Winters Ready For Harlem Challenge

The successful Stateline coach will try to elevate Harlem's struggling program.

MACHESNEY PARK - Mike Winters has made winning basketball games look easy in his 14 seasons as a head coach. His teams have won big at four different schools. Now his coaching ability will be put to the biggest test yet as he takes over at Harlem.

Harlem's boys sports programs have been perennial winners. The football, wrestling and baseball teams generally finish in the top two or three in the NIC-10. That hasn't been the case with the boys basketball program. The Huskies have had two winning seasons in the last 15 years.

"It's a little puzzling because there have been some really good players here," says Winters.

Winters envisions the day when Harlem basketball also finishes in the upper echelon of the NIC-10 on a regular basis.

"I think if everything falls into place the sky is the limit here. We have the largest student body. We have arguably the best facility, arguably."

There IS some sentimental value attached to this job for Winters.

"It's funny because this is the first place I ever saw a high school basketball game," says Winters pointing. "Sitting right up over here in the bleachers. My dad would bring me here."

Winters has been well traveled in his coaching career with stops at Oregon, Jefferson, Rock Falls and Boylan. His teams won 73 percent of their games. They all had solid foundations when he arrived and in the case of Boylan a phenomenal tradition in basketball.  This Harlem job is different and that's part of that attraction.

"When you do it (win) at Boylan it's expected and at Rock Falls it's expected," says Winters. "I think there are people that will automatically expect it to happen here as well. I expect it to happen here."

The reason Winters has bounced around so much isn't because he gets antsy. At Oregon and Jefferson his teaching positions were eliminated and at Rock Falls (she taught at Dixon) his wife's teaching position was eliminated. Winters left Boylan to pursue his masters degree. 

"There's a story behind all that stuff. We're not bouncing around just to bounce around," says Winters."

The Harlem job is one Winters could easily settle into.

"My wife and I talked about this job. We live less than five minutes from here. We're in the district our kids can go to school here."

Winters will finish his Masters Degree this Saturday. He is also expected to hold a teaching position at Harlem.


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