By Mark Gregory
With the retiring of Niles West basketball coach Bob Williams, Niles West was in search of a new basketball coach and took little time hiring one.
The school board recently approved Mike Wasielewski, current varsity assistant and teacher at Stevenson High School.
“I didn’t come into this spring with an intention to leave Stevenson,” Wasielewski said. “I didn’t have an intention to leave Stevenson, but when the head basketball job opens in a great school district really close to where I live, with a Social Studies opening, I had to throw my hat in the ring and go for it.”
Getting the coach hired as soon as possible was important to Niles West athletic director Kendall Griffin.
“There is a lot that needs to be done in the off season even when you have been in a place, but especially when you are coming in new,” Griffin said. “You have to meet the kids and get in and figure out logistical things and I know Mike is raring to go. We hope to have him in the building to meet the kids, meet the staff and put together his plan for moving Niles West boys basketball to another level.
“Having Bob retire after seven years as head coach and he came in with his pedigree from Schaumburg. He is a Hall of Fame coach and we wish we could have got some more wins and sent him off the right way. We felt like we needed to identify someone that had a pedigree, someone that had been around winning and had shown evidence of building programs from the junior high level and putting programs together and hopefully taking us to the next level here.”
Before coaching at Stevenson last year, the 35-year-old Wasielewski was head coach at Waukegan for two seasons and was head coach at Elmwood Park the three years before that.
“I was at Stevenson the last two years under Pat Ambrose and I can’t say enough about that experience,” Wasielewski said. “That experience was awesome. (Ambrose) just made me look at coaching in a completely different way. His game preparation for the team is at another level. There were times when our players knew the other team’s as well as the opponent.
“Prior to Stevenson, I was at Waukegan for two years and then after two years, a teaching job opened at Stevenson and I had student taught there and had relationships at Stevenson, so I decided to take a teaching job there.”
In his five seasons as a head coach, Wasielewski posted a record of 37-74, but was instrumental in building those programs.
“While at Elmwood Park, I helped build a feeder program from scratch and that was something Niles West liked,” he said. “I hope at Niles West to use my experience building feeder programs to build onto what they already have there.”
On the varsity level, Wasielewski is looking to bring a unique look to the Wolves.
“I am familiar with the CSL and my plan is that I want us to be unique from the other CSL South teams,” he said. “I don’t want to try and play the same way as Niles North or Maine South or New Trier. I want us to have our own unique system and I want our system to be flexible enough that we can adapt and change to different opponents. I don’t think we should play the same way against Evanston that we do against Maine South.
“My number one thing is that I want to build great relationships with the players and the coaching staff and build as much unity in the program as I can.”
And while Wasielewski’s career up to this point has moved faster than he expected found him in three different programs in seven years, he is coming to Niles West hoping to settle in and stay a while.
“My wife and I just had a new baby three months ago and might be looking soon to be moving into the community soon and maybe my son, Henry, can be playing for Niles West 17 years from now,” he said.