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7/8/11 Elmwood Park Elmwood Park youth basketball camp was held at The Elmwood Park High School this week. Coach Mile Wasielewski talks to campers. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media

Want to know what the biggest change is going to be for Mike Wasielewski as he takes over as head coach of Waukegan High School’s boys basketball program after heading the Elmwood Park High program for the last three seasons?

Wasielewski coached his team all of last year with a maximum of just eight players available for action on any given night.

At Waukegan, he’s got 8-10 kids who are serious basketballers in every class he teaches at the high school.

High school hoops: At Waukegan, it’s hot.

Wasielewski officially will be tossed into the fire on Tuesday night when the school board gives its final stamp of approval for 11 head coaching hires for the current school year. The 11 — including Wasielewski — have been recommended for approval and, in fact, the new hoops coach earlier had been hired to teach at the school. Since school already is in session, he literally is already on the job.

Tuesday night, it will officially become official.

He’s replacing Ron Ashlaw, who resigned last spring to take the head coaching job at Bloom High School in the south suburbs of Chicago.

Following that move, Waukegan High administrators spent the summer working through the selection process that eventually led to the hiring of Wasielewski.

Elmwood Park is a small community just west of Chicago. Driving west from Chicago, you’d go through Elmwood Park and then through Melrose Park, which is where Maywood Park race track is located.

Elmwood Park’s enrollment is around 1,000 and it plays in the Metro Suburban Conference with Fenton from Bensenville (think O’Hare airport), Glenbard South, and small-school basketball powers Ridgewood and Riverside-Brookfield (think zoo).

During his three years at Elmwood Park, Wasielewski did three things that surely endeared him to the powers that be at Waukegan:

  • In just his second year at Elmwood Park, he produced a winning season (14-13), which was the first time in more than a decade that the school won at least 10 games in a season.
  • He started the Jr. Tigers youth basketball program in the city, and got great response which assures that what happened to the big Tigers last year in terms of lack of manpower won’t happen again.
  • Even though Elmwood Park had to play all season with just eight players, they played hard from Thanksgiving through March Madness, even winning a regional game before being KO’d.

According to published reports, Elmwood Park’s manpower shortage last year was due to an extraordinary combination of circumstances: Injuries, plus transfers, plus an academic casualty, plus a couple players deciding to focus on football and/or baseball. Plus, remember, this is not Waukegan, where you could have an “A” team, a “B” team a “C” team ... heck, maybe a team for every letter of the alphabet.

Still, the Tigers that played in the games played hard for 32 minutes.

One man sorry to see him go is Elmwood Park athletic director Doug Noyes, the man who hired him in the summer before the 2010-2011 season.

“Mike did a great job during his three seasons as Elmwood Park High School varsity boys basketball coach,” Noyes said. “He made our program competitive by holding kids accountable and getting them to perform to the best of their ability.

“He helped start a good feeder program that generated quite a bit of interest in Elmwood Park High School and the Tiger basketball program.

“We are beginning to see the results of that program in our middle school and our lower-level high school programs. He left the program in good shape and we are happy for Mike and wish him success with the Waukegan program.”

When Wasielewski was hired at Elmwood Park, he left Lane Tech High School in Chicago, where he was an assistant boys basketball coach and also head coach of the girls soccer program for a couple of seasons.

His debut as head coach of the Bulldogs will be far from home, as Waukegan is playing this year for the first time in a Thanksgiving-week tournament in the Oswego/Naperville area. The first home game will be on Tuesday, Dec. 3 against Maine West.

Ashlaw was 109-60 in his six seasons at Waukegan, including 15-13 last year. He will be best remembered for back-to-back Final Four appearances in the state tourney in Peoria, and his Bulldog career will forever be intertwined with that of his best player, Jereme Richmond.

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