Perched on Cloud Nine, after nine seasons as Mundelein’s boys basketball coach, Dick Knar viewed a text message on his smartphone.
Grant’s newly named athletic director had just received a message from a colleague who took the same leap of faith — funny enough — nine years ago.
Mundelein athletic director Perry Wilhelm was a dean of students and the head boys basketball coach at Mundelein, before making the short drive north to Fox Lake to head Grant’s athletic department.
“Perry texted me right away, because I had talked to him about the (Grant) job,” said Knar, who replaced Wilhelm as boys basketball coach at Mundelein in 2004. “He was like, ‘I guess it’s the rite of passage when you’re the basketball coach (at Mundelein), you become a dean and then you go to Grant High School to be the AD.’ ”
Funny how the ball bounces sometimes, a basketball coach will attest.
Knar begins his new job, which he accepted this week, on July 1. Before coming to Mundelein, he was the head basketball coach and athletic director at Northridge Prep in Niles.
It was just last week that he announced he was stepping down as boys basketball coach, after piling up 154 wins and four regional championships. He said he planned on continuing as a dean of students.
Knar has put his own personal spin on March Madness.
“It was a whirlwind from one thing to the next,” he said with a chuckle.
His youngest child, Robert, will graduate in May as the Mustangs’ all-time leading basketball scorer and head to Northern Iowa on a scholarship. Twins Toni (Missouri S & T) and Dickie (Marian) are currently playing college hoops.
Knar still plans to make his long car rides to Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin to watch his kids play ball, but he knows his new job will keep him busy, and he’s cool with that.
“It’ll be different,” Knar said. “But even here at Mundelein, I’ve been a guy who’s big on going to volleyball games, baseball games, softball games. I even caught a couple of lacrosse games because I had a buddy that was coaching. I like being at games. I like the high school sports scene.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted the Mundelein job, because I could coach and live in the community, and my entertainment would be what was going on at the school.”
Knar interviewed twice for the Grant position. When the AD job was offered to him, he took a couple of days to consider it.
He talked to his wife. He talked to his dad.
He talked about a great opportunity.
“One of the things I wanted to get back into was being an athletic director,” Knar said. “When I resigned from coaching, the opportunity came up. It was quick.”
The timing was right.
“I don’t have to move,” Knar said. “(Grant) is not too far from the house, and I think the program is headed in the right direction.”
Grant’s baseball team finished second in the state last spring. The wrestling program is one of the best in the North Suburban Conference. The football team makes the playoffs every fall. Few track programs in the state produce more kids who are better at winging the shot and discus.
A beautiful field house bumps up against a remodeled football stadium with synthetic turf. Knar calls Grant an “up-and-coming school” with an enrollment approaching 2,000 students.
“I look forward to it,” Knar, who will turn 50 in July, said of his new gig. “When I was at Northridge, I loved being an AD. I loved building a program. At Grant, it’ll be more trying to maintain a lot of the programs, improving on the facilities and improving on anything else I can improve on.
“I had no plan on leaving Mundelein,” he added. “I figured I’d stay here and this would be my last job. Then I just got to the point where I was like, I want to be an AD, and if I want to be an AD at Mundelein, I’d have to wait for Perry’s retirement, which is 3-4 more years, to see if I would get the job or not.”
Gee, this move to Grant really does make sense.
“I like that ‘G.’ It looks just like the Packer ‘G,’ ” Knar, a Wisconsin native and Packer backer, said with a laugh. “It’s just a different color, and I’m OK with that.”
He’s better than OK. He’s sky high.
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