With the start of official preseason workouts for the start of the 2016-17 season a little over three weeks away, Althoff boys basketball coach Greg Leib is still receiving accolades and honors for a spectacular ‘15-16 season which ended in the Crusaders first state championship.
Entering his 19th season as the Crusaders coach, Leib has been the recipient of the 2015-16 National Federation of High Schools Illinois Boys Basketball Coach of the Year. The award, chosen by Illinois High School Association Sports Administrators, is based upon the positive work Leib has done with athletes in the Crusaders program.
A native of Flora, Ill. and graduate of Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, Leib led Althoff to a 32-2 record and the Class 3A state title in March.
Early next month, the Crusaders will begin the process of trying to repeat, but for a few minutes on Tuesday the 49-year-old Leib took a few minutes to reflect once again on a truly remarkable and magical season.
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“Actually, it’s kind of a shock and surprise that somebody like me is considered for an award like this. It’s a great honor,’’ Leib said. “The first thing I did was I told my wife and then I contacted all of my assistant coaches. I get the credit for it, but those guys put in a lot of time and a lot of dedication into making this program successful. I have been blessed with great coaches.
“Then I contacted all my players. I told them that I the reason I was even up for this award was because of their hard work and togetherness. They were the reasons that WE were even up for an award like this.
A 26-year coaching veteran who coached at Roxana for four years before being named the Crusaders coach before the start of the 1998-99 season, Leib begins his 19th season at Althoff this season with a mark of 329-197. Leib has had 12 winning seasons at Althoff.
“It goes fast. It’s like smoke through a key hole. Me and coach (Glenn) Schott sitting here in this office. The air conditioning was broken and I was wearing a suit and I was really sweating and I remember the interview went for like 1 1/2 - 2 hours,’’ Leib said. “But I remember it really felt good. I think he was happy to have another country boy in the buiiding. I’ve had great relationships here. You never look back.
“Coaching at Althoff is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I feel truly blessed to be here and to work with great people. ‘’
.After losing the Class 3A state title game to Westchester St. Joseph’s the previous season, Leib said expectations were high heading into the ‘15-16 campaign.
“What I did last year was try to take in the moment and enjoy being with the kids and continuing to build a relationship with those kids. It’s still true today. The kids in college still send me mid-term reports on how they are doing.
“Basketball wise we had several very accomplished players on last year’s team. Getting them to check their egos and doing what was best for the team wasn’t a problem. If it was getting to take a less number of shots and instead making that extra pass for the success of the team they did that. Those guys really bought into what we were doing and who we wanted to be. They get all the credit for that. They could have shot the ball up everytime they touched it. But they didn’t. That’s why we had the success we did last year.
Leib said he had help from other coaches in learning what it took to get to the state tournament.
“Edwardsville (Coach) Mike Waldo was a big help in terms of organizational skills of what it took. Getting to the state tournament is like going to war because if you don’t have the right supplies you aren’t going to be around very long. Mike helped we with that the first year we were there and they we tweaked it and built upon it based on how we wanted to approach it
“Getting second in the state tournament the year before helped. Returing almost everybody really helped. I remember the kids were really dejected after we lost the state final game the previous year. Some of the kids didn’t want their state medals and I remember I had to get them and tell them, ‘that you are going to want this medal later.’ I think that feeling those kids really motivated them coming back on their goals and what we wanted to do as a team..’’
The jump to Class 4A
Althoff returns several players this season including first team all-state selection and St. Louis University recruit Jordan Goodwin. And the Crusaders also move up a Class into Class 4A where they will take on the likes of Edwardsville, East St. Louis, Belleville East, Belleville West and the rest of the Southwestern Conference in the post season.
“It’s going to be tough. Our margin for error will be much less in Class 4A. The expectations will be high because, again because of all the kids we have back. It will be a real challenge,’’ Leib said. “Our approach will be go out and do our best every night we take the floor.
And the Crusaders will have the NFHS Coach of the Year to lead the way
“Like I said before, its a wonderful honor. But it’s not why I coach. I’m not into personal accolades and honors,’’ Leib said. “As a young coach or even an old coach, you dream of winning a state title and we were able to accomplish that last year.. The awards are very nice. But the honors I receive are because of the kids and coaches who help me.’’