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Stagg basketball coach steps down

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 2 or 3 DANIELS

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Stagg coach John Daniels is shown coaching his final basketball game – a regional loss to Marian Catholic at Eisenhower. He announced last week he was stepping down as boys hoops coach.

There was an outpouring of sadness and well-wishes on social media last week after Stagg basketball coach John Daniels said he was stepping down for personal reasons.

But there is some good news for some athletes at the Palos Hills school. He said he will continue to serve as boys and girls tennis coach. This spring, the Chargers will defend their sectional title with the veteran coach at the helm.

But the long hours – both in season and during the off season – of basketball that he went through in the past decade will be used to help take care of his father, Robert, who is ill and living in South Bend.

“It’s been really tough because I’ve been involved in basketball since I can remember,” Daniels said of the decision to step down. “I played in high school and college and right out of college, I coached. It’s always been a big part of my life.’’

Daniels coached 14 seasons at Stagg after three years at Elmwood Park and three more at York. He opened his career at Stagg with a 4-24 mark and quickly turned things around, winning 306 games in the next 13 seasons. When this season ended, he was the third-longest tenured area boys basketball coach and second longest in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue (behind 16-year Lincoln-Way East boss Rich Kolimas).

“John is a quality person and a quality coach,’’ Stagg Athletic Director Terry Treasure said. “He’s a coach’s coach. He has influenced the lives of many young men who have come through Stagg. The experiences he helped create for our athletes, students, alumni, staff and the entire community will be hard to duplicate. He should be proud of the program he created.’’

“It is difficult to accept a resignation from an individual who has had such a positive influence on student athletes and the coaching staff,” Stagg Principal Eric Olsen said. “John has been a true example of Charger pride and has instilled the values of character and service into the program.”

The school is in the process of finding his replacement and officials hope to name a new coach before June, when the summer season opens.

Daniels has some fond memories of his teams.

“My second year we won 20 games after winning four the year before,’’ he said. “Winning the regionals were special. I still remember Max Strus (now at DePaul) hitting a big shot against Andrew (in 2013) and us winning the game in double overtime. Then we beat Sandburg for the regional title the next night. There are a lot of great memories.’’

Daniels will now get to spend a little more quality time with his father, who has been in Texas for many years involved in business and as a professor at the University of Texas before moving to South Bend.

“My dad played football and I gravitated toward basketball probably because my dad didn’t play,” John Daniels said. “It was one of those things where I enjoyed basketball but he always supported me.’’

 

Outdoors with Jim Kirby: Palos derby is fun and free

  • Written by Jim Kirby

 

PAge 2 JIM KIRBY MUG

The Palos Park Spring Fishing Derby is an event geared for the entire family and it is free.

The derby will be held from 8:30-to-11 a.m., April 15 at Papoose Lake on 123rd St. just west of LaGrange Road. The event is supported by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Bass Pro Shops of Bolingbrook and the Palos Park Recreation and Parks Department. For more information, call 708-671-3760.

          The contest begins with registration at 8 a.m. and fishing starts at 8:30 a.m. Prizes will be awarded to the largest fish caught in each age group. This is a great opportunity for the family to enjoy a day in the great outdoors. Fishing tackle will be provided and plenty of assistance will be available to help newcomers to the sport of fishing.

The joys of shotgun shooting

The Orland Park group Pheasants Forever, is offering the chance to experience the joys of shotgun shooting on from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Palos Sportsman’s Club, 24038 S. Harlem Ave. in Frankfort.

The group is inviting anyone who is new to shooting to experience shotgun shooting, including using clay pigeons as targets. Participants will learn from certified instructors. This is a free event, food and beverage will be provided.

By the way, you may remember the old Palos Sportsman’s Club was located on Rte. 83 in Palos Hts. That clubhouse is now the Administration Building at Lake Katherine.

If you do not have the release forms, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and complete the forms prior to the event. Anyone wanting to shoot must be present for the safety meeting. This event will be limited to the first 25 people who RSVP.

Remember, this is an outside activity, so dress appropriately.

Rainbow trout fishing close to home

The Annual Illinois Catchable Trout Season opened throughout the state Saturday. The Forest Preserve of Cook County and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources stocked catchable rainbow trout averaging 12 inches in length. These trout are easy to catch, easy to clean (no scaling or filleting) and are very tasty when pan-fried, preferably in bacon grease. The meat easily peels away from the bones and skin.

The nearby stocked bodies of water within the area include Horsetail Lake, (104th and McCarthy Road in Palos Park), an 11-acre lake, depths to 24 feet, that also has largemouth bass, bluegills and channel catfish and Sag Quarry East (Route 83 and Archer Avenue), which is 12 acres with depths to 18 feet and also has largemouth bass, bluegills and channel catfish.

Horsetail is close to home and offers plenty of level ground for shoreline fishing.

