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Chaz Taft, who coached South Elgin's boys basketball team to a 91-106 record over seven seasons, has been hired as Waubonsie Valley's new head coach.
"It's a great opportunity," said Taft, 35, Christian name Charles. "I just think the tradition at Waubonsie Valley, the passionate fan base that they have, the following, the school history, and being in the best conference in the western suburbs, still, I believe," Taft said.
"I think another thing that intrigues me was the assistant coaches there. They're the best staff, I believe, in the Upstate Eight Conference."
A physical education teacher, Taft met with his new team for the first time Tuesday morning. Next is a meeting with program assistants Matt Blue, Nick Daniels, Phil Galow and Isaiah Davis.
"I want them to be part of my coaching family at Waubonsie Valley," Taft said.
Taft succeeds Steve Weemer, who resigned March 8 to continue working toward Type 75 Administrative Certification as well as to spend more time with his young family. Weemer's teams went 134-91 over eight seasons.
The Waubonsie Valley braintrust of retiring athletic director Mike Rogowski, incoming athletic director Chris Neibch and principal Jason Stipp moved quickly through a hiring process Rogowski said attracted 40 applicants.
"He's super-organized, he's a great motivator, he's a basketball person. The program will be in good hands," Rogowski said. "He loves the tradition of Waubonsie basketball and he just hopes to keep the strong coaching tradition going. That was his message to the kids this morning."
A 1996 graduate of Fenton High School who played guard for North Park University, Taft comes off a season in which South Elgin went 5-23 and winless in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division. It was the Storm's poorest showing since 2006-07 when South Elgin went 8-21 in its first season of varsity competition.
Marred by the transfer of star guard Jake Maestranzi to Niles Notre Dame, last season seemed to be an aberration. Taft directed South Elgin to a regional title in 2010-11 -- winning 33-32 after a Bartlett player received a bench technical for early celebration -- and produced 19 and 18 victories in successive seasons. Taft's record when removing his first and last season records is 78-62, and he has an overall playoff record of 7-7.
No less intense in his coaching style than Waubonsie predecessors Weemer and Dave Saurbaugh, Taft favors defense that turns into offense through trapping and "havoc," and shot discipline and pushing the ball on opponents' misses, he said.
"I think the kids are going to really like the style of play that we'll be playing. I really look forward to it," said Taft, a South Elgin resident with two "gym rat" sons, Bryce, 5, and Bennett, 3.
At 22 years old Taft began his coaching career at Notre Dame High School for Girls in Chicago, there until 2004. For a year he joined Mike Bailey's staff at St. Patrick, while taking a teaching job at Larsen Middle School in Elgin. Shortly Taft arrived at South Elgin, serving briefly as freshman boys coach before leading the Storm varsity into competition.
Former Elgin coach Jim Harrington was an administrator and sophomore basketball coach at South Elgin when Taft got there, and Taft calls Harrington and Bailey "like my second and third fathers."
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity," Taft said. "I'd have never been in this position to get the job at Waubonsie Valley if it wasn't for Jim Harrington and Mike Bailey, working for them. They've been two of my best mentors in the game of basketball."