By Joe Henricksen

Evanston hires a winner in Ellis

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By Joe Henricksen

The Evanston basketball coaching job has long been considered one of the top coaching positions in the Chicago area. Now the highly-successful and respected Mike Ellis of Peoria Richwoods will get a crack at running it.

The 40-year-old Ellis has been named the new head coach at Evanston, capping off a search process that included a ton of interest and high-profile candidates. Ellis replaces former coach Bobby Locke and brings a whole lot to the table and an impressive résumé.

"When I first started looking into the job and talked with various people, everyone mentioned what a great job and place Evanston is," said Ellis, who has averaged over 22 wins a season in the basketball hotbed community of Peoria. "When I went up there and made my visit I immediately recognized that and knew this was the place for me and my family. Evanston has a great tradition, has had some terrific coaches and has had a lot of success. What I hope to bring to Evanston is a teacher and coach that the faculty and students can believe in."

Evanston welcomes a coach who possesses the rare combination of still being young in the coaching profession but with experience and a high level of success. And with that combination of youth and past experience, Ellis can bring stability and a potential long-term answer to the Wildkit basketball program.

Over a 63-year period at Evanston -- from 1921 to 1984 -- the program had just three coaches in Roscoe Hampton, Jack Burmaster and Herb Williams. Since that time no coach has remained on the bench for more than six years, a group that includes Mike Hart for five years, Conte Stamas for six years, Paul Pryma for five years and Bobby Locke for the past five years.

Ellis, who was named the Best Young High School Coach in Illinois by the City/Suburban Hoops Report in 2007, led Richwoods to a 30-3 record and a second-place finish in Class 3A last season. The Knights, who were the only team of the eight playing in Peoria without a Division I recruit, fell to Hillcrest in the state title game. Richwoods also finished second in the state in 2006, losing to Derrick Rose and Simeon in an overtime heartbreaker.

In seven seasons as head coach in a town that loves its basketball, Ellis led Richwoods to a 156-55 overall record with six regional championships, three sectional titles and a pair of second-place state trophies. In addition, he is accustomed to coaching in a high-pressure job. Richwoods spent weeks ranked No. 1 in the state a year ago and has constantly battled rival heavyweights Peoria Central and Peoria Manual for respect in a basketball town.

Prior to taking over the Richwoods program, Ellis spent time as an assistant coach under a pair of former successful Richwoods coaches -- Wayne Hammerton and Bob Darling. In a rather short time since taking over for Darling, Ellis has built a reputation for being extremely organized, with his teams being prepared and opponents well scouted.

In addition to the teaching and basketball side of things, Ellis also felt a sense of community at Evanston, something that was certainly different than what he was accustomed to in the multiple high school town of Peoria.

"One of the real attractive things about Evanston was that sense of community and pride, both within the high school and in the community," said Ellis. "Peoria is a great community, but the fact is the people are split up with those that go with Central, some with Manual and some with Richwoods. I love what Evanston offers in that regard."

Ellis will get the ball rolling in less than two months with a pair of Division I prospects to jumpstart his Evanston coaching career. The return of veteran guard Garrett Jones and the rising and still-improving James Farr instantly makes the Wildkits a contender in the Jereme Richmond-less Central Suburban League South.

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More like 1 of the dumbest hires ever. Since when has Peoria Richwoods had any athletes over the years? Sure they win games and almost won state twice, running 900 different sets. Evanston has athletes. You don't need to run so many set plays with the athletes Evanston has. You run, press, and get into a fast break situation, and run sets when you have to. Leaving Rick Malnati without a coaching job that he actually wanted is the dumbest move Evanston ever made. Whether he teaches or not is honestly irrelevant. You hire basketball coaches to win first, teach life lessons second.

This is the dumbest hire ever made by Evanston. You have Rick Malnati, the best coach in the state of Illinois right in your lap. THE GUY WANTED THE JOB!!!!!!!!!!!! You go get a guy who is successful in a slow, ZONE defense. Has no idea how to coach elite athletes with speed. This is a consensus of Evanston basketball nation. He also has no idea of the Chicagoland area or FAAM in Evanston. Now we will lose more kids to the Catholic Schools and surrounding Public Schools in the area. Folks remember State Title game 2007? Simeon 35 Peoria Richwoods 33 OVERTIME!!!!!!! This guy is worse than Locke in slowing down the athletes in the basketball program. CAN YOU SAY BORING...........BORING..........BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HE will be out of here in 5 years or less and they will be looking for another coach by that time. Guess what??????? Malnati will probably NOT apply for the coaching job again. Whomever makes the coaching decisions in the school whether it be the Athletic Director,Superintendant,or the school board. Whomever it is: DEFINITELY A VILLAGE IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In all the inane hirings of ETHS sports, this beats all! ETHS interviewed arguably the best high school basketball coach in the state of Illinois (Rick Malnati), and passed him up for a coach that has not a clue of the roster he will inherit! He may claim to "know" Evanston's history, but frankly, there is no way he knows more about ETHS basketball than Coach Malnati. I'm not sure if this was determined by the A.D, the Boosters, or the school district, but this decision was a major boner.

