After examining the resumes of dozens of applicants for New Trier's vacant football coaching position, athletic director Randy Oberembt opted for somebody he could feel comfortable with, someone he knew, someone he trusted, someone who can relate to the Winnetka school.
Matt Irvin, who was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's high school football coach of the year for 2007, has been named the new coach at New Trier. He was selected over Bryan Stortz, who coach Lake Zurich to the Class 7A championship last season, and will succeed Dan Mortier, who retired after a 17-year career and had guided the Trevians to the state playoff in 12 of the last 13 seasons.
Irvin, 37, coached Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School (MICDS) to three ABC League championships and two trips to the Class 3 state championship game. His teams were 33-3 in threee years. His 2007 squad was 12-1, was ranked No. 1 in the St. Louis area among small schools and lost in the Class 3 championship game.
MICDS is a co-ed private school with an enrollment of 1,200 students. It is located in Ladue, a St. Louis suburb and one of the highest income-per-capita communities in the United States.
"It's a really great opportunity, a great challenge," Irvin told the Post-Dispatch about his move to New Trier, which has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students. "It's a chance to step out into something that is not familiar."
At New Trier, Irvin will be reunited with Oberembt, who was athletic director at MICDS before leaving last year to take the same position at New Trier.
"Matt rose to the top of an excellent pool of candidates and was the unanimous choice of our search committee," Oberembt said. "That's on the basis of Matt's demonstrated record of football success and proven commitment to academic excellence."
Irvin was an offensive lineman at St. Charles (Mo.) West High School and Missouri State University. He was an assistant coach at Kirkwood (Mo.) High School before assisting for eight years at MICDS under Ron Holtman, who produced a state champion in 2004.
Not everybody is delighted with Irvin's selection. Maine South assistant coach Charlie Bliss, the architect of the Hawks' four-wide-and-let-it-fly offense and an acknowledged guru for developing young quarterbacks, said he applied for the job but wasn't invited for an interview.
"To name a coach from St. Louis is a slap in the face to all the high school coaches in Illinois who have worked hard and are qualified for the job," Bliss said.
Irvin has developed a reputation for masterminding on his own. He scrapped MICDS' traditional running offense for a shotgun, no-huddle, pass-oriented scheme that has been very successful. And he is noted for his attention to detail. Each practice is timed to the minute. He also produces three to four-page reviews in which each player is evaluated on his performance.
"This is a calling," he told the Post-Dispatch. "It gets in your blood. You understand why guys come back to it. There aren't a lot of similar things."