Posted Online: May 28, 2008, 9:21 am
Moline gets Galesburg grad Webber
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By Steve Tappa, email@example.com
Thanksgiving dinners just got a little more interesting in Ryan Webber’s house.
By becoming Moline High School’s next boys’ basketball coach Tuesday night, the 28-year-old Galesburg grad finds himself on opposite ends of family feasts with the Maroons’ mortal enemy.
Webber and the wife of Rock Island High School head coach Thom Sigel are first cousins. Webber, also the brother-in-law of his former Galesburg coach, Rockton Hononegah head man Mike Miller, even started his coaching career as an assistant under Sigel for the Rocks in 2002-03.
Talk about the Hatfields and the McCoys.
``That might be pretty weird,’’ Webber said about the family bragging rights now in one of the state’s oldest and most-heated rivalries. ``It’ll be tough because we’re so close. But like we talked (Monday night), we’ve got such a strong relationship, two nights out of the year we’re going to want to beat each other, but for all of those other days, we’ll stay close, because it’s important to both of us.’’
One of two candidates picked as finalists by Moline’s search committee, Webber was put in that predicament when the Moline School Board approved his appointment at its regularly-scheduled meeting Tuesday night.
The school briefly flirted with Steve Yount, now the former coach at rival United Township, to replace the deposed Jon Nedelcoff, who was let go in March. However, Moline returned to Webber two weekends ago when Yount learned his college-coaching experience wouldn’t transfer into teaching credits.
``It’s been a crazy spring,’’ allowed Webber, a 66-game winner the past three seasons at Class 2A Byron. Moline’s a 4A school. ``But I didn’t worry about everything going on down here. I just waited for the phone to ring.’’
Webber also had been a candidate this spring at another Western Big 6 Conference school, when his alma mater fired Jeff Houston in March. However, Webber pulled his name from contention late in the hiring process at Galesburg.
``Moline didn’t factor into my decision,’’ said Webber, whose family includes wife Megan, a nurse, and 21-month-old daughter Olivia. `` I just didn’t think Galesburg was the right move for us at this time. I didn't have to leave Byron. But getting the chance to try and sustain the program Jerry Leggett and Frank Dexter built qualifies as a special chance in my book.’’
Indeed, having played for Galesburg, and assisting Sigel for a season, Webber is well aware of the tradition and atmosphere at Moline’s venerable Wharton Field House.
``Actually, things didn’t always go my way there, but I still have great memories from playing at Wharton, with 5,500 people coming to watch us play,’’ Webber said. ``It’s one of the greatest atmospheres you could ask for in any state.
``One of the things I look forward to the most, is how wild and crazy we can make Wharton again. People want to see a winner. The teams I’ve coached have been very good defensively and fundamentally sound. Offensively, we want to take good shots, pass the ball extremely well, play together as a team and value every possession.''
Moline athletic director Todd Rosenthal believes that’ll be the recipe for the Maroons success.
``He’s young. He looks like a student,’’ Rosenthal said of Webber, who turns 29 in August. ``But you know what? Somebody gave me my shot when I was 25, and I’d like to think it worked out OK (winning a state wrestling title as a coach).
``Some people have said he’ll be a candidate to coach in college someday. We were down in Houston at the NCAA Regional Tournament for Memphis, and amongst the coaches they even mentioned his name as one of the up-and-comers in our state. I know he’s only been a head coach three seasons, but he’s very impressive.’’
Webber’s first order of business is meeting with Rosenthal today to begin assembling a staff and putting together a summer program. The Western Illinois grad also plans to meet with his team soon.
``It’s going to be a hectic summer,'' Webber said, ``with the late start, needing to move down there and me also finishing my Masters degree (in administration) the beginning of July. So I’m sure I’ll be neglecting some sleep.’’