No fancy fishing tackle is required to catch these fish. You just need a simple fishing pole or rod with light line, small sinker, and bobber, small hook tipped with worms, night-crawlers or wax worms that can be purchased at your local bait and tackle shops. Experts at these shops can advise you on the way to go about catching these fish and the rules and regulations.

Spinning rods with small spinners and other lures will also do the trick and fly-rod fishermen will find this a great opportunity to hone their skills if you find the lakes too crowded, try it during the week.

Those thousands of trout won’t all be caught opening weekend.

          To legally fish for these trout you must have a current valid Illinois fishing license (last year’s fishing, hunting and trapping licenses expired on March 31) and an Inland Trout Stamp. Anglers age 16 and younger, the blind, or disabled or Illinois residents on active military duty are not required to have the stamp. There is a five-trout-per-day creel limit with no size restrictions. No more than two lines per fisherman with no more than two hooks per line may be used.

          For a list of all the lakes and waters open to public fishing within the Forest Preserves of Cook County, visit fpdcc.com/recreation/fishing and download the fishing guide. The guide includes maps that show the location and depths of each lake, and list principal fish species.

Outdoor Calendar

Note: it’s very important to remember your Illinois fishing, hunting and trapping licenses expired March 31. It’s time to renew them!

          Apr. 8-13: Second spring shotgun or archery season for turkey, south zone.

          Apr. 10-14: First spring shotgun or archery turkey season, north zone.

          Apr.14-19: Third shotgun/ archery turkey season, south.

          Apr. 15-20: Second shotgun or archery turkey season, north zone.

          Apr. 15: Palos Park Free Fishing Derby, for more info, call 708-671-3760.

(subhead) Think about it

An optimist is a fisherman who takes along a camera.

Jim Kirby’s column will run the first and third Thursdays of each month. E-Mail Jim at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 

Fire analysis: Signing of Schweinsteiger a sound soccer decision

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 2 BAST 1   3 30

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Fire

The Fire’s acquisition of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger brings the team a player who has won at several levels. 

MONTREAL IMPACT AT CHICAGO FIRE

WHEN: 2 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

FIRE’S RECORD: 1-1-1

MONTREAL’S RECORD: 0-1-2

NOTEWORTHY: This could mark the home debut for new Fire player Bastian Schweinsteiger. Montreal’s Patrice Bernier has played 200 games and logged 15,000 minutes for the Impact. He’s been with the team since 2000.  

Kicker -- CHICAGO FIRE ANALYSIS

HEADLINE – Fire’s signing of Schweinsteiger a sound soccer decision

By Jeff Vorva

Sports Editor

Talk about a great first impression.

Chicago Fire official Doug Hicks said that in the 24-hour period after the team announced the signing of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger, the news generated two billion impressions, according to SimilarWeb.

The team had an interesting strategy to make this announcement. It took out ads in the Chicago Tribune – a paper that has largely ignored the Fire the past two seasons -- on March 20. While it created some minor buzz in Chicago, by the end of the week a heck of a lot more people were hating on new Bears backup quarterback Mark Sanchez than hailing Schweinsteiger. The Fire also put the new guy on billboards in the city.

If the Fire wants to be a major player in the Chicago sports scene, Schweinsteiger will have to do something freakishly good, like score six goals in a match. Otherwise, the organization still has a long climb uphill for that.

But when it comes to a soccer decision, this move was sound and it gives the Fire brand some instant credibility in the soccer world with his one-year, $4.5 million deal with a mutual option for 2018.

 Those billions of impressions may not mean billions of people will be at Toyota Park this season, but the team now has a huge-name player playing with some pretty decent offensive weapons (David Accam, Juninho, Michael de Leeuw, Dex McCarty, Nemanja Nikolic and Arturo Alvarez).

The team that finished last in Major League Soccer the past two seasons and averaged 1.1 goals per game is now, on paper, a team that could make a playoff push. And out of those billions of impressions, there could be some more international superstars who might buy in that Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez and his crew are serious about building a winner.

That should bode well for the future.

There is some debate on whether the 32-year-old Schweinsteiger (who had 70 goals and 103 assists in 535 first-team games and 24 goals in 121 international matches for Germany) is past his prime. Some argue that his lack of playing time with Manchester United is a red flag.

Fire officials are confident he can thrive in the MLS and will make players around him better. But even if his on-field performance disappoints, he has been involved in 23 major and domestic international cups, which is more than any previous player entering their first season in the MLS. He knows what it takes to win and he can be a great influence in the locker room.

Schweinsteiger already passed his physical and has been working in out in Spain while he was waiting for a visa. The idea was for him to arrive in Chicago and take part in a news conference on Wednesday and there is a good chance he will make his debut in Saturday’s game against Montreal at Toyota Park. Due to his lack of practicing with the team, it’s unknown if he will start or how many minutes second-year coach Veljko Paunovic will play him.

