McAllister out, Mankowski in as EP football coach
Ray Mankowski, you’re up next.
Originally passed over in favor of Troy McAllister as Dan Hartman’s successor two weeks ago, Mankowski, who heads up Evergreen Park High School’s boys’ track program, figured his opportunity to also become the Mustangs’ varsity football coach was gone. However, an unexpected turn of events gave Mankowski a second chance.
He was notified last Friday that McAllister was out and he was in as the new gridiron boss.
“I felt I earned and deserved it [earlier], but I accepted the fact that they wanted to go in a different direction,” Mankowski said. “I don’t know what happened [with McAllister], but I’m happy to have it and I’m excited to bring the program into the future.”
School superintendent Beth Hart said McAllister’s sudden departure was not rooted in some heretofore unknown problem that was discovered. It was simply a matter of his particular teaching credentials not being what Evergreen required at the moment.
“He was only certified for 9th-grade PE — we don’t have enough sections for [just] that,” Hart said. “Our teaching job was for 9th through 12th grades. We’re a small school and it’s almost like everybody’s got to do everything.
“We could have hired him to be an aide and coach football, but that would have cut his salary substantially. He was a little irritated about what happened, and I can understand that, but [hirings] are not just about sports.
“He’s a great guy. He didn’t do anything wrong and we didn’t do anything wrong.”
In Mankowski, Evergreen has someone with seven years already invested at the school. Besides being the track coach since his arrival in the fall of 2007, Mankowski has been a member of the Mustangs’ football staff under three different head coaches.
While he could easily be described as a “good soldier” for his willingness to adjust to ever-changing surroundings without complaint, Mankowski admitted he had yearnings for something more.
“I decided I was not going to be the ultimate assistant coach at Evergreen Park,” he said. “Dan [Hartman] had a spot for me at Hinsdale Central. Now, I have a chance to prove I’m the [right] man for the job.”
Mankowski’s ascent to the head-coaching position will no doubt be made smoother by his familiarity with Mustangs student-athletes, especially since many of those who play football also compete in track. He said “the kids were rooting for me and they’re excited to have me there.”
“I put something on Facebook and there were a lot of positive comments,” Mankowski said. “The kids weren’t very happy I didn’t get the job [initially]; they’re happy now.’’
The Mustangs’ past three football seasons — which included six playoff wins — represent their all-time high point in the sport.
“I don’t look at it as a stepping-stone — I look at it as a step in the right direction,” he said. “I’m looking forward to making this place the best it can be. It’s going to be a fun ride.”
Mankowski has certainly left a positive imprint on the Mustangs’ track program, as an increasing number of athletes in recent years have qualified for the state meet. The biggest issue facing him in football at the moment is his late hire — summer contact days for athletic teams are beginning and the 2014 season gets underway in about 2 ½ months.
“It’s really quick to do it, but everybody’s on board,” said Mankowski, who will continue to coordinate the defense. “And it was kind of my intention from the get-go to not change much.
“There’s always pressure [for a new coach], but that’s what I want. I’m happy to be doing this.”