By Joe Henricksen
Al Biancalana, one of the more respected and successful coaches in Illinois high school basketball, has officially joined head coach Howard Moore's staff at UIC. The veteran high school coach, who officially resigned and met with his York team on Monday, brings a tremendous reputation to UIC and has previous college coaching experience.
"This decision comes with a heavy heart," said Biancalana. "This was a much tougher decision than most people realize."
Biancalana helped re-energize the basketball program at York. The Dukes won their first West Suburban Silver conference championship since 1968 and captured a regional title in 2006. In 2009 the Dukes, as a No. 12 seed, stunned highly-regarded Foreman in the regional.
"I am very proud of the fact that kids are excited about basketball here at York," Biancalana said in looking back. "I also am proud to have watched kids in this program grow as young men. These are great kids and great people at York. I can't say enough about our principal, Diana Smith, who has been so good to me and my family."
Although Biancalana stated he "loved his time at York," the idea of joining Moore and building the UIC program from the ground level was too enticing to pass up.
"This works for me because I believe in Howard [Moore]," says Biancalana. "I believe in the vision he has, the approach he's taking, and I believe in the values that he holds true. This is exciting to be a part of building a basketball tradition at UIC."
Biancalana, who spent six seasons as an assistant coach at Bradley prior to his recent run at York, brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and has established connections throughout the state. The veteran coach has always been regarded by the Hoops Report and among his coaching peers as one of the best in the business, typically one or two steps ahead of his counterpart on the opposite bench. He's a task-master, extremely organized, a X's and O's guru and one who instills discipline in his programs.
The reputation Biancalana earned while coaching in the high school ranks was one of turning programs around and into winners. He did just that in three high school head coaching jobs in Illinois, including his most recent stop at York. In addition, Biancalana helped turn around the Downers Grove North and Stagg high school programs. Prior to Biancalana taking over at Stagg, the program went just 7-68 in the three years before his arrival. He instantly led Stagg to a 70-45 record from 1995-1999, including the program's first-ever 20-win season and back-to-back regional titles.
In addition to his high school coaching in Illinois, Biancalana had a terrific run coaching at a pair of high schools in California. While in California he compiled a 57-8 record from 1987-1989 at Washington Union in Fresno, winning the California Division IV state championship and earning state Coach of the Year honors. He compiled a 67-44 record at Clovis High School, including a school record 23-game winning streak.
York, which will welcome back talented Will Sullivan this season, will take its time in filling Biancalana's position, keeping all options open at this time.