Joe Wardynski knew what he was getting into. But after serving as coach Ron Muhitch's defensive coordinator for the last four years, he felt he was ready to be a head coach and he didn't want to wait until Muhitch decided to retire in four or five years. So he decided to toss his fishing line into the water and see who would nibble or bite.
"I might have had an opportunity to succeed Muhitch," he said. "But there are no guarantees. I felt it was time for me to become a head coach. I don't know what my window is. I felt the window of opportunity was there."
Wardynski, 36, talked to New Trier officials about their opening but never was invited to interview. In the end, he didn't want to move his family. When Wheaton North called last March,he jumped at the offer.
"It should be a good fit," Wardynski said about the school only four miles from his old job. "I am aware of the success that Wheaton North has had. They have good tradition here and I want to continue it. Wheaton South has been more successful recently but our immediate goal is to take the program into the upper half of the Du Page Valley Conference with Wheaton South, Naperville North, Naperville Central and Glenbard North."
In case you've forgotten, Wheaton North once was the most dominant program in Wheaton. Under coaches Jim Rexilius and George Turnbull, the Falcons won three state championships and produced several outstanding teams in the 1970s and 1980s that featured two Players of the Year in Chuck Long and Kent Graham.
In fact, Graham's son, Taylor, will quarterback Wardynski's first team. He will quarterback a version of the spread offense, called the pistol, which will emphasize the ball-carrying skills of Mike Trumpy. "He is as good as any high school running back I've seen," said the coach, who got an eyeful of Dan Dierking while at Wheaton South.
Wardynski also is touting senior cornerback Jack Deano, who will play baseball in college and is described "as good an athlete as we have on the team."
Old-timers and alumni will note some other changes as Wardynski attempts to put his stamp on the program. He has purchased new royal blue and gold-colored uniforms with more of a traditional look. He will call the signals for a 50 defense that he employed at Wheaton South. And he brought along two assistants, Eric Hultgren to coach the defensive line and Dan Korntheuer to run the offense.
"It's my honeymoon period. We haven't played a game yet and I haven't had too many parent calls or anyone telling me what we should be doing," Wardynski said. "We want to be sound in what we are doing and I want the kids to have fun playing football. I want to be sure that we are prepared every week to give our kids the best opportunity to win."