Mike DiMatteo's track record of success at Lake Zurich and Hinsdale Central made him the choice to become Buffalo Grove's next football coach.
Daily Herald file photo
New Buffalo Grove football coach Mike DiMatteo hopes to engineer a turