Frank Belmont Jr. remembered for launching Carmel athletic excellence
Andy Bitto remembers how Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein wasn't much of anything on the sports landscape until Frank Belmont Jr. returned to his alma mater.
Belmont went on to lead the Corsairs to their first real taste of athletic success when his boys varsity basketball teams reached the Sweet 16 in the Illinois High School Association's tournament in 1985 and '86.
"A lot of (the current success) had to do with his belief academics can enhance athletics," said Bitto, Carmel's athletic director.
Belmont, 63, of Gurnee, died April 23 at his home surrounded by his family. Visitation will be 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday in Carmel's auxiliary gymnasium at 1 Carmel Parkway, followed by a memorial service.
After graduating from Carmel in 1971, Belmont attended Southwest Minnesota State University, where he played basketball. Belmont returned to Carmel in 1978 as a teacher and assistant basketball coach.
He was elevated to head boys basketball coach in 1980. He also served as the school's athletic director.
Bitto said Belmont's effort became the template that led to future Carmel success in a variety of sports after bringing his basketball teams deep in the '85 and '86 state tournaments.
"I would say his intensity, his style, his pushing kids to the utmost caught on in other sports," Bitto said Thursday.
Belmont left Carmel for the old Waukegan West High School in 1987, where he was a social studies teacher and boys varsity hoops coach. He remained a varsity basketball coach when the two Waukegan high schools combined in 1990, then resigned five years later.
"I guess the things I found enjoyable about coaching had been outweighed by things that are annoying and not that pleasurable," Belmont told the Daily Herald in 1995.
In January 2015, Belmont and his former players gathered for a reunion of the Sweet 16 Carmel basketball teams. Bitto said several ex-players traveled from across the country to be with their old coach.
"He loved those guys," Bitto said.
Belmont was enshrined in the sports halls of fame at Carmel and Southwest Minnesota State.
Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Becky, a dean at Warren Township High School's Almond Road campus for juniors and seniors in Gurnee. Becky Belmont was inducted into the sports hall of fame at Carthage College in Kenosha for volleyball and track and field.