Colombe takes over Kaneland's boys program
The time was right for Ernie Colombe to say yes.
For the second year in a row, the Kaneland High School administration approached the school's longtime girls basketball coach about taking over as boys basketball coach.
Colombe said no last spring when former Kaneland athletic director Peter Goff approached him about the boys coaching job after coach Joe Conroy stepped down after three seasons.
Colombe had good reason to decline. His wife, Kristina, had died of cancer 10 months earlier and their daughter, Katie, was set to enter her senior season of varsity basketball.
"I didn't want my daughter to be at games without any parent support, so I turned it down then not knowing what would happen down the road," Colombe said.
Kaneland instead hired hall-of-fame coach Russ Zick, but he opted not to return after a one-year contract expired.
Kaneland principal Jill Maras and Kaneland athletic director David Rohlman approached Colombe about the boys basketball position. With Katie about to graduate and head off to study at Kansas State, he felt the time was right to say yes. He was confirmed as boys basketball coach at the Kaneland Community Unit School District 302 board meeting Monday.
"I'm thrilled," Colombe said. "It's going to be a lot fun. It's going to be a lot of work. We have a lot of good people here. I put a lot of hours in on the girls side, but just knowing how coaches are I'm certain I'll put a lot of time in to turn this around. We're pretty confident we can do that."
Colombe said leaving the Kaneland girls basketball program is bittersweet after 13 seasons, 199 victories, 166 losses and two Class 3A regional titles, all of which pale in comparison to the number of relationships built.
"I'll be the girls' biggest fan," he said. "The girls program has been great to me, the players, the staff, the community, the families. They've been fantastic and they've been a huge part of my life. I could have stayed there and been happy. This position just popped up. They've got some longtime assistants who are on the staff and I'd love for them to get the opportunity to be a head coach."
"The girls basketball program is in excellent shape and we feel fortunate to have coach Colombe transition into his new role as we continue to look to strengthen our school's athletic programs," Rohlman said.
Colombe inherits a team that finished 7-25. The Knights own a 28-65 record in three seasons since a 20-9 campaign in 2016.
"I think Ernie's organizational skills and his positive approach are going to be good for the culture of our boys basketball program," Rohlman said. "I think the timing is really good. Ernie wanted to make a change and we were looking for a permanent replacement and we have a preference of having someone in the building."
Colombe also has 23 years of coaching experience on the baseball diamond, including 10 seasons at Kaneland. He becomes the 16th coach of a boys basketball program established in 1957-58 and the third since Brian Johnson left for West Aurora after the 2014-15 season.
"I'm hoping our staff can bring some stability and be here for awhile," said Colombe, the department chair for Health, Physical Education and Drivers Education. "We met with the seniors (Thursday) morning and one of the things we talked about is developing an identity for the program because with so much change it's kind of hard to do that."