Disabato: Jim Maley ready for challenge as St. Laurence basketball coach
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato April 23, 2014 8:52PM
Jim Maley | Supplied photo
Updated: May 25, 2014 3:17PM
Back on March 19, I asked St. Laurence athletic director Tim Chandler what requirements he was looking for in his search to replace basketball coach Mark Sevedge, whom the school had let go.
“We’re looking for someone who has knowledge of the Catholic League and has ties to the Chicago basketball world; someone with name recognition and who can attract some of the top talent to St. Laurence. We prefer someone with strong ties to AAU. We’re going to put a committee together and find the guy,” Chandler said.
That’s quite a wish list, but it appears St. Laurence found its man in Jim Maley.
Don’t let his relative youth — Maley recently celebrated his 30th birthday — fool you. He’s extremely familiar with the Catholic League — his father is a Fenwick alum. Maley coached at Kenwood the past three years, stockpiling enough talent to transform a basement dweller into an up-and-coming program that averaged 15 wins per season. He coached in the Chicago Lockdown AAU program out of LaGrange, which should, along with his experience at Kenwood, provide another valuable avenue to attract top talent to St. Laurence.
If not for an alleged parental power play at Kenwood that cost him his job, Maley likely wouldn’t have been available. Kenwood’s loss, however, is St. Laurence’s gain.
“I’m very excited,” Maley said. “I was really impressed by how serious St. Laurence is about turning around the program. I walked away from my first interview saying that this is a place I wanted to work.”
I know what skeptics are saying to themselves: Be careful what you wish for.
I beg to differ, though.
Make no mistake. Long hours are going to be required to turn around the fortunes at St. Laurence, which has finished above .500 just twice since 1990: In 1994-95 (14-12) and 2002-03 (26-7). Other than those two seasons, the Vikings have been irrelevant.
Under Sevedge, a St. Laurence alum, the program had a 31-106 record the past five seasons, including 6-22 last season. The cupboard, in regards to talent, may not be bare, but it lacks difference-makers.
Maley, a 2002 Lyons graduate, has to resemble the Pied Piper in that regard. Most kids prefer to play for a winner. Initially, Maley must find kids who yearn to be part of restoring a program to its once dominant past of the late 1970s and be the next Jim Stack and Kevin Boyle — Google search those names, boys and girls.
“I believe there are kids out there that want to be a part of a turnaround,” Maley said. “Kids that want to create their own name and not be the 15th or 16th guy at a powerhouse program. Those are kids we’re going to have to attract and we’re going to have to do that immediately for this upcoming freshmen class.”
It’s a task Maley is confident he can accomplish or he wouldn’t have accepted the gig. He did it at Kenwood, a CPS magnet school located on the South Side. The added bonus of having the full support of the St. Laurence hierarchy should expedite the transformation, as should his stable presence on the bench.
“I’m not one of those coaches who scream and swear at kids,” Maley said. “It takes a lot for me to get mad but when I do, I believe it’s more effective because kids don’t often see me like that.”
His patience will be tested a few years, until he can compile a roster of his own players. He insists the St. Laurence job isn’t a stepping stone to greener pastures. This isn’t a sprint, but a marathon and he’s in it for the long haul.
“One of the things I’m upset about is that we established Kenwood and they’re going to contend for the city championship next year (without him),” said Maley, whose married and has no children. “I don’t want that to happen again. I want to stay and build something. I’d love to be like (St. Joseph coach) Gene Pingatore and coach till I’m 85 and still be at St. Laurence.”