Coaching is Antonio Maestranzi's renewed purpose, the former Bartlett and Northern Illinois basketball player said Wednesday.
Maestranzi, 33, will be the next boys basketball coach at Rockford Guilford High School, pending approval of the Rockford School Board, RPS District 205 announced.
"I'm unbelievably excited," said Maestranzi, who intends to relocate from Bartlett to Rockford. "I definitely have a passion to coach. The past couple of years I've been doing some AAU and training with some high school players. I just have a real passion for coaching at that level. This is the age and this is the level where you can influence kids the most. I feel like I have a good ability to coach because of my experience. It's what I want to do long term for the rest of my life. It gives me purpose and I have a real passion to do it."
Known as Anthony when he was named honorary captain of the 2001-02 Daily Herald All-Area Boys Basketball Team/Fox Valley, Maestranzi went on to play for coach Rob Judson and assistant Carl Armato at NIU. He finished a four-year college career with 166 3-pointers, good for fourth on the Huskies' all-time list.
Undrafted out of NIU, the 5-foot-9 point guard was approached by an agent who got him into an exposure camp for the Italian Basketball Federation.
Maestranzi traveled to Italy, landed a two-month contract and played well enough to earn two more months.
A good season led to a contract for another. Then another. In all, he played six years in Italy for four teams between 2006-2012.
Upon returning to the United States, he went to work for his family's knife sharpening business in Schaumburg: A. Maestranzi Sons Knife Services.
Meanwhile, he began working for a development program for elite Chicago-area players and became an assistant varsity coach at Marmion.
Last year, he became a full-time AAU coach, following in the footsteps of his father, John Maestranzi, who helped develop several Division-I players as coach of the Illinois Wildcats, including Illinois guard Dee Brown and former Villanova guard Scottie Reynolds.
Last year's AAU season was Antonio Maestranzi's first as a head coach. He directed the Kessel Heat U-16 team to a successful campaign.
When the Guilford job opened after an 11-17 finish in 2017-18, Maestranzi was given the heads up by Armato, a Guilford assistant who will remain an assistant under Maestranzi.
"Coach Maestranzi brings a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to this position," Guilford High School athletic director Augie Toldo said. "He's hungry to help rebuild the program with our students on the court, in the weight room, in the classroom and community."
Guilford's new head coach said his lack of sideline experience will be mitigated by a strong understanding of what goes on between the lines.
"I have a unique background because I got to play at a high level overseas. It's high-level basketball," Maestranzi said. "They use a lot of spacing and things of that nature. I'm grateful I have an opportunity to implement that stuff with these kids.
"But our No. 1 focus is going to be the culture, how we do things, our work ethic and our leadership qualities. I want to build an environment that develops young men on and off the court. That's number one. We want to create an environment where players have a better chance to succeed on and off the court because they were involved with our program. I believe this is a platform to develop kids and prepare them for life, business, relationships, college, all of the above. With that focus we're going to make them hard workers, mentally tough, and we're going to build leaders. I believe success comes as a result of focusing on those things."