Serving more than a decade at Ridgewood as physical education teacher, boys basketball coach and, last year, as athletic director, Patrick Woods admitted he was entrenched within the Norridge high school.
A new chapter in his life begins Monday with his anticipated hiring as St. Charles East physical education teacher and boys varsity head basketball coach, pending approval of the District 303 Board of Education.
"I've always wanted to get to a bigger school," said Woods, a 1989 graduate of Morton High School in Berwyn and 1995 University of Illinois grad.
"Ridgewood's student population is about 782, around there, and St. Charles East is about 2,500. I've always wanted to coach at a bigger school, and St. Charles East, I thought, was a great opportunity."
Woods went 97-148 in nine seasons at Ridgewood from 2001 through 2010. After the Rebels picked up 8, 3 and 4 wins in his first three seasons, Woods steered the program on course, going 17-11 in 2007-08.
In his four seasons after 2006 Ridgewood only once finished under .500, 14-15 in 2009-10, while playing a nonconference schedule including New Trier, Oak Park and Morton.
"The kids took their commitment to another level, and whenever you do that, with commitment usually comes success," said Woods, citing summers "booked" with camps, weight training and skill development.
"We'll have the same kind of off-season commitment, hopefully, with the kids at St. Charles, and hopefully continue to see the same results," he said.
Woods, who sought to return to coaching after only one year away from the prep game as Ridgewood's athletic director in 2010-11, was a student teacher and boys basketball assistant at Naperville North in 1994-95.
He took his first teaching job at Winfield Middle School, also coaching sixth- through eighth-grade boys and girls basketball. Woods assisted in the West Chicago Community High School girls basketball program from 1998-2000 before arriving at Ridgewood.
At St. Charles he succeeds coach Brian Clodi, removed as coach in acrimonious fashion after last season. Chris Powell has since coached the team on an interim basis.
Woods said he knows nothing of what happened during that controversy, and his philosophy is to keep "moving forward." That sounds a lot like his style on the court.
"We're going to play an up-tempo style -- push it up the floor, pressure defense, high intensity, high energy," he said. "It'll be fun to play and fun to watch, but it'll be demanding at the same time."
A resident of Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood with wife, Barb, and 2-year-old son, Nathan, Woods has spoken with a few Saints staff members, and has scheduled a full staff meeting on Saturday. As of Wednesday he had yet to address the players.
Woods said a handful of "contact" days remain this summer between Saints coaches and players. He'll use that time to become familiar with his players, and vice versa, and to introduce his offensive and defensive sets and transition game.
"I'm not expecting anything too deep," he said.
That will come soon enough.
"Though I enjoyed my time at Ridgewood, it's time for me to move on. I just look forward to the opportunity, really," Woods said.
"Hopefully we're going to have some success early and it'll be a good, successful experience for the young men at St. Charles East, and I'm looking forward to becoming a member of the St. Charles community."
Bartlett's Bilyeu to Air Force:
Bartlett High School quarterback AJ Bilyeu has accepted the Division I scholarship offer he received from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He picked the Falcons after receiving offers from several MAC and Ivy League programs, as well as strong interest from Big Ten schools.
Last fall as a junior, Bilyeu completed 105 of 157 passes for 1,437 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for 306 yards and 8 more scores.
"AJ is one of the hardest working young men I've ever been around," said Bartlett offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Eric Ilich. "Air Force is getting a fine quarterback."
Bilyeu is the second consecutive Division I quarterback to come out of Bartlett under the tutelage of head coach Tom Meaney and Ilich. Bilyeu's predecessor Josh Hasenberg is the frontrunner to win the starting quarterback job at Colgate University this fall.