Typical Evanston fans with little knowledge but complain to complain. Just replaced bobby locke with an actual coach with a ton of success. But you think any of these fans know this coach? Heck no.

Are these people serious? For Tim in Evanston, it was Richwoods fault in that state championship game in which it was overmatched by a far superior Simeon team to let Simeon hold the ball the entire second half? Simeon held the ball on their hip for most of the half despite being so much more talented. But that was Richwoods being boring and dumb?

Ive witnessed ellis coach multiple times both against downstate and chicago area schools and he has been successful i mean multiple years making it down state in a young coching career im sure he will surprise all of his doubters......

All of you rich folk have no clue what you are talking about Ellis knows how to win, he knows how to get kids to play hard, he has athletes out the you know what, keep talkin shi*, you got a steal here

There is no doubt that Ellis is an excellent coach. I think those who have paid attention to Evanston basketball, know that the development of a youth program and a path to success is more important than X's and O's. We continue to lose athletes to Loyola, Niles N. Niles W, Notre Dame etc.. because we dont seem to understand what all of the newer suburbs around Naperville figured out 30 years ago and Maine S. figured out about 20 years ago, to be successful you have to have a tough love coach who feels comfortable walking into a living room and telling a parent that he will take care of their kid and mean it. Dave Inserra, Charlie Bliss and the other Maine S. coaches do more than give face time at the youth sports programs in Park Ridge, they share information and participate in developing a community plan to win state championships. Evanston is years behind, no feeder system, many of the coaches at ETHS act like they are the only people who know sports or kids and spend most of their time criticizing the Evanston Youth Sports programs. The community should once again be outraged, since there seemed to be a considerable amount of support for the hire of Coach Malnati and the school excercised it's right to do something different, dashing the hope that another Murney Lazier era might emerge in the basketball program.

Get your facts straight Hendrickson. Hart was the head coach at ETHS for 10 years. Stop relying on IHSA.org. It's wrong!!!! And Malnatis first year at NT as head coach was not 2000 either. It was 97.

Richwoods has had no athletes? Come on! Tony Frazier, Tylon Deal and Aaron Davis weren't athletes last year in helping Richwoods to second place?

Wow! You hire the best coach in the state, who gets kids to overachieve, makes them work on their game, is super-prepared and you complain. You will win, you will win with good hard working kids, and those same kids will be ready for college when they go, and you complain. No other coach in the state has had 2 runner-up finishes like Ellis. Watch out Evanston...Coach Ellis is beloved in Peoria and might change his mind and make you all look like fools!

99 percent of the high schools in Illinois would be ecstatic about getting a coach of this quality. These guys come on here from Evanston and go nuts. You act like they hired a guy from nowhere with no experience and no track record. He is probably the best coach Evanston has hired, especially considering who he is replacing.

I read this blog regularly as its the best information and well written work out there on high school basketball. And I read the comments by people. Tim from Evanston is usually right on with most things. He is off on this one. Those Richwoods teams are well coached. Richwoods looked just fine when their athletes took care of Hyde Park and their athletes last December at Chicago State.

Ellis is a great coach. Kids seem to respect the heck of out of him. Joe you're right about him being extremely organized, I've seen one of his scouting reports for a sectional opponent a couple years ago, crazy how detailed it was with personnel, and set, etc of opposing team. Guarantee he'll have Evanston down to state sooner rather than later. Just kind of shocking to see him leave this close to start of season. Don't know if I buy stuff about how Peoria Community divided among high schools was a factor in his decision to leave. However, Peoria school district, like many around the state hurting bad financially in current fiscal climate. Perhaps, $ Evanston offered, and the 'shape' of Evanston school district financially' was impetus for sudden leave?

To all the naysayers out there, were you in on the interview process? Did you hear the candidates provide their vision, their ideas? Did you see and hear the organization that each coach possessed and showed and came into their interview? Did you hear what they've done with kids on and off the floor as a coach and teacher in the past? These people act as if it's a professional job when it's a high school teacher and coaching position.

