The Catholic League is a basketball conference that’s steadily been on the rise over the past decade. With an influx of individual talent while also making a presence at the state level, it’s a league that continues to grab more basketball attention.
As stated by Loyola coach Tom Livatino, the longest tenured coach in the league at 14 years, “The Catholic League has never been in better shape from a basketball standpoint.”
DePaul Prep has a pair of recent third-place state finishes — one in Class 3A in 2018-19 and another one last season in Class 2A. Leo finished second in Class 1A in 2015-16, while St. Ignatius finished third in the state in Class 3A last season.
The schedules Catholic League coaches have put together has also ramped up, putting their respective programs on bigger platforms in high-profile events.
In Mount Carmel’s DeAndre Craig, Brother Rice’s Ahmad Henderson and the St. Ignatius tandem of Jackson Kotecki and Richard Barron, there are four Catholic League seniors who will sign with Division I programs.
St. Rita, which figures to be among the preseason top five when the season begins, has the top three college prospects in the Class of 2024. And sophomores Melvin Bell of St. Rita and Phoenix Gill of St. Ignatius are two of the top five sophomores in the state.
Plus, the Catholic League is unique in a number ways while so many other conferences, though no fault of their own, remain quite vanilla. With basketball improving, the unique brands within the league add to the intrigue.
When you dig deep into the 15-team league, there is a wide-range of, well, just about everything, and it’s way more diverse than meets the eye.
The geographical landscape alone is really unlike any other basketball conference in the state. There are nine schools spread throughout Chicago, ranging from as far south as St. Francis De Sales at 102nd Street to DePaul Prep just north of Belmont Ave. in Roscoe Village.
There is Loyola on the North Shore in Wilmette, Fenwick just outside the city’s West Side in Oak Park, Marmion and Montini in the western suburbs and St. Laurence and Providence in the southwest suburbs.
The schools throughout the league are considerably different in terms of socioeconomic backgrounds, both in their student populations and the neighborhoods they’re in.
There are Class 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A schools. There are all-boys schools and coed schools.
And the gyms they play in are generally in a class of their own, far from the generic, bland, cookie-cutter gyms we predominantly see across high school basketball. (Have you been to Leo for a game?)
With all that being said, the coaching jobs among the 15 schools tend to be dramatically different as well — again, in comparison to other conferences that are more centrally localized.
As a result, the City/Suburban Hoops Report set out to identify which high school basketball coaching job is viewed as the best in the diverse Catholic League.
Coaches throughout the league, both past and present, along with others with strong ties to Catholic League basketball, were polled. They were to consider several factors in ranking the best basketball coaching jobs in the Catholic League, including:
• Winning and tradition.
• Location and access to players.
• Salary/pay for coaches and teachers
• Facilities and resources.
Those surveyed were asked to rank the top five coaching jobs based on the aforementioned criteria. All together, 18 individuals submitted votes. First-place votes received 10 points, second-place votes received eight points, third-place votes seven points, fourth-place votes five points and fifth-place votes three points.
The final results were as follows:
1. DePaul Prep (106 points)
2. De La Salle (88 points)
3. Brother Rice (86 points)
4. Loyola (68 points)
5. Mount Carmel (64 points)
6. Fenwick (63 points)
7. St. Rita (55 points)
8. St. Ignatius (53 points)
9. Leo (16 points)
10. St. Laurence (3 points)
A couple of interesting results from the voting:
DePaul was the one program listed most prominently, landing on the top five list of 17 of the 18 surveyed. That resulted in the Rams landing at No. 1.
Interestingly, there were eight different coaching jobs that received at least one first-place vote for best basketball job. Those first-place votes included: De La Salle (4), Loyola (3), Brother Rice (3), St. Ignatius (2), St. Rita (2), Fenwick (2), DePaul (1) and Mount Carmel (1).
