By Jason Maholy
Jim Sexton, who resigned last month after three years as head coach of the St. Laurence boys basketball team, is bringing his up-tempo, long-range-shooting style of play to Evergreen Park.
The move will be a homecoming of sorts for Sexton, who grew up in and still lives in Evergreen Park. His father, also named Jim, has been the village’s mayor since 2001.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Sexton said of coaching in Evergreen. “Growing up in and living in the community still, to be able to take over the basketball program with all the great things the school has going for it right now, makes it a very exciting time to jump on board.”
This will be Sexton’s first time coaching in a public school. He is a graduate of Brother Rice – where he is still the Crusaders’ all-time leading scorer – and attended college at Creighton. He served as an assistant to former Rice coach Pat Richardson before moving on to St. Laurence, where he spent his first two years as the assistant to then-varsity head coach Jim Maley.
Sexton acknowledged the fact St. Laurence has only one gym in which the Vikings boys team can practice was the primary factor in his leaving the program he led to a 62-34 record during his three years. The Vikings finished 15-17 this season.
“It was just a tough situation,” he said, and added the need to shuffle practice times was interfering with his family and career obligations. “I understand St. Laurence’s perspective, that there was really nothing they could do about it, and I when I took the job I understood there was only one gym. But it was a situation that just became too much; with my day-to-day job and family obligations it just became untenable.
“The [St. Laurence] administration and coaches were great, and obviously the kids were great, we had had a good run in my time there.”
Sexton wasn’t planning to coach again at the high school level right away, but in early March became aware longtime Mustangs coach Pat Flannigan had resigned. Flannigan has been promoted to the position of fall/spring assistant athletic director.
“I said, well, if there is a perfect situation for me it would be there, and obviously it was able to work out, so it’s great,” Sexton said.
In addition to the Evergreen job being his first at a public school, it will also be his first time building a program from the ground up. He has for the past 10 years been involved with a youth program that serves Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park, so there will be some familiarity with the players he’ll be coaching.
“It’s a different challenge but an exciting one,” he said.
One thing that won’t be challenging is finding space to practice. In addition to two gyms at the high school, Evergreen Park Community High School District 231 last December purchased the Evergreen Park Racquet and Fitness Club for $1.5 million. The 94,000-square-foot complex at 2700 W. 91st St. will serve as an indoor athletics facility for Evergreen Park student-athletes.
Sexton said the facility will enable basketball players to work out on their own year round, and he believes it will be an asset that may help keep students who live in Evergreen Park from attending area private high schools such as Brother Rice and Marist.
“That facility will really stand out as far as keeping kids from going to Catholic schools that may be recruiting them,” he said. “This is the type of facility you’re not going to get at one of those schools. It will be new ballgame as far as students looking at Evergreen in a different light, making Evergreen that next big thing.”
Sexton acknowledged one challenge to keeping students from choosing to attend private schools is the generational aspect: many youths go to those schools because their fathers and grandfathers are alums.
“It’s family tradition, and I understand that, I came up in it,” he said. “But what we can offer is the academics and facilities that are second to none, and no matter what kind of financial package [private schools] can offer, kids can go to EP for four years and it’s not going to cost anything.”
Winning also helps.
“A lot of these schools have had winning traditions, so we’ve got to win,” he said. “A winning culture as far as athletic programs go really draws kids.
“But I don’t plan on going to Evergreen to not be successful. I’ll work very hard to get the very best student athletes to Evergreen Park and keep them home, but it comes down to being competitive and outworking the competition.”