Titus is right. People assume these high school coaches are just coaches. It's not the pros or even college. You can build and make a program better at the high school ranks but a lot of times you are dealt with a bad hand. There are cyles where programs just don't have the players. There aren't free agents, you can't go recruit(or you aren't supposed to) so there are times when a program will struggle. These guys aren't miracle workers. But I do have a friend in the coaching business who is familiar with Peoria basketball and says Ellis is a college coach who happens to be coaching high school basketball.

The people of Evanston know the players and abilities of the kids in Evanston, the reason they are hating is because you had an opportunity to hire a highly regarded coach and ETHS didnt. for reasons we may never know, i feel the people doing the hiring realized they could control Ellis' actions and doings around the school alot easier then that of a successful coach in Malnati.

Should be interesting to see how Ellis handles the enviornment of ETHS its not all rosey.

I read this and these people sound so foolish. DJK says "Evanston had an opportunity to hire a highly regarded coach and didn't." Say what? Ellis is about as highly regarded as they come. Malnati is more successful than Ellis, JDK says. A winning percentage at nearly 75 percent for his career with 2 state runner-up finish and widely recognized among his peers and those in Peoria for his efforts.

These fans are getting a great man and a great coach to teach in their school and run their program.

I think DJK spoke correctly about ETHS. However I don't think the Malnati fit would have worked like he and some others do. Malnati needs full control. I think it would have been more interesting to see how Malnati handled the environment at ETHS.

Wow it aint what you wanted its what you got now lets stop moaning (KIDS WATCH AND HEAR YOU), life deals bad hands everyday adults teach kids to deal whatever life throws their way and make the best of it we must do the same the coach does have the paper resume to hold the job and unless you have been behind the closed doors of the 94ft office of this coach and watched him worked,his judgement most be held. This reminds me of the recent hire
of Oliver Purnell (Depaul) he was not well recieved either but thru grassroot work with HS and AAU he is ready
to start a season with key support. This guy like it not
has our kids in is hand it is only right we give proper support to help him hold them up.

I give evanston credit. If you watch all the hires or at least most of them, they are usually safe hires and are hired from within with the good ol boy network. Evanston did their homework and went out and got the best possible candidate.

Consider him to be the most motivational speaker and coach I've ever met. He was a great person, coach, role model, and was like a father to me. I experienced his coaching first hand as I played for him last year

Seriously? People are debating if this is a good hire? Comical.

TO ACOACHMYSELF: You are correct in what you said. A coach was hired, by all accounts a good coach. Need to support him going forward. Adults who don't know education and mildly know basketball need to chill out. But really its just a few people on here making the fuss.

Seriously regardless if this guy is a good coach or not he is flat out leaving his school in Peoria High and dry with less than two months before the start of the season and even more so leaving his teaching position and the school looking for a new teacher/coach in October for another High School position??? This is so unprofessional I cannot even believe it.What has high school basketball become the NCAA. I mean if a guy like Ellis were to take a NCAA or NBA job in October people may say wow he got a great opportunity to go to the next level how can you blame him. But the guy is going to Evanston to be a security guard and the coach and leaving his teaching job???? What a fool.

On behalf of the New Trier Trevian nation, we applaud the hiring of Coach Ellis. We know nothing about him but couldn't stand the thought of Malnati walking the kit sidelines. Over the years we really enjoyed New Trier victories over superior kit teams. You had the talent and we had Malnati. We don't know what you will get with Ellis but we sure know what you could have gotten with Rick. This is like Murney Lazier applying for the NT football job and being told NO Thanks! Somewhere Leo Samuelson is rolling over in his grave. This is just another example of the Kitty Litter that has surrounded this school for the last several decades.

And the ridiculousness doesn't stop. This time Backslap is ranting about stuff he has no clue about. Are you kidding with this? When someone has an opportunity at something that is best for him and his family you take it. He is a teacher, not a security guard. Considering the pay for teachers in Peoria he is probably doubling his salary. It just so happened it was a rare and odd circumstance when it comes to the timing. It's not his fault the Evanston job opened this late. Just hate it when people who don't know others and their situation try to act as if they know what is best for that person.

Yes Malnati is a great coach. He is probably one of the handful of coaches who most everyone agrees is a great coach. But can't people accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, this coach is a great fit, hit an absolute home run in the interview process, impressed people beyond what he was up against for the job?

I have heard that Malnati wasn't totally onboard just yet with the Evanston job.

