Russ Zick has a lot of fond basketball memories, including playing at Hebron as a kid a long, long time ago.
He won’t be making any new ones at Kaneland.
The Kaneland boys basketball coach has resigned after just one season.
“I did love it and was really proud with how we played,” Zick said. “It was just a great experience. I liked the kids. I had a lot of good parents who were super supportive. It was a good year in my life.”
Born a year after Hebron won a state title in 1953, Zick was in complete awe when his fifth grade team played in Hebron’s gym.
“I’ve got a lot of old stories,” he said. “They still only had 48 stars on the flag back then. That kind of dates you, doesn’t?”
While Zick’s love of the game has never subsided, he decided that one year in Maple Park was enough.
“The decision is all mine,” Zick said. “The wins didn’t come as much as we wanted, but I treated this as if I was going to be there for 10 years. I felt like we accomplished what we wanted to at the very end as we were playing very well.”
Put in a difficult situation this past year as the new athletic director at Kaneland with the need of a varsity coach after Joe Conroy resigned, Dave Rohlman acknowledged that they had a major hurdle in not having any teaching positions to offer a potential coach when Zick was hired.
“Coach Zick was a blessing this year,” Rohlman said, "coming to fill the head coach role when we didn’t have any teaching positions to offer a potential coach. We will be looking for a permanent individual to fill this role but we have not done anything official yet.”
Rohlman said he would allow Zick to complete his end of the season stuff, including awards night, before moving forward in finding his replacement. Rohlman anticipates that the position will be posted at the beginning of April.
Whoever the new coach is, they will be the eighth different one at Kaneland in the last 20 years. The Knights have only had four coaches – Ron Johnson, George Birkett, Robert Pederson and Brian Johnson – who have lasted more than five seasons since 1957.
The new coach will be tasked with turning around Kaneland's recent results on the court. Kaneland is on the verge of suffering its third consecutive losing season, something it hasn’t done since it went through five straight losing seasons from 1989-1994.
The Knights finished 6-25 this past season and were knocked out of the postseason by a Glenbard South team that proceeded to win regional and sectional titles. There were few highlights along the way, although Zick won his 600th career game against Streator in the Plano tournament.
The team will lose eight seniors to graduation while juniors Will Cushman, Brett David and Bryce Ebert are among those who can return.
For David, he’ll have his third different varsity coach next winter.
“I guess I’m ready for whomever they pick,” David said.“There’s a lot of uncertainty about it, but it’ll be good for us. Having different coaches with different styles has helped me learn in general. If you buy into that system you’ll know your role as a player and what you can do. I think we should be OK with whoever is at the helm.”
As for Zick, he’s not necessarily done with coaching – although he doesn’t plan on being the head guy anywhere next winter to make it 40 consecutive years as a head coach. Still, he’s open to an assistant coach role if the time, place and timing were right, similar in a way to how he came to Kaneland.
“I’ve got nine grandchildren in Colorado, but I don’t like Colorado,” Zick said. “But I do like to go out there and visit a lot. I would consider an assistant coaching position where I wasn’t the main guy. I’m just not interested in the time commitment now. As a 65-year-old-guy, I just want to be grandpa.”