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Mundelein's Head Coach Richard Knar explaining some plays just before the start of the Boy's Varsity Basketball game against Warren Township High School. | Mark Ukena~For Sun-Times Media
Richard Knar is stepping down as Mundelein’s boys basketball coach confident that the program will continue its success.
His positive outlook is due largely to the expansion of the school’s feeder program, which was in its infancy when Knar arrived at Mundelein in 2004.
At the time, only three teams — one each at the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade levels — existed in the program, which is designed to groom younger players for varsity play.
“If you don’t play, you won’t get good at [basketball],” Knar said. “It’s about development and who is sticking with it and working hard.”
“Now,” he said, “we have two fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teams [per grade level], each with 10 or 12 on a team.
“It’s not necessarily predictive of [future success] but sometimes it works.”
Knar announced his retirement last week. Under his leadership, the Mustangs have averaged 21 wins over the past seven seasons and earned four regional championships.
Mundelein’s college-bound seniors – Robert Knar, Sean O’Brien, Chino Ebube, Cliff Dunigan, Dylan Delaquila and Jose Silva – excelled as they advanced in the feeder program. They won 35 games as seventh-graders despite playing up one grade, and several were on the varsity squad as freshmen and sophomores.
Perry Wilhelm, the school’s athletic director and Richard Knar’s predecessor as varsity coach, said that when the classes do well, “it creates excitement, interest from kids.”
“The more opportunity they have to play at an earlier age, hopefully they are getting the right coaching and right fundamentals. It’s huge key to success,” he said.
Richard Knar said he would like his top assistant, Corey Knigge, to replace him. Knigge, who also teaches at Mundelein, was head coach at Wood High School in Woodhull from 2002-04, compiling a 30-27 record before arriving at Mundelein.
Wilhelm said the process of hiring a new coach is underway, and he will begin scheduling interviews the first week of April.
“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t find this a desirable job,” Wilhelm said.
Strong participation in the feeder program and the varsity squad’s success is boosting Richard Knar’s hopes for Mundelein after his departure, despite the freshman and sophomore team’s struggles this season and a thin returning varsity lineup.
“I hope [our success] continues. Our seventh- and eighth-graders are strong,” Knar said. “The cupboard is not bare.”
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