Five months after his nine-year tenure at Trinity ended in acrimony, Eddie Stritzel is back doing what he loves most.
Stritzel has been hired as girls basketball coach at Nazareth.
It is the second recent high-profile coaching hire made by Nazareth athletic director Duane Buturusis, who also brought in Sean Pearson, a 1991 Nazareth graduate and former University of Kansas player, to lead the boys basketball program.
“(Stritzel) brings some great qualities to this program,” Buturusis said. “He has great credibility.
“He has a passion for the sport and the kids and that’s what you want. We’re excited at having him here.”
Stritzel, who played collegiately at what is now Dominican University in River Forest, has been coaching for 20 years.
He is the winningest coach in Trinity history, having compiled a 236-51 record over nine seasons. But he was forced out November 30, one day before he was return from a 30-day suspension for an alleged recruiting violation.
Stritzel was sued for fraud by the parents of a former player, but that suit has since been dismissed. He has refused to publicly say anything negative about Trinity, which went on to finish third in the state this year under his successor, Mike Valente.
“My family has tried to handle everything with class and dignity,” Stritzel said. “We’ve just been trying to take care of our daughter, Annie, and make sure she’s in a great place.”
Annie Stritzel is a 5-foot-9 guard who already has scholarship offers from several schools, including DePaul. The sophomore-to-be is expected to transfer from Trinity to Nazareth at the conclusion of the school year.
Stritzel also hopes to bring former assistants Dave Roseland, Jeff Krason and Nicole Rivera, who resigned in solidarity with him, to Nazareth. They will interview for positions on the staff.
Though stung by how things ended at Trinity, Stritzel is focused squarely on the future.
“I felt Nazareth was the right fit for my family,” Stritzel said. “We are being welcomed with open arms.
“Nazareth really sold me on their program. Obviously, academics are top of the line and athletically they are prepared to go to the next level.”
Stritzel replaces Kim Connell, who was 52-69 in four seasons at Nazareth, including 9-21 this past season. Connell, who has been assistant athletic director under Buturusis for four years, will remain as an assistant coach. She has won 385 games in a 19-year career that included stops at Rockford Boylan and Waubonsie Valley, where she compiled a 75-11 record from 2009-2012.
“Kim has been very supportive,” Stritzel said.
Connell will be taking on more administrative abilities as she is expected to be a leading candidate to succeed Buturusis, who intends to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year after a 47-year career in education, which included 18 years of teaching and coaching at Riverside-Brookfield.
“This is a great situation for us,” Buturusis said. “It was the right time for our program.
“Kim Connell did a great job and she will continue to do a great job, and we have some outstanding young ladies (on the roster).”
The Roadrunners have never won a sectional title, though they have captured nine regional championships, most recently a 3A crown in 2014 when they went 18-12 under Connell.
The hiring of Stritzel signals that Nazareth is committed to attaining elite status in girls basketball, much as it has in sports like football and baseball. It comes at a time when the school is building a major addition that will house a practice gym as well as nine new classrooms and space for performing arts.
“I’m really excited and we intend to make Nazareth a state power sooner or later,” Stritzel said. “You get one or two kids to come and then families see that it is another option for people in the neighborhood who might not have thought of Nazareth before.
Stritzel’s teams at Trinity were known for playing up-tempo, fundamentally sound basketball and succeeding against teams with bigger players and better talent. He intends to bring the same brand to Nazareth.
“We’re going to implement my system,” Stritzel said. “We like to play a fun and fast style. It will be fun to watch.
“I firmly believe that kids want to be great. The future is going to be very bright.”