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Sincerity. Humility. Class.
Oh, and 617 career victories.
Those are among the hallmarks in the tenure of retiring Benet girls basketball coach Peter Paul, whose last game came in a Class 4A Joliet Central sectional semifinal loss, 54-37 to Neuqua Valley on Feb. 24.
That ended a sportsmanlike yet fully competitive and wholly successful reign of 29 seasons, though Paul sees no change with 10-year assistant Joe Kilbride as his successor.
"When I look back on it, it was a good run," said Paul, who will remain as a foreign language teacher. "I keep saying, I think Benet's a good place and Kilbride will do a great job and we're just going to move ahead."
Benet athletic director Gary Goforth is a big fan of Joe Kilbride. Still, of his longtime friend Goforth admitted: "It's going to be rough to see him leave. He's done a great job."
Tied for eighth all-time in victories by an Illinois prep girls coach according to Illinois High School Association records, Paul won 18 regional titles and four sectionals, making it downstate in 1998.
His Redwings won the East Suburban Catholic Conference five times -- he's going into the ESCC Hall of Fame this April -- and between 1997-2006 won no fewer than 24 games with a career-best 29-5 mark in the Elite Eight year of 1998. He retires with a record of 617-260, a 69 percent success rate.
"The trip downstate certainly is No. 1 on my radar," said the silver-haired tactician. "I think the battles we had versus Naperville Central, against Candace Parker, are No. 2 on my list. I think we were the last high school team to beat Candace, in the (2004) sectional final."
He also enjoyed coaching players who, as they say, walked through the door.
"I've been very proud of the fact that I've never seen a grammar school game," Paul said.
One of his former greats, Jordan Wilson Bakovic, said Paul was often "like a second dad" to Benet players.
"The thing about Mr. Paul, aside from being a coach to so many of us, is he had a really good, genuine interest of us as people," said Wilson Bakovic, now in corporate sales for Marriott.
"When I try to think back to when I played for him I honestly can't think back on any of the plays or anything in the X's and O's column, but I remember meetings with him about how we were enjoying our high school experience, how we were doing in school, the friends we had outside of basketball. He always wanted to know how we were doing," she said.
During halftime of a boys game, Goforth had planned to present Paul with a plaque commemorating his 600th victory, Nov. 26 against Bartlett. The coach declined.
"That's a part of my nature, a part of being Peter Paul," the coach said.
"I've known him for 35 years," Goforth said. "He doesn't like the limelight, he doesn't like people fawning all over him. To him the program was the girls."
Several of the girls, some now highly successful women, returned for his final home game as head coach against St. Joseph. It wasn't an official gathering, a remake of a snowed-out game. But they were there, six sets of parents and 10 former players, recalled Jordan's mother, Janice Wilson.
"That they would all make it a point of being their for his last home game to cheer him and give him their support and respect is probably the most telling thing of all," said Janice, who appreciated Paul attending each home visit by a college coach during Jordan's recruiting process.
"He fostered family relationships between girls and their families," Janice Wilson said. "He really considered the family connection important -- not that he was courting families, but he thought we were all in it together as families, as people."
Paul joked that he'll sell tickets at the door for Redwings games next season. His teams sold plenty of them with him on the court.
"We had some successes (but) it's very hard to define that," Paul said. "I think that there certainly were some misses along the way, but when I look back on it, certainly it will be a success."
Sky eyes Trojans
The Chicago Sky women's professional basketball team awards weekly high school teams of the week. Announced Wednesday, this week's honoree is the Downers Grove North Trojans, coached by former Trojans standout Stephan Bolt.
Bolt's charges went 25-4 this season, winning the most games in the program's history while also winning the West Suburban Silver for the first time in 35 years.
The Sky also likes what teams do off the court. In addition to volunteering as coaches and mentors for youth leagues and camps, Downers North players volunteered with PADS, the Salvation Army and Feed My Starving Children, plus leadership programs within the school.
Blackhawks, Penguins, Admirals
Several youth players from the Admirals United Youth Hockey Club, based out of Glen Ellyn, took the ice to join the professionals as starting lineups were announced at the NHL Stadium Series game Saturday at Soldier Field.
This just in: They got snowed on.
We recently ran an item on Arizona swimmer Kevin Cordes, a Neuqua Valley graduate featured in Sports Illustrated magazine's "Faces in the Crowd" section. On Monday another area collegiate made it, Boston College goalie and Wheaton native Corinne Boyles.
A graduate student at Boston, she got it for helping the fourth-ranked Eagles win the Beanpot championship while earning the annual contest's goalie award, and also for helping Boston clinch the Hockey East regular season title.
Boyles has reaped a steady stream of honors. She was the Hockey East co-goaltender of the month for February, and starting in October she was named the league's defensive player of the week six times.
A gold medalist on the women's 2009 Under-18 national team, in 30 games this season through Monday, Boyles is 22-5-2 with a minuscule 1.60 goals-against average -- eighth in the country -- and a .944 save percentage.
Friend of Daily Herald James O'Connell, student development liaison at Morton College, informed us of the February passing of former Willowbrook football coach Clint Evans.
Inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988 and Willowbrook's own Hall of Fame in 2011, Evans was a coach in three decades for the Warriors, from 1967-84 according to Illinois High School Association records.
He directed Willowbrook's top teams ever -- consecutive seasons of 10 and 11 wins in 1974-75, when he led the Warriors to the state semifinals in the first two years of the state series. He added a nine-win season in 1976 and overall went 110-53-4 over 18 seasons.
On a website devoted to Willowbrook alumni, it said Evans worked with the noted Bishop Dullaghan Football Camps, attended by people such as Naperville Central's own hall of fame inductee, Sean Payton.
Evans' entry on that site stated he connected with most every Willowbrook student, athlete or not.
"Clint was a first-rate guy," O'Connell seconded.
Like many teams, Naperville North's boys basketball team schedules a 3-point shooting contest to determine which players the team will send forth into the state contest, starting with regionals.
All-Area player Anthony Rehayem earned a spot as one of the Huskies' four finalists. Fellow senior forward Nick Lemanski did not. However, since Lemanski had been unable to play this season due to injury, Rehayem gave up his spot for his teammate.
"It is great to see this kind of leadership and sacrifice for another teammate," noted Huskies coach Jeff Powers. "Made my day!"