball and professional background with Kane Couny Chronicle sports reporter Kevin Druley. Here’s an edited transcript:
What was the dialogue after Dana stepped down? Was it pretty logical you’d take over?
Yeah, I mean, they opened the job up, which I’m sure they had to do. But, you know, I think there were a lot of people pulling for me to get the job. When I went through the interview process, things went really well, and I guess there were several other candidates, but they decided to go with me.
Tell me about your style and approach to basketball.
Get the ball and go. I like to pick up at baseline and stay with them all the way. … It’s kind of like getting back to John Thompson from Georgetown, going from baseline to baseline and just going at it. … A lot of emphasis on defense.
Has defense-first always been your M.O.?
You know, everybody knows me more as being an offensive player when I played at Marmion. I was taught defense, I had excellent teachers in defense, and I think it’s real important. I think you can teach anybody to play offense. I don’t think you can teach defense. It’s an attitude, and you either have it or you don’t. So I know when I go in to recruit, I just look for kids who seem to want to play defense, and so far, it seems to be working out pretty good. Kids that I’ve been able to recruit are good defensive ballplayers, and I just hope to continue to recruit that way.
What was Dana’s approach?
You know, I think Dana was more offense. I think she left a lot of the defense to me, though, you know, I thought we worked really well together. And I’m definitely going to miss that. After last year, we just seemed to really sync our minds more and more together, and there were a lot of times we would just look at each other and literally say the same thing. So I think our coaching styles rubbed off on each other, and we were able to complement each other, and I really liked it. And I know I’m going to really, really miss that.
You have an interesting background between the Navy and the work you’ve done with kids on the street. How much of that ever enters into basketball?
Yeah, you know I’ve always worked with kids. I believe in tough love. I believe also in giving second chances. I believe in giving the kids the power to choose what they want to do, and letting them know what the consequences of those things are. And I know coaching with [Waubonsee men’s coach Dave Heiss], he gets a lot of kids from the Chicago area, where, you know, you have to take a different approach with those kids. And working in the city, I was able to do that, and it certainly helped in being able to reach out and be able to connect with kids.
Are you still on the Marmion alumni board?
Yeah, but I think I’m going to step down. Just time constraints right now, and I’ve been on the board now, for oh, I want to say close to 18 years. And I was past president, so it’s a very demanding position, and I just don’t have the time or the energy at this point. I’m also trying to run my own business [as a painting contractor], and it keeps me going.
Is the painting pretty flexible during the basketball season?
Yeah. That’s why I’m able to really coach. We have practice from 1 to 3 [p.m.], and it just provides me with the flexibility to do both, and it’s something that I really like. And it just keeps me going. I just like the challenge. I like working with the kids. I especially like working with the ladies. And I just hope I can do it for a whole bunch more years. … I encourage people to come out and watch us. We’re going to have an exciting brand of basketball.