Cappel resumes his career at Crete-Monee

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Cappel resumes his career at Crete-Monee

Tom Cappel is old enough to be Michael Orris' grandfather. So does that mean that the 64-year-old Cappel is too old to coach the Illinois-bound point guard and direct one of the state's elite programs, that the game of basketball has passed him by?

Not hardly.

Orris did his homework. In fact, he and teammate Marvie Keith served on a committee that interviewed applicants for the head coaching position at Crete-Monee. They agreed that Cappel was the best man for the job.

"He is a Hall of Fame coach. He knows what he is talking about," Orris said. "He has coached a lot of Division I athletes. He has been around for a long time. He had a lot of success at Hillcrest.

"I feel we have some Division I talent on our team and he would be good for us. He will be able to develop us. The age factor is what it is. He has kept up with the culture. I dont feel the age difference is a factor."

In 23 years at Hillcrest in Country Club Hills, Cappel won 502 games, produced two Elite Eight qualifiers and built one of the most successful high school programs in Illinois. Now he is eager to start all over again at another south suburban venue, Crete-Monee.

"I'm excited to be coaching again," he said. "I spent two years as an assistant coach at St. Xavier, at the NAIA level, but I missed the high school game."

After taking an early retirement option at Hillcrest, he left in 2007. But it wasn't so easy getting back into the high school ranks. He sent out several resumes, had a lot of interviews and, for a time, he was uncertain if he would get another coaching opportunity.

"I thought high school coaching was pure, innocent. The kids aren't tainted at that age. I found it to be exciting," Cappel said. "I was going crazy at home. You can hunt and fish and play golf, which I do a bit, but in the winter there isn't much to do. I don't like ice fishing. And you can take only so many trips. I have four grandchildren, all girls.

"There were jobs all over the Chicago area. But I turned down one school because the job wasn't what I was looking for. I interviewed at Crete-Monee the first time but didn't get it. Then, when it opened up again, I interviewed for a second time. I was looking for a job first. Now it is a dream job."

Cappel, who once studied to be a priest, was a walk-on basketball player at DePaul. After graduating in 1970, he served as an assistant at St. Rita (football star Dennis Lick was on the team) and Oak Forest before landing at Hillcrest. A resident of Orland Park, he was familiar with Crete-Monee, the old Dome, the good teams with Phil Henderson and Kenya Beach.

Crete-Monee was ranked among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason and Cappel is anxious to realize those expectations and achieve even more. He wants to win 600 games and take his team to Peoria. For the time being, he looks forward to returning to the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament at Rich South and a January 24 game against his old school, Hillcrest.

"I'm having as much fun as ever," Cappel said. "I run six miles a day and work out in the gym three days a week. This is everything I hoped it would be. The further you get into it, the more you realize you have a good time. At first, you are hesitant. It's a new school. You don't know anybody. You wonder how the kids will respond."

But he has a good group to work with and they are responding to his old-school approach. Orris is one of the best point guards in the state, Cappel's kind of floor leader, tough, gritty, a pure point guard. He is surrounded by 6-foot-3 senior Maurice Hopkins, junior guard Marvie Keith, 6-3 junior LaQuon Treadwell and 6-foot-8 sophomore Rashod Lee.

Cappel likes what he sees. And he thinks Crete-Monee fans will like what they see, too, an up-tempo trapping defense and an offense hell-bent on getting down the court as quickly as possible after grabbing the ball off the backboard. The philosophy worked at Hillcrest and Cappel sees no reason why, with the talent at his disposal, it can't succeed at Crete-Monee.

"We don't need to change anything," he said. "We have similar type of kids. You do what you are comfortable with. Will these kids respond to me? I don't see any difference with kids today. All kids have problems. All schools have kids with problems. If you don't like kids, you shouldn't be doing this. I treat them like my own kids. If I have a problem with them, I will bend an ear, ask them what they think, get it out on the table."

Cappel has a seasoned staff -- former Blue Island Eisenhower coach Mike Lyman, former Thornridge coach Danny Turner, John Cullnan and Al Hutton. He has 55 in the total program and plans to raise money for some perks -- pregame shirts and practice gear for everyone.

Orris has been through his own soap opera. The son of two ministers, he attended Palatine as a freshman and sophomore, then moved to Crete-Monee.

Cappel is his third coach in three years. On top of that, Orris committed to Creighton last spring, then de-committed in late June and chose Illinois on September 11. Now he believes he has everything in order.

"This is my team. I'm the leader," Orris said. "The state championship is our goal this year. Team first is the coach's message. This is a team game and everybody has to play their role. The bottom line is to win. It isn't about personal rewards."

Last year, Orris was surrounded by other Division I talent so he settled into a pass-first, shoot-second mentality. He averaged 10 points and seven assists for a 25-4 team that lost to Normal Community in the supersectional.

Orris knows he is a pure point guard, what Illinois coach Bruce Weber desperately needs. That means he is a quarterback on the floor. He has to know where everyone is on the offense, every play, when and where to get them the ball, how to put them in position to be successful on the court, to do whatever it takes to lead them. And, if necessary, to score.

"I'd rather make a cool pass than a basket, so long as we win," he said. "That's what I have to do at Illinois. But I'll have to score more this year, maybe 15 to 20 points per game for us to be successful. This year probably won't be pass first for me. Next year, it will be."

