New Elgin boys basketball boss David Hess arrives prepared for his second head coaching job.
Introduced to the players and their parents at a Monday meeting, Hess, 37, spent the last nine seasons as an under-level coach at Stevenson, the last six as sophomore coach at a time when the varsity won three state trophies, highlighted by the 2014-15 Class 4A title.
The 1999 Hersey graduate was a single 25-year-old in 2006, when college friends from Millikin encouraged him to apply for the then-vacant head coaching position at downstate Tuscola.
Hess landed the job, though his experience coaching high school basketball to that point amounted to one year as a varsity assistant under his former coach at Hersey, Don Rowley, and one year assisting Leroy Jarka at Lane Tech.
He directed the Warriors to a 41-46 record over three seasons, including two winning campaigns, a conference title and a regional championship in 2007-08.
"David knows what he's doing," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose. "He's been a head coach before and he did a great job as our sophomore coach. He was the head assistant during our runs and certainly did as much as anyone in our program at that point. He really helped us. He is worthy, willing and able. I could use a lot of adjectives. We're losing a good one."
Hess grew up in Arlington Heights, where he resides with his wife and three children. He was willing to take a step back from being a head coach nine years ago, he said, to return to the area and work in District 125 under a coach of Ambrose's caliber.
Better-seasoned, Hess gets a second chance to handle his own program, one that originated in 1899.
"I've prepared for a long time with this goal in mind," he said. "I feel I'm better prepared to know what to expect being a head coach. It's really like running a small business with your coaching staff, the feeder system, administration and players and communicating with them all. I feel I've improved in so many aspects."
Hess replaces Mike Sitter, who announced in January he was leaving after 11 seasons to become athletic director at Hampshire. Hess kept tabs on the opening -- brother-in-law Drew Smith is Elgin's boys track and field coach -- and first inquired about the job a month ago. He will teach social studies full time at Elgin.
"I've been looking last year and this year for something near where we live, a good program, a good school," he said. "Obviously, the tradition at Elgin is excellent."
Elgin athletic director Paul Pennington had two requirements during the hiring process.
"We were looking for somebody, number one, in the building," Pennington said. "Number two, somebody that can relate to (the players) other than just basketball. David has all the tools and the credentials and, certainly, the references to come with that coming from Stevenson and having that experience. But also being a head coach at a smaller school provided him some opportunities and some steppingstones to be here."
Hess spent Tuesday leading Elgin's summer basketball camp, then coached the Maroons in an evening summer-league game at Crystal Lake South.
"He's a hard worker already," Pennington added. "And he's shown us some things -- that he knows Elgin High School, knows the tradition it's had in basketball. He has that a depth of knowledge and has done his homework to want to be here and want to coach our kids."
Hess said Maroons fans can expect hard-nosed man-to-man defense "90-95 percent of the time" and a fluid offense he implemented at Stevenson.
"Offensively, it's a read-and-react system." Hess said. "Positionless basketball is becoming huge now, but I've believed in it for years as the game has evolved from two posts to one post to sometimes none.
"I've played one-in, four out and five out, similar to how the (Golden State) Warriors and Villanova play. It's an offense that gives structure yet provides freedom.
"You can't recruit in high school, so you have to be able to adapt to what you have. I believe you have to identify what the players' strengths are, and that the offense has to go through the best players."