What teaching job did Evanston have???? Did you know all the coaches at other high schools in the area who would like to have applied for this job including the AD at Evanston's brother but didn't because A) the timing is just plain wrong to leave your school at this time or the year, B) because your union got have your teaching certificate revoked if you leave during the school year to take another position at another school district, and c) because Evanston only had paraprofessional jobs open at this time of year and insitsted the new coach work in the building rather than commute from other schools (like most of the candidates were willing to do for a year)..... so what do you really know. I agree with the last poster this guy did leave his school high and dry especially his teaching job. They should of hired the sophomore coach for a year and start over if it didn't work out

Some of the comments on here are unbelievable. As a life long Evanston resident and former player under Herb Williams and Mike Hart, I can't understand the small town minds that are writing on this blog. Yes Malnati wanted the job, yes he was qualified, but how long would he be here??..1,2,5 years??. Evanston needs a coach thats wants to put down some roots and build a program over 10+ years and this sounds like the hire that will do just that. Evanston does have a feeder program called FAAM but no coach since Paul Pryma has even taken the time to acknowledge let alone endorse it. Thats the difference between other programs like Maine South and New Trier. Their feeder programs are run by the high school and the coaches know all the kids by name. They run the same sets as the high school so the kids are walking into high school with the same set of plays. Coaches like Bobby Locke said they dont need a feeder program?..BS!!!

Yes, Chinadoll. You know what is best and right for everyone. There are decisions in life that often are out of your control.

Why does everyone think Malnati wanted the job? JK is correct. Malnati wasn't totally onboard when Evanston couldn't meet his demands for staff accommodations. He didn't want to teach and demanded postions for his staff that ETHS didn't have open.

If it really came down to Malnati and Ellis, it was a win-win for Evanston. Other schools would love to have a pair like that to select from. Who cares if some people out there don't get or understand that. Good luck coach Ellis! Go Kits! We finally have a basketball COACH.

Coach Ellis is a terrific coach. He adapts well to his talent--the last 2 years he has had hyper-athletic players and went to the Memphis offense to compliment their strengths. Orther years when his team is less athletic, he has played more of a controlled offense.

He has coached big kids as well as smaller fast kids. Recruiting is imperative in Peoria and he relates well to parents and kids.

Richwoods plays in one of the top conferences in the state --Manual, Central and Peoria Notre Dame--and Ellis is considered the top coach in the area.

His works extremely hard and demands that of the kids.

His scouting reports and preparation for opponents is second to none.

Evanston got a real diamond here.

Obviously people commenting on here have no idea who Ellis is and what he does as a coach. I can tell by reading some of the comments. He hasn't coached athletes? Ok. That makes no sense. He has a boring style? I like to watch the dribble-drive offense that has swept the college game and Richwoods implemented with the ATHLETES he had.

I sure hope this new coachknows what he got himself into.....based on the comments here i would hate to be him if he starts out 1-3

Coach Ellis is closer to a college coach than any coach in the state. Progressive, demanding and very caring towards the students. Adapts well to his talent.

Again, you got a terrific coach.

Great hire!! Plain and simple. Rick Malnatti would have been a good hire as well, no doubt, but he was a short term answer. His kids will be in high school in a short period of time and if you think they would be moving to Evanston, you really are out to lunch. The Wildkits have not had a head basketball coach since Paul Pryma left. No strength program, no atheltic development training, no offense, a 2-3 zone D, no pressure D, no scouting, no preperation- Essesntially a JOKE. You now have a coach who will mentor his student athletes as well as the students he teaches. Yes, he is a teacher, not a security guard. He has a college degree and a master's- something Evanston student athletes should recognize as valuable. He will run a Basketball Program, he will interact with FAAM and have as good of a relationship with FAAM as anyone could possibly have. This means the feeder program will once again have a connection to the High School. He will coach his kids up, prepare them for college and he will bring in college coaches because they respect him and his program. Lastly, they will WIN. Evanston "Community" get over yourself and realize the big picture.

An ETHS parent who has family in and around Peoria. From all I have heard from those people in Peoria is how great a man, teacher and coach Mr. Ellis is. Take some time to get to know him, support him and Evanston will benefit. He sounds like someone ANY school district should welcome and be pleased to have hired.

It's been 24 hours since Mike Ellis has been hired. He has probably gameplanned more in that time than our previous coach. Go get'em Coach Ellis! Great to have you and even better to have a true basketball coach at a school that deserves one.