Orris also believes the 2011-12 Warriors will get a helpful boost from 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Perry, 6-foot-5 junior Mark Connor and 5-foot-11 senior guard T.J. Morris, a transfer from Seton Academy.

"No," he said, summing up his expectations for the upcoming season, "(Cappel) doesn't seem like a grandfather to me."

Mike Tirico and Dhani Jones join Notre Dame's NBC broadcast team

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USA Today Sports Images

Mike Tirico and Dhani Jones join Notre Dame's NBC broadcast team

Newly acquired NBC analyst Mike Tirico will serve as the play-by-play commentator for three Notre Dame games this season, NBC Sports announced Tuesday.

Tirico, who left ESPN after 25 years and joined NBC in May, will call Notre Dame's games against Nevada, Michigan State and Duke in September.

Lead announcer Dan Hicks will be on assignment for NBC Sports' coverage of the Fed-Ex Cup Playoffs. Hicks will return to his post for Notre Dame's final four home games of the season, including Stanford, Miami, Army and Virginia Tech.

After his time covering Notre Dame, Tirico will serve as the host of NBC's Football Night in America.

It was also announced that Dhani Jones will join the NBC pregame and halftime analyst Liam McHugh. Jones spent 11 seasons in the NFL after playing linebacker for the University of Michigan.

Notre Dame adjusts to schedule disruption of Sunday opener

Notre Dame adjusts to schedule disruption of Sunday opener

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It’s been 20 years since Notre Dame last played a non-Saturday regular season game, which was a 14-7 win at Vanderbilt on Thursday, Sept. 5, 1996. A good chunk of Notre Dame’s current roster wasn’t born yet when that game took place. 

So Sunday night’s season opener against Texas presents some logistical challenges for Notre Dame not only for this week, but in having next week’s Nevada preparation shortened by a day. 

Coach Brian Kelly, though, does have some experience opening a season on a day that isn’t the usual Saturday. Kelly’s Cincinnati Bearcats beat Rutgers on Labor Day in 2009, then had to get ready for a game five days later (which fortunately was against FCS side Southest Missouri State, resulting in a 70-3 Cincinnati win). 

Notre Dame gave its players Monday off this week and won’t leave for Austin until late Friday. Saturday will then have the team’s usual Friday activities, with a bonus that players won’t have to get up early to go to class before traveling — they’ll already be there, so they can sleep in and get more rest before playing on Sunday. 

“I like it,” Kelly said. “I think the guys enjoy getting a little extra rest, extra treatments. And so I think it comes at a good time for our team.”

Where the challenge lies is next week, when the team won’t get back to South Bend until the early hours of the morning Monday. Classes are in session at Notre Dame on Labor Day, and then practice, film study, meetings, etc. for Nevada still has to fit in the usual Tuesday-Friday window, though that will probably have to be tweaked a bit. 

“Generally where it affects you more is on that next week is where you really have to be careful,” Kelly said. “Because we'll get back in at 4 a.m. Monday and then we play Nevada that Saturday. So my concern is usually around the flip side of it, because you adjust your schedule a little bit.”

The growing problem with high school football scheduling

The growing problem with high school football scheduling

Last Friday afternoon Joliet Catholic loaded its team and coaches into "yellow rockets" and headed to Franklin, Wis., on Opening Night. Both Lincoln-Way East and Lincoln-Way Central headed to Indiana to play games.

Hinsdale Central hosted American Fork. American Fork, located just south of Salt Lake City, traveled to Hinsdale play the Red Devils.

Play in a conference such as the DuPage Valley, which needs to find non-conference games outside of the first two weeks of the season? Then much like Waubonsie Valley (Week 7 @ Fishers (Hamilton Southeastern), Neuqua Valley (Week 5 at Indianapolis Bishop Chartard) or Naperville Central (Week 6 at national power Lakewood Ohio St. Edward) you too will be on the road out-of-state.

Finding a few non-conference games to play is becoming an adventure.

Scheduling continues to be a growing problem for many IHSA football programs. Between the pressures of getting into the state playoffs along with a conference system that also seems to be imploding by the week state-wide, something needs to get sorted out sooner than later.

How about some possible solutions?

Some have suggested expanding the IHSA state playoff field, thus making the need to schedule "five wins to get in" less of a focus for teams across the state. Yet ask any high school coach and a large majority of them have a real issue with an "everyone-gets-in" system. Letting everyone into the IHSA state football playoffs would ease scheduling but also eliminates what many coaches feel makes the IHSA football playoffs special, which is making a regular season schedule actually count.

Conferences? These days more and more conferences, many of which have decades of history and tradition, are breaking apart. From the North and Western suburbs, which have already seen new realignments to the soon-to-be powder keg located in the South and Southwestern suburbs, expect even more scrambling for teams to find games.

How about letting the IHSA take over scheduling? Again some have suggested that the IHSA handle state-wide scheduling and make football much like other IHSA sports, such as football conferences becoming more like regionals. Yet this plan would eliminate well established conferences such as the Chicago Catholic League and others who would want to maintain its history.

Yet one thing seem to becoming much clearer these days as more and more schools head to all points to play games: something needs to change when it comes to scheduling.