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Article updated: 4/23/2013 10:10 PM
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Knigge's next at Mundelein
 

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Knigge's next at Mundelein
  • Corey Knigge

    Corey Knigge

 

Mundelein's boys basketball program will need to be patient.

Considering Dennis Kessel blessed us with Kyle, Perry Wilhelm so generously gave us Kyle, Brian and Brett, and Dick Knar granted us Dickie and Robert, the pressure is on Corey Knigge.

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Dads Kessel, Wilhelm and Knar -- the Mustangs' last three coaches -- all had athletic, talented, basketball-smart sons, with Kyle Kessel and Robert Knar the most famous of them all, scoring nearly 4,000 points between them.

Corey Knigge, who was approved by Mundelein's school board Tuesday night as Dick Knar's successor as head boys coach, has no children.

It's understandable. He married his bride, Megan, three weeks ago.

"I held out for 41 years," Knigge said with a laugh.

There's no rush, mind you, but, yes, having kids is part of the game plan for the new coach and Megan.

"Hey, I'm 41. Can't wait too long," Knigge said. "I don't want to be in a wheelchair playing ball with my kid in the backyard."

Knigge grew up playing in local backyards.

He graduated from Grayslake in 1989, where he played basketball under Greg Groth. The 6-foot-4 Knigge, who shot up a couple of inches after high school, earned his undergraduate degree in English from Northern Illinois and his masters from Loyola.

He was student-teaching at Grayslake when he got asked to help coach with the Rising Stars AAU program. He then became a volunteer assistant at his high school alma mater. But it was when he was coaching at Rising Stars that one day he was approached by Stevenson girls coach Frank Mattucci, whose son Joey was being coached by Knigge.

"He said, 'I really like the way you interact with the kids and what you're doing. I need a coach. I don't know if you'd be interested,' " said Knigge, who was interested.

He worked with Mattucci for five years, and in 2001, led by Jenni Dant, Stevenson went downstate.

Then, in 2002, fate seemingly intervened in Knigge's life, taking him to the small town of Woodhull, which is located near the Quad Cities.

"I always set a goal for myself that I wanted to be a head coach by the time I was 30," Knigge said. "I had an interview in Peru, Indiana and AlWood (High in Woodhull) at the same time. I just felt AlWood was a little closer and I was a little more familiar with Illinois, so I took the job there."

The day AlWood offered him the head boys basketball job and a teaching position, he visited his parents.

"I said, 'I got good news, and I got bad news: I got a head-coaching job, but it's way the heck out in western Illinois,' " Knigge said. "My mom was like, 'What town?' I was like, 'You've never heard of it. It's a little tiny town.' She was like, 'Well, what town is it?' I said, 'Woodhull.'

"She started bawling. She said, 'That's where your great grandfather is from.' I had no idea."

Knigge coached AlWood for two seasons. The Spartans went 12-14 under him in 2002-03 and 18-13 the following year. Then the bachelor came back home, hired by Mundelein, where he became Knar's trusty and highly competent assistant coach.

"I think he's extremely deserving (of the head job)," Knar said last month after accepting the athletic director job at Grant. "The last seven years we averaged 21 wins, and I think (becoming the team's head coach) would be a natural progression.

"He's had as much to do with our success as anybody. He'll be great (as a head coach)."

"I'm excited," Knigge said. "Dick and I were together for nine years, and I think we built a pretty good thing there. I just want to keep it going and see if we can't keep it going even further."

When Mundelein plays Libertyville next season, Knigge will be trying to make it three wins in as many games against the Mustangs' archrival with him serving as head coach. He filled in for Knar when Knar was being inducted into the University of Illinois-Chicago's sports hall of fame in 2006, and Knigge coached Mundelein to a 79-67 win over Libertyville. This past season, when Mundelein hosted Libertyville, Knar was in central Wisconsin to attend to his ailing father. Mundelein beat Libertyville 99-63.

It will be essentially an entire new Mundelein squad next season, however. Seven seniors who played for Knar and Knigge will be playing college basketball next year. Nate Williams, Derek Parola, Adam Turner and JT Michalski were the only non-seniors who played significant minutes this past season.

"We got good kids that work hard and play hard," Knigge said. "It's just going to be an adjustment. We're going to plug away, get in the gym and get to work. We've been having open gyms for the last month or so. We'll be all right."

The newlywed will be patient.

Mundelein basketball will need to be as well.

jaguilar@dailyherald.com

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