The most dangerous ETHS supporters are the ones who THINK they know the inside story, but are, in fact, merely speculating. The current varsity squad is loaded with talent. Coach Ellis is well fitted to take this group IMMEDIATELY to the next level. This will not be a stubborn, zone-obsessed defense, but a multi-faceted, flexible shut-down crew. This will not be a half-court, momentum-killing spectacle, standing in fear of being yanked by the insecure, cussing security guard, but a well-drilled, instinctive array of attack options. I absolutely am convinced that Coach Ellis is able to bring out the very best of Jones, Farr, Rosenberg, Williams, Perrin, and the rest of the boys... PLEASE, get behind Coach Ellis and give him just a little time... !! "Judge not according to appearrance only, but judge righteous judgement." Get some knowledge, and, GO KITS!!

I can tell you something about Coach Ellis--The kids better come ready to work both in season and out of season. Weightroom, conditioning, skills development, open gyms, summer shootouts, etc. You might even lose a kid now and then who doesn't want to work that hard. None of the kids will outwork Coach Ellis though--he has a tremendous work ethic.

He will also be very active in any feeder youth programs that you have.

I will give this guy a chance. TRY ONE YEAR!!!!!!!!!!! And it's not about wins and losses cause to be fair he's coming on late in the preseason. I want to see how he develops the talent and if he uses the kids talents to the best of their abilities. For me it's about developing the kids. We haven't had a coach like that for a long time. And as for the winning record they said the same thing about this current football coach at the school. What has happened? No playoff berths yet. So because a coach has won in Peoria does not mean he can win in the big city environment of the Chicago area. Peoria is totally different from basketball in this area. So for you folks in Peoria who THINK you have a clue really don't. I'll give the guy a shot but it won't take me long to figure out if this guy can coach or not. As for coaching in high school. having a teaching certificate does not guarantee you to be a good basketball coach. There are lots of good coaches out there who don't teach in the building. Get a clue folks.

A teaching certificate does not mean he can coach, but it does mean he is college educated male role model and is actually a teacher. In Evanston, the goal should be that our children aim to go to college and graduate. This needs to be reflected by the adults who are in high profile positions. Evanston is not a CPS school. We care about education and we care that the adults that mentor are children have the same values as 99% of the community does. Good coaches are teachers, that is a fact. I'm glad you are going to give the new coach a chance. That is a HUGE relief to the rest of us and I'm sur Coach Ellis can sleep tonight. Comparing the last coach we had to the new one is like comparing Coach K to your old 2nd Grade Gym teacher. He can coach/teach/mentor/WIN- let him.

This will prove to be a fine move for ETHS. Coack Locke had some good points, but he held grudges on his players, had them playing afraid to be pulled for mistakes, and was very stubborn in not adjusting offensive and defensive strategies to flex with different game situations. These are all qualities of a somewhat immature coach. Coach Ellis will require much hard work from his players, is well-known for NOT holding grudges on his players, and employs ANY strategy to adapt to various game situations. He's going to need a little space to get things going, but when he does, the results will be solid and long-lasting for ETHS. The CSL is tough, but Ellis is well-tested, and knows how to handle talent, and scout opponents to the max. Coach Ellis inherits some solid talent: Farr, Jones, and some excellent team-oriented players such as Clarke Rosenberg, Ryan Williams, Leonard Garron, Jordan Perrin, and others. I wish Ellis well, and believe the Wildkits can at least beat New Trier and do well in the post season, IF they work hard and buy into Ellis' methods...

North Shore uhhhh Evanston is in the Chicago area. And yes I have coached Evanston kids with great success. You know why? Because I was concerned with building the kids skill level not my own agenda. Evanston does have talent but let's see if they can achieve like they should.

Do you know what a CPS school is? It stands for Chicago Public School. ETHS is in Evanston. It has higher standards academically then a CPS school. It also has a higher moral, social and character model when it comes to educating their students. If you don't understand that, you are clueless. There are a handful of CPS schools that are great schools, but ETHS is in a different league, as a school.
Coaching in FAAM does not go down on the coaching resume, sorry. There is a small difference between high school basketball and FAAM- the basketball coaching differences should be obvious- the teaching, character development, discipline and education component is what really seperates the two. Good luck in FAAm this year. Leave the real coaching to Mike Ellis. Concentrate on what you do best, sitting back and criticizing, while enabling the kids who really need some tough love and discipline.

Ellis is one of the smartest coaches in the state of illinois for a peoria team to actually play against top ranked schools and win without discipline you cant win at all was the 2010 class suppose to go to state no was the 2006 team suppose to go to state no. what team was going to handle derrick rose obviously nobody 2 state titles back to back but we dont have athletes ok obviously we didnt need athletes. Its alot of people out their that are athletic look at jereme richmond now look at his dumb ass cause of no self discipline i bet yaw record over at evanston is looking real good right now cause he's their how many times have yaw got to state in the last 20 years?

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on September 27, 2010 8:19 PM.

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