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updated: 8/25/2011 10:01 PM

Lake Zurich goes on the offensive with Pearlman

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  • Former Prospect head coach Brent Pearlman will direct Lake Zurich's offense this fall. Pearlman won three state championships at Prospect.

      Former Prospect head coach Brent Pearlman will direct Lake Zurich's offense this fall. Pearlman won three state championships at Prospect.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer


Standing outside an office filled with football coaches during the first week of official high school practice, Lake Zurich girls volleyball coach Matt Aiello beamed as he talked about a newcomer.

"The rich get richer," Aiello, flashing a million-buck smile, said to a visitor waiting to talk to football coaches.

Aiello was talking about a junior transfer who has a talent for spiking the volleyball and should make his talented Bears only wealthier.

Funny, the assumption was that Aiello was referring to the football program's newest pickup.

Brent Pearlman comes to Lake Zurich with three state championships to his credit as head coach at Prospect.

That filthy-rich neighbor of yours just won a convertible at a golf outing.

Keys to success dangle from Pearlman's persona.

The man who turned Prospect into a state power and provided many great nights for the Knights will call the offense. It's a responsibility that head coach Bryan Stortz has handled since he became head coach in 2006 but will gladly relinquish because he knows the Bears won the lottery by securing Pearlman.

"I know what he's done (at Prospect) and I know some of the players that have played for him have had great things to say about him," Stortz said. "To me, any time you can make a program better by having an addition like that, it's worth looking into."

A man who was smart enough to surround himself with veteran coaches when he nabbed the head-coaching gig for LZ's rising program six years ago, Stortz says he and Pearlman got together 3-4 times during Christmas break last winter.

'Twas the season to give and, in that spirit, each coach had plenty to offer the other.

Pearlman, who lives in Lake Zurich, had stepped down after 12 glorious seasons at Prospect, where he went 104-34.

He was certainly familiar with Lake Zurich football. He beat coach Mike DiMatteo's Bears 24-15 in the first round of the playoffs in 2005. The following year, rookie coach Stortz and LZ topped Prospect 17-3 in the state semifinals.

Last fall, Pearlman's final game as Prospect's coach was a 14-7 loss to Lake Zurich in the second round of the playoffs.

"We had some lengthy discussions (over Christmas break)," Stortz said, "about what would this look like. What roles would we take on? How would we do it? Do we even want to do it? Is it something we both think would be in the best interest of, really, these kids and the program?

"We both thought that there were a lot of positives that could come out of it. Obviously we'll have challenges, like every group does. But I think that just looking at the way that we've grown through the summer, there's going to be a heck of a lot more positives than there will be negatives."

Pearlman is your typical successful football coach: intense, bright, studious. He walks with a purpose that could seemingly intimidate his players and maybe some officials, too.

If the gray around the temples and chiseled chin don't earn your respect, his stern voice will. When he shouts, players' ears perk.

But the stress of being a head football coach can take its toll. Pearlman's position with Lake Zurich means he can just coach.

Which explains the smile he's sporting.

"I'm having an absolute blast," Pearlman said. "There's definitely some fun in the fact of just coming here and coaching football and going home (afterward). I enjoyed being a head coach, but this is definitely a different sense of enjoyment for me. I would say I'm probably having a little more fun with a little less headaches."

Pearlman's presence should mean fewer headaches for Stortz, too. The Bears' boss already had a great staff, which includes defensive genius Dave Proffitt. Now he has another great brain to pick in Pearlman, who calls Stortz "a great, great football coach."

Pearlman has brought with him from Prospect assistant Steve Polley, who works with Chad Beaver coaching the offensive line.

The guess would be that the collection of so many successful coaches might cause a clash of egos. But at Lake Zurich, coaches have always complemented each other.

"One of the things I've really enjoyed about being here is this is a place where everyone knows their role," Pearlman said. "They've made it very easy for me to settle into a role. From that end of it, I think it's a good match."

The team comes first, simply.

"It's not, 'My way,' or 'This way,' " Stortz said. "It's, 'What's the best way?' "

What's best for Stortz, for now anyway, is not being both head coach and offensive coordinator.

His new responsibility?

"Watching, having fun," Stortz joked. "I'm doing everything. I'm involved more in everything that I have been. I've been fortunate with Dave Proffitt and the defense that I haven't had to be heavily involved in that at all.

"I'm coaching more kids (as opposed to) specific kids. I can get around the practice a lot easier now. I can coach defensive guys. I can coach offensive guys. I have roles on both sides of the ball. And special teams-wise, I'm coordinating primarily everything."

Prospect produced its share of great quarterbacks under Pearlman, and look for the run-first Bears to make strides in their passing game under his direction.

"I'm not sure what I'm going to bring," Pearlman said. "Did Lake Zurich need something brought? I don't think so. They were doing great. Do I think we can all learn from each other? I do. I think I'm going to bring an opportunity for them to learn from my experiences, and I'm getting an opportunity to learn from their experiences."

For Stortz, pursuing Pearlman was a no-brainer.

"We ask the players to continue to get better," Stortz said. "We've got to do the same thing as a staff."

Smart move.