By Bob Skolnik
He was the obvious choice.
To the surprise of no one, Mike Reingruber was named the new head coach of the boys varsity basketball team at Riverside-Brookfield High school Tuesday night after the District 208 school board voted unanimously to give him the job, succeeding longtime head coach Tom McCloskey, who retired at the end of this season.
Reingruber, a 1995 RBHS graduate, has served as the head coach of the boys sophomore team for the last 16 years, winning 15 conference titles and piling up 303 wins against 86 losses. The sophomore team was 22-2 this past season.
"It feels great," Reingruber said of getting his dream job. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity and excited about moving forward."
Reingruber's success as a sophomore coach and his reputation in the high school basketball community has led other schools to approach him about varsity jobs, but Reingruber never applied. He didn't want to leave RBHS.
"I grew up here. I bleed blue and white," said Reingruber who grew up and continues to live in Brookfield. "This is something that, obviously, means a lot to me and is very special to me."
The 39-year-old Reingruber works as a counselor at RBHS. He started coaching freshmen at the school in 1997 as a volunteer when he was still a junior at North Central College. He played one season at North Central College after playing four years at RBHS and starting as shooting guard his senior season.
"I was very average," Reingruber said. "I had to work my tail off to be very average."
McCloskey, who coached Reingruber at RBHS for three years, was a little more charitable.
"Mike was an extremely hard worker," McCloskey said. "Through sheer hard work he made himself into an excellent player."
After realizing that his future as a player was limited, Reingruber turned his hard work and dedication from playing to coaching.
"Basketball has just always been a passion of mine and once I figured out I wasn't going to make it to the NBA and play much more in my career, I felt that coaching was the best way to get that fill," Reingruber said.
Reingruber was the only candidate considered for the head coaching job. Dan Herbeck, McCloskey's varsity assistant, did not apply for the top job.
"Mike had the unanimous support of the coaching staff on board," said co-interim Assistant Principal for Athletics John Treiber said.
McCloskey had recommended Reingruber for the top job.
"I wrote him a letter of recommendation and I made it known that I felt like he should get the job, and I'm thankful that they did hire him," McCloskey said. "I'm very happy about it. I think it's well deserved. He's worked very hard and he'll do a great job."
Reingruber started the Junior Bulldog feeder program and runs the annual summer shootout that attracts many of the top teams in the Chicago area. He's known as a voracious learner and attends the camps of many college coaches. He has been the only assistant coach on the board of directors of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.
"Mike's been the loyal solider," Treiber said. "He's been here for a long time and he's done the grunt work in the program."
Reingruber's replacement as sophomore coach has not been decided. Reingruber said that all the coaches in the program will get together and discuss roles. All the current coaches in the program are planning to remain and one new coach will be hired.
RBHS will continue to play the same style of up tempo offense and man-to-man defense that they played under McCloskey, who compiled a career mark of 437 wins and 236 losses with 15 conference titles in the last 16 years.
"I don't think they'll be a whole ton of changes with the program itself," Reingruber said. "Obviously I'll have a few of my own touches on it. We've got very similar styles in a lot of respects."
Reingruber can be expected to be more emotional and expressive on the bench during games than McCloskey was.
There will be one other difference that fans will notice.
"I won't be wearing suspenders," Reingruber said.