New Trier's Mike Napoleon now the IHSA's winningest baseball coach

New Trier's Mike Napoleon stands apart from other Illinois high school baseball coaches in one regard, but shares other traits with pretty much every coach who achieves a landmark accomplishment - quality, longevity and humility.

Napoleon set the Illinois High School Association record for victories by a baseball coach - 951 - when the Trevians beat Glenbrook North 5-0 on April 27.

A head coach for 38 years, the last 27 with New Trier, Napoleon surpassed the late Dave Swisegood, who coached downstate Plymouth and Southeastern. For years, the record had been owned by the late legendary Jack Kaiser at Oak Park.

"Really it means that I've been around for a long time. I've been a head coach since I was 23 years old," said Napoleon, 62, a 2000 inductee into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

"I stay in it because I enjoy doing what I'm doing," said Napoleon, also known as "Coach Naps." "A lot of young coaches start families, they tend to get out of coaching. I've had a lot of support through my family, my wife and kids, my parents ... you have to surround yourself with people who you trust, and enjoy doing what you're doing."

Napoleon said he's also been fortunate with his assistant coaches.

"These guys at New Trier have been with me 20 years," he said. "That's unheard of. They enjoy doing what they're doing. I don't have to worry about how they're coaching. I trust them, they trust me."

His varsity staff includes Pete Drevline, Scott Klipowicz and Kerry Wood. Yes, that Kerry Wood, the former Cubs star and now Klipowicz's assistant pitching coach.

Napoleon's off-the-field staff includes his wife of 39 years, Melanie; five sisters; sons Dusty and Dylan, who are assistant baseball coaches at Northwestern and Western Kentucky, respectively; and his parents, Pat and Joan Napoleon. At 90 and 86 years old, respectively, they still attend their son's games.

Scheduled to retire as a New Trier kinetic wellness teacher after the 2023-24 school year - Napoleon's baseball tenure has not been determined.

Napoleon was a three-sport athlete at St. Patrick. After graduating from the University of Illinois in 1982, he was a varsity assistant at Quigley South before being hired in 1984 as head coach at Notre Dame High School in Niles.

After six years with the Dons, he coached five seasons at Providence Catholic in New Lenox before joining New Trier in the fall of 1996. He's been an assistant football coach throughout his tenure at Providence and New Trier.

In 37 seasons before this spring, Napoleon's teams had won less than 20 games only three times. His Trevians have won 30 or more games at least 10 times, winning state titles in 2000 and 2009, finishing second in 1999 and 2007, and placing fourth in 2017. He also led Providence to the 1995 state finals.

As of Tuesday, Napoleon had a record of 697-247-3 at New Trier with 14 Central Suburban League titles, 19 regional titles and 10 supersectional titles.

He pointed to several common denominators for this success: off-season morning workouts he said determined "who's dedicated and who's not"; telling his players the truth; and involving parents in the program.

"It just makes for a better atmosphere and a better baseball experience for all the kids," Napoleon said.

On the diamond, he described his philosophy as "old school" - moving runners along, stealing bases, winning games with pitching and defense.

"We hustle. We don't talk much, we hustle. We cheer our own teammates on, we win with graciousness, we lose with dignity," Napoleon said. "If you talked with a lot of the coaches I played against in days past, dating back to my Notre Dame days, I'd say that they'd agree with me."

Knowing he had a good team this spring, Napoleon figured he'd capture the state record. Yet, he said he felt a little edgy, "kind of like a hit streak," and hoped it wouldn't affect his players.

He tried to act a little looser and be more positive this season. His players have responded affirmatively, 18-3 entering May 5 and headed toward another 20- or 30-win season.

"Them playing hard has really, really helped me kind of get through this," Napoleon said. "In 1985, this wasn't the plan.

"I just continued doing what I like to do. It sort of just happens. All of a sudden you reach a couple milestones like 500 (victories), then 600, then 700. You win a couple state championships, win a couple second-place finishes, win a fourth-place finish and you just pile up some numbers and you don't really think about it 'til it happens."

New Trier's Mike Napoleon set the Illinois High School Association state record for baseball coaching victories with 951 on April 27. Courtesy of New Trier High School
  New Trier baseball coach Mike Napoleon hits ground balls during infield practice before the start of a game against Glenbrook South. He has the most wins in the IHSA. Joe Lewnard/
  New Trier's Justin Wood delivers a pitch during a game at Glenbrook South in Glenview on May 5. Joe Lewnard/
  New Trier's Justin Wood delivers a pitch during the May 5 game at Glenbrook South in Glenview. Joe Lewnard/
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