Photo by Jeff Vorva
George Shimko was named the first girls basketball coach in St. Laurence history.
It looks like most of the old gang is going to be back.
Just across the street and in different uniforms.
When Queen of Peace announced in January it was going to close, many players of its record-setting basketball team – as well as members of the student population in general -- were sad and worried about where they would end up next year.
In February, when next-door neighbor St. Laurence in Burbank made the shocking announcement it was going to go coed, people just assumed that coach George Shimko and his players would end up there and all would be well.
It looks like that may indeed be the case.
Shimko was hired on March 15 and he said that many of his returning players on this year’s 28-win varsity team and a majority of players on the sophomore team will be enrolling at the school as well.
The coach said he is grateful for the opportunity to build a new program up.
“It’s exciting to come in and try to build a quality program that matches the things they have already done athletically,” Shimko said. “The Vikings have a pretty rich tradition on the athletic side with baseball and football and basketball and to be able to come into the program from scratch is really, really exciting to me.’’
And it doesn’t hurt that when he blows his first whistle at his first practice in the summer, there will be a lot of familiar faces around.
Shinko’s son, Alex, will continue to be his assistant. The elder Shimko plans to ask his other assistants to make the trek across the street.
He added that so far varsity players Kelly Mason, Ashley Murphy, Erin Foley, Brooke Vida and Ashley Kevin told him they were coming to St. Laurence. He said several lower-level players also plan on attending St. Laurence.
“We have a pretty good group of those who are coming over,” Shimko said. “Some of them saw me in the hallway after I got the job and said ‘Yay! Yay!’ They were excited.’’
Shimko is glad that some his players will be able to get through their senior year without too much angst.
“I’m happy for the juniors because I was really worried about them,” Shimko said. “It’s difficult to acclimate yourself to a new program when you are a senior. Now they have the opportunity and they chose the opportunity to stay together so that will be nice for them.’
Shimko said St. Laurence will replace Queen of Peace in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference White division. The team will have summer workouts and play in a league at Shepard and a shootout at Marian Catholic. The schedule is not finalized, but Shimko is hoping to have the Vikings open the season in November at Oak Lawn and participate in a Thanksgiving Tournament in Beecher as well as a holiday tournament at Guerin Prep.
St. Laurence athletic director Tim Chandler said this hire was historic since it was the naming of the school’s first girls coach.
“We are very excited to welcome George, whose extensive basketball background and great reputation of developing student-athletes makes him a great culture fit for St. Laurence,” Chandler said. “He did a tremendous job in turning around the program at Queen of Peace, and I look forward to working with him as he builds a successful program at St. Laurence.”
Shimko has been a basketball staple in this area for years, running the George Shimko Basketball School in Oak Lawn.
Four seasons ago, he took over the Queen of Peace program and his team suffered what looked like a season in which it wouldn’t win a game, but pulled off two late-season wins to finish 2-28.
Since then the team progressed and won 19- and 28-win seasons and a pair of Class 3A Regional titles the past two campaigns. The Pride also won a league title in the GCAC this season.
Despite all of his accolades and that this position seemed like a perfect fit, Shimko and St. Laurence took nothing for granted. This was not a case where the Vikings brass said “Here you go George – you have the job.’’
“It was a long interview process,’’ Shimko said. “The first interview, I met with five people and I was fortunate to be invited back for a second interview. There were a long series of questions and answers.
“It was thorough. It was a job interview and I approached it as a job interview. I came prepared. I gave everyone a package of information for all of them to learn about me and what my plan was going to be. I didn’t look at it as the fact I was at Queen of Peace, I was going to automatically be at St. Laurence.’’
But not that he will be there starting in the summer…
“I look forward to being a Viking – it’s going to be fun,’’ he said.