Here are a few of the off-the-record quotes from those who were surveyed:
What is coming with their new facilities? I don’t think anyone will come close to matching in the league. … Families want to send their kids to school in a safe area and DePaul provides that. … A lot of diversity in that school. … Playing in Class 2A provides a very favorable path to downstate and regular trips to the Sweet 16 every year. … Tremendous athletic director there in Pat Mahoney. … Building brand new athletic facilities which will be a game-changer. … DePaul has competitive salaries and rich environment for camp money. … Being the only Catholic school on the North Side of the city, east of the expressway and in an affluent area, is a plus. They can attract students from all over the city. … The job is great but Tom Kleinschmidt has been instrumental in making the job great. He built the program from the very bottom of the league, and that is as impressive a rebuild as you can find in the state. … The facilities that are coming will be game-changing for that program. Is that a sell, though, for today? … I don’t know how great the job is, but I really think Kleinschmidt has made that job. … Such a wide draw for student-athletes there. They can tap into so many different zip codes and elementary schools.
De La Salle
Great basketball tradition, alumni base and the administration wants to win. … Perfect area to attract the best players in the area and the resources to make sure those students can attend. … Very strong alumni base. … Central location of De La Salle makes it a great job. … They have had a lot of longevity and consistency within their program, having had only five head coaches since 1961. … Newer facilities are a plus. … Class 3A path they have is favorable. … They are smack right in the middle of the North Side and South Side, so they can pull kids from either direction, and it’s right off the expressway and has fairly decent tuition. … De La Salle has multiple courts where they host events and camps. … De La Salle’s location has the ability to draw in students and athletes from all over the city and surrounding suburbs. … Right off the Metra stop, Green Line, Red Line, the highway. Just 20 minutes from the suburbs and 30 minutes from Indiana. … The facilities are an advantage. It’s the first school in the Catholic League to have its own fieldhouse. … De La Salle has its own buses and transportation system for students, including an activities bus. Between the public transportation and what De La Salle has to offer, there is no better convenience.
Tradition. Such a great basketball tradition there. … Their gym is one of the toughest places to play, especially in front of a packed house there. … Brother Rice has many natural rivalries against schools in their area that bring excitement to the community. … Basketball is a big deal at Brother Rice which helps attract aspiring basketball players to their school. … So much tradition and success there since Pat Richardson took over the program in 1989. … That’s a hot bed right there for grade school basketball, and it’s an advantage having those schools who also have some quality coaching going on at that level. … When they get it going there, I’m not sure there is more excitement around basketball than at Brother Rice within their community and student body. That’s a big draw.
The combination of competitive salaries, very good facilities and top-notch academics is what makes Loyola such a good basketball job. … Loyola has won a lot of games and had success without really any Division I talent in a league and area that’s extremely competitive. Maybe that’s Tom Livatino, but it’s also an indication of the job, type of kid they’re getting there. … The pay and benefits they receive at Loyola are probably the best in the Catholic League. … Loyola has a great advantage with their facilities and resources — the weight room they have, the fieldhouse, the facilities for training and weight training. … The reputation of the school up in that area is a draw for a lot of families.
The location and access to players is one of the best, if not the best, in the entire Catholic League when you can pull from the western suburbs and the West Side of Chicago. … When that gym is full? Love that gym.
It’s a football school, but they’ve had a lot of basketball players and talent go through the gym there. … Very nice facilities. … Remember, it’s the last Catholic League school to win a big school basketball state championship. That counts for something, even if it was decades ago. … Mount Carmel really does have access to a lot of players in that immediate area and just beyond.
There really is a lot more to sell at Ignatius than people realize. It really offers something different than most of the schools in the league. … A wonderful job because of the location — near downtown, in a wealthy area with wealthy supporters and alumni. … The school has multiple gyms and the campus is beautiful. … It has everything you need to sell to families and players. … Ignatius has one of the best combinations of academics and athletics in the state of Illinois. … What makes it a great job are its high academic standards, beautiful campus, central location in the city, recent athletic success. … St. Ignatius can be one of the destination schools in the entire region. … Salaries there are an advantage and very competitive which is a draw to that job in comparison to other private schools.
They have a rich history which is important. Before James Brown and Morez Johnson, there was Vic Law, Charles Matthews and other Division I and NBA guys who came out of there. … Overall athletic tradition is huge at St. Rita and that carries over into basketball. They are known for winning and that makes it much easier.