Maine East grad returns as new hoops head coach
Sergio Muro knows what it's like to be on top with Maine East boys basketball.
As a Blue Demons junior guard in 2008, Muro helped Maine East win a Class 4A regional title. It was Maine East's first regional title in boys basketball in 36 years, since 1972, the first year of Illinois' two-class playoff system.
It's also the program's most recent regional title.
In 2009, Muro was part of a Blue Demons team that won 19 games, two off the program record, and the most the team had won since 1977, he said.
Hired April 21 to succeed the retiring Dave Genis as head coach, Muro does not target numbers or titles as goals. His goal is to deliver key components that lead to winning basketball, and athletics in general.
"What I plan to bring to Maine East is trying to build a culture where it's a family, where we pull for one another and we celebrate each other's success," said Muro, who returns to the boys program as another Maine East graduate, Amanda Mistretta, has been named as the Blue Demons' first-year head girls coach.
The 31-year-old Muro has already tasted plenty of success in his coaching career. He comes out of the St. Patrick High School program, traditionally a rugged group of grinders led by Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Mike Bailey.
Under the highly respected Bailey, St. Patrick has become somewhat of an incubator for successful head coaches such as Benet's Gene Heidkamp, Fenton's Chaz Taft, Waukegan's Ron Ashlaw, Ridgewood's Chris Mroz and St. Ignatius' Matt Monroe.
In Muro's nine seasons at St. Patrick, seven of them as the head sophomore coach, the Shamrocks varsity won six Class 3A regional titles and two sectional titles, including a sectional crown just this past season.
"Coach Bailey has modeled that program for players who love basketball. We defended at St. Pat's. We really emphasized playing together as one unit," said Muro, a former counselor at St. Patrick who seeks a position inside Maine East.
"It's not about one guy, it's not about two guys, it's not about three guys. It's not about the head coach. It's about St. Pat's basketball, and I'm going to bring that to Maine East basketball."
A coach can't teach height, they say, and he also can't help it if he's got an undersized crew. That's where Muro is at with Maine East.
All-Central Suburban League North point guard Derryl Gaddi, fellow seniors Jaylen Taylor, Samy Salem and Neel Patel and junior prospects Tristan Walton and J.J. Alphonse top out at about 6-foot-1. Communication, help-side defense and team rebounding within a man-to-man scheme will be crucial to the Blue Demons' chances, Muro said.
"We have some guys on the team that can get down in the stance and really guard," the new coach said. "We have no size, but I think we have guys that are quick to the basketball, so I think that can be an advantage for us."
Offensively he'll try to use all those guards to push the ball in transition. In the half-court, he'd like to spread the court using a dribble-drive offense that will utilize his players' sound passing abilities to find open shots.
"Space the floor, create opportunities where players are able to kind of showcase their skills within a team framework," Muro said.
Some of the main things Muro learned at St. Patrick under Bailey were preparation for games, creating practice plans, and the knowledge that a successful basketball program is a long-haul commitment, not just those months from November through March.
He's been drilling that into the Blue Demons in summer leagues at Ridgewood and Warren.
"These student-athletes we have, they've been really fun and enjoyable to coach this summer," Muro said. "I'm really proud of how they've approached this, the new expectations, the new way of doing things now. They've been fun to coach and very coachable."