If for some reason Schweinsteiger doesn’t get in against the Impact this weekend, there is a good possibility he will see some major minutes in an April 8 home game against Columbus.

Like many Fire fans, Rodriguez can’t wait to see him in a Fire uniform.

“We have one of the best midfields in the league,” he said last week on the SiriusXM’s The Football Show. “In my time sitting across the table and looking into his eyes…what you have is someone who loves the game, who loves to win, who loves to compete, loves to work with his fellow teammates…he’s a willing mentor.’’

 

Shimko hire makes for a Peace-ful transition

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 SHIMKO 3 23

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.

 

Fire suffers bad loss but makes a huge deal

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

A few days after suffering a 4-0 loss to expansion Atlanta, the Chicago Fire expanded its roster with a huge signing.

The Chicago Fire signed one of the biggest names to ever don a Fire uniform on Monday when they inked German and Manchester United star Bastian Schweinsteiger to a one-year contract worth a reported $4.5 million. There is also a mutual option for 2018.

“This is a very big day for our club,’’ Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said. “And I believe it’s big for Major League Soccer by acquiring one of our sport’s great champions. It’s not often you can add a player not just of Bastian’s pedigree but also one who represents our values.

“This is a historic moment for our club.’’

Mixing the 32-year-old scoring threat in a roster that already features David Accam, Juninho, Michael de Leeuw, Dax McCarty and Nemanja Nikolic gives the Fire some offensive firepower after averaging just 1.1 goals per match in the 2015 and 2016 campaigns.

The MLS has an off week this week and Rodriguez said it’s possible Schweinsteiger could make his Fire debut April 1 at Toyota Park.

The new Fire star is ready to help make the team elite again.

“Through my conversations with Nelson and (coach Veljko Paunovic) I’m convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project,’’ Schweinsteiger said.

Schweinsteiger has 24 goals in 121 international matches for Germany, had 70 goals and 103 assists in 535 first team games and has been a part of 23 major domestic and international cups – more than any previous player entering their first season in MLS.

PAGE 2 PAUNO 3 23

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic had plenty to applaud with his team the first two weeks, but suffered one of the worst defeats in his young tenure on Saturday with a 4-0 loss to expansion-team Atlanta.

 

ATLANTA 4, FIRE 0

Ouch.

This one hurt.

The Chicago Fire, puffed up from salvaging a 1-1 tie to open the season at Columbus and a 2-0 home-opening victory over Real Salt Lake, went to Atlanta on Saturday and stunk up the joint in a 4-0 loss to Atlanta United FC in front of an announced crowd of 45,922 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Now, a 4-0 spanking would be humiliating against any opponent, even an elite team in Major League Soccer.

But this came against an expansion team that had just two games under its belt.

Time will tell if Atlanta (2-1-0 with 11 goals in three matches) is the real deal or not. If so, a lot of veteran general managers are going to be scratching their heads wondering how a team can build a power from scratch while their teams are scratching for respectability.

That includes the Fire and general manager Nelson Rodriguez.

Rodriguez spent time and money this offseason to build a team that is supposed to be vastly improved over the past two seasons, when the Fire had the worst record in the league.

For two weeks, things looked good for the Fire. The team was even named the MSL Team of the Week after salting away Salt Lake. And it’s not right to freak out over the third game of the season.

But, again, this came against an expansion team that had just two games under its belt.

One could argue that the Fire deserves some slack because it played this game with only 10 men most of the way after Johan Kappelhof received a red card for clipping Josef Martinez in the 11th minute. It’s debatable whether a yellow or red card should have been issued.

But ultimately, the Fire defender put his team in a bad spot.

Martinez may have been denied a goal in the 11th minute, but he scored against the Chicago 10 in the 60th and 82nd minutes in the game and set the MLS record for scoring five goals in his first three games.

The Fire was able to put together an impressive first half after the red card, shutting Atlanta out for the final 34 minutes. But damage was already done in the fourth minute when a shot when off of defender Brendan Vincent’s foot for an own goal.

It didn’t look good that 10 men were going to stop a high-octane offense in the second half and they didn’t.

For us, this was a hard lesson that we learned and we have to fix a lot of things,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “But I also want to appreciate the effort and hard work that all of our team had.’’

The Fire returns to action April 1 for a home game with Montreal.

The team has a long time to try to fix this.

It's tough when you don't get a result,” Fire midfielder Juninho said. “It's hard to say something, but we had a system to start, we tried to score on the counter but their team was better today. We lost a guy in the beginning of the game and it made everything complicated. But you have to move on, you have to adjust on what we did bad in this game and move on to the next one.

"This is our third game of the season and we played against a good team. They have their system and their different mission and style so we're getting to know them for the first time. Our experience was not the best, but we have to fix a lot of things. Our coaches will talk to us throughout these two weeks. We won't have a game because of the FIFA break, but it's going to help us to take this time to put everything in place."