GODDARD: Building basketball from the ground up
Darien Thursday 11.15.12. Hinsdale Central head girls basketball coach Tom McKenna is shown during their game against Hinsdale South on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, in Darien. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:44AM
Tom McKenna knew there was work to do three years ago when he became Hinsdale Central’s girls’ basketball coach.
The Red Devils were coming off four straight West Suburban Silver championships and four regional titles in what forever will be known as the Toni Kokenis Era.
McKenna found out right away that he was right. His first team finished 3-23 without the exciting Kokenis, who now plays for Stanford, where she’s a guard on a nationally rated team.
McKenna, who has won over 400 games in a storied coaching career, shrugged off his initial season at Central.
“I was proud of the way our players scrapped,” he said. “It was a learning experience for all of us.”
Good times appear to be coming. The Red Devils were 9-16 the next season and 16-10 this year behind versatile point guard Lily Sarros, leading scorer sophomore Gabrielle Rush (21 points a game), Jenna Broz, Maddie Roglich, Emily Wasz, Megan Lord and Abby Gurka.
Graduating Sarros is the only one who won’t be back next season. She committed to Division III powerhouse Washington University in St. Louis, but vows to be with the Red Devils in spirit.
“I’ll be staying in touch,” she said. “They’re my friends. They’re going to be even better.”
McKenna hopes the rest will play AAU ball this summer. “I certainly hope so,” he said. “There are so many good programs out there for all ages.”
McKenna, who scours Hinsdale Central feeder schools and age-group programs for potential talent, feels a handful of eighth-grade players are ready for high-school ball.
“Many come to our summer camp,” said McKenna, who plans to install more pick-and-roll plays for the varsity team to free up the better shooters. “We count, too, on the many parents who keep their kids involved. Volunteer fathers are very important in their developments.’’
McKenna feels Washington is “a perfect fit” for Sarros. “Not only is it an excellent school academically, but their basketball teams are considered the Boston Celtics of Division III,” he said. “Students come from all over to play there.”
Sarros was sold on the college immediately.
“They were on my radar and they said I was on their radar,” she said. “I don’t know how they’ll use me. I’ll do anything to help.”
Anything? Pass out towels? Pick up used water cups?
“Whatever they want,” she said, laughing.