Kenwood basketball coach pushes excellence

Sports Writer

Name: Jim Maley
Position: Head Boy’s Varsity Basketball Coach
School: Kenwood Academy
Mascot: Broncos
Conference: Public League Red Central
Previous Record: 5-4 conference, 15-12 overall
Current Record: 0-0 conference, 0-0 overall
Previous Ranking: No. 4
Current Ranking: No. 1

Jim Maley is currently entering his third season as the head boy’s varsity basketball coach and is a former graduate of The College of Holy Cross, in Worcester, Mass., with a Bachelor’s in Sociology (‘06), in addition to a Masters in Teaching from Concordia University, in River Forest, Ill., which he obtained in the spring of 2009.

Maley currently teaches athletics on campus with a focus in physical education, contact physical education and health. In his first year as head coach, he helped lead the Broncos to a 16-9 record, which earned them second place in the Public League Red Central (8-1) and the sixth overall seed in the city playoffs in 2011. Maley prides himself on using basketball as a teaching tool to improve academic performance, behavior and discipline among the athletes he coaches. An interesting fact about Coach Maley is that he is one of four varsity coaches in his immediate family.

HP: How excited are you about the upcoming season?
JM: I’m extremely excited about this year’s team. I believe this is one of the most talented groups I had since I’ve been here; also some of the hardest working young men I’ve ever coached. For example; we have open gym every morning at 6 a.m. Guys have taken advantage of it every single day. This group has been committed since day one. I believe that’s a good sign, telling us that we are ready to compete for a conference championship. I’m amazed that every single guy on this team has committed the whole year to perfecting their craft. And as a coach I have to say that I am really proud of them.

HP: What are some of the goals and expectations you set for this year’s team?
JM: My short-term goal is for us to get off to a good start and play well as a team in the Riverside-Brookfield Thanksgiving Classic this coming November against some pretty tough competition. My intermediate goal is to win the Red Central conference. And my long-term goal is to advance in the playoffs and win both the city and state championship.

HP: Are there any coaching greats that you admire or pattern your philosophy/coaching style after?
JM: Yes, coach John Wooden of UCLA. He is a guy that I read a lot about and really admired his philosophy as a coach. He did not believe in yelling at guys or embarrassing them to get a reaction. He believed that coaching and instruction should be taught — not screamed. I’m not a screamer; it’s a waste of precious time yelling at players during a game for what they’ve done wrong on the floor. We have an evaluation process for that.

HP: Coming from a family of coaches, what are the sports conversation like amongst you and your siblings?
JM: It’s great. Normally at the dinner table during Thanksgiving or Christmas, we discuss a lot of sports. It’s either me or my dad going back and forth on different points on how I can improve as a coach or my siblings. It’s pretty heated at the table —my wife is a coach also — and at the end of the day, we are all one big happy family that gets along.

HP: Did you ever play at the collegiate or professional level?
JM: Yes, I played for the Northwestern Wildcats for one year. And no, I never played professional ball.

HP: Can you share three strengths and three weaknesses from last year’s team?
JM: With last year’s team, our strengths were speed, an ability to finish at the rim and work ethic. Our weaknesses were [that] we struggled defensively at times against bigger teams due to our smaller line up. We also didn’t shoot the ball well, which led to a lot of transition buckets and poor rebounding.

HP: Are there any standout players returning from last year’s team?
JM: We have three guys returning from last year’s team. Two juniors, guards Steven Williams and Rahaman Katumbusi, who both have scholarship offers from Chicago State University, and 6 foot 6 inch sophomore Nick Robinson, a future college player.

HP: Can you explain how you use basketball as a tool to improve academic performance, behavior and discipline among the athletes you coach?
JM: We are extremely strict when it comes to grades. As a coach and a teacher, I am constantly monitoring study hall, which we have three times a week, even during off-season. We don’t allow players to play with a grade point average below 2.5. Academically, we have set the bar high for our players. We currently have as a team a cumulative grade point average of 3.1, where we were at 3.2 last year as a team. In addition to that, each player has to sign off on a code of conduct form which says that they will be responsible for their own consequences — be it good or bad. Guys have been pretty good when it comes to following rules, knowing that whether they’re a great player or not, the rules are the rules.

HP: Being a man of academics, how much do you emphasis to your players the importance of obtaining a college degree?
JM: I emphasize the importance of goal setting.

HP: If you can sum it up in three words, what you would like your legacy to be as a coach?
JM: Integrity, hard work and commitment.