If he could convince Tom Murphy to stop enjoying retirement so much and limit his time under the sun in the Sunshine State, Greg Pedersen might lead the state in most former head girls basketball coaches on one staff.
He still might, even without Murphy.
“He rotates (living) between here and Florida,” Pedersen said of Murphy, the former longtime Wildcats coach who stepped down 12 years ago.
While waiting for Libertyville’s school board to officially approve his hiring as the high school’s new girls basketball coach — something it did Monday night — ex-sophomore girls coach Pedersen was busy assembling his staff. It includes former Libertyville head girls basketball coaches Bill Mix and Amy Holtsford and former Antioch head girls coach Don Zeman.
“I just got Bill back into the mix, no pun intended,” Pedersen said.
So what about “Murph?”
“That’s been the joke lately: Why isn’t Murphy on the staff?” Pedersen said.
Like Holtsford and Zeman, Melissa Gorski returns to the basketball staff. The former Buffalo Grove star served as an assistant coach under Kathie Swanson, who resigned following this past season. All Swanson did in her six seasons, after replacing Holtsford, was average 20 wins and lead the Wildcats to three straight North Suburban Conference championships.
“She made a decision that I’m sure is best for her, and all of us wish her the absolute best,” Pedersen said. “She did so much for Libertyville basketball. It was a great run that she had. We’ll do our best moving forward.”
Pedersen (pronounced Pee-der-son, not Ped-er-sin) will no doubt rely on his veteran staff to ensure the program continues to win and grow. The collective experience of the coaching staff should ensure that the Peter Principle doesn’t play out with Pedersen, who’s been the girls sophomore coach the last six years.
“The coaching staff that I’ve been able to put together for this upcoming season is just fantastic,” Pedersen said. “I couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff.”
While replacing Swanson is no easy task, considering what her teams accomplished year in and year out, Pedersen at least measures up to her one way.
He stands 6 feet 3. Swanson is 6-1, without heels.
“We were pretty much eye to eye the whole time,” Pedersen with a laugh. “I think we were about the same height. Maybe I had one inch on her.”
Libertyville’s new coach isn’t short on coaching experience, despite this being his first head varsity job in basketball. Originally from Norridge, he graduated high school nearly 21 years ago from Ridgewood, where he played golf for four years and basketball for three. After earning a degree from Illinois State University, he taught and coached freshman boys basketball at Sandwich for a couple of years before coming to Libertyville 15 years ago. He’s been coaching with the girls basketball program for 11 years.
An AP literature teacher, Pedersen also serves as varsity girls golf coach and will continue in that role.
Accepting the varsity girls basketball job was a tap-in putt.
“I’m real excited about getting it,” Pedersen said. “It’s all about the kids. Head basketball coach wasn’t really on my radar. I was really surprised when Kathie left. I loved my time as the sophomore coach and teaching the players (at that level), and I was very content to do that job.”
Don’t expect him to tear apart from the program and look to immediately put his stamp on it. What Swanson was doing, after all, was working.
“A lot of that will carry over,” Pedersen said. “But at the same time, we’ve got to match up with what we have talent-wise and personnel-wise. Coming in next year, things will look a little different.
“We won’t have a Kruckman,” he added with regret. “Which is a Libertyville tradition at this point.”
With center Nicole Kruckman, baby sister of former Wildcat pivots Carol and Leah, about to graduate, along with several other veterans, guard Olivia Mayer will be the Wildcats’ only returning starter.
“We like to have a tough, aggressive, defensive approach and a balanced offensive system that fits the individual talent,” Pedersen said. “We just want to make sure the kids are working hard. The one thing that I would stress is that we want the kids to get out of basketball as much as what they’re putting into basketball.”
His staff can attest to what basketball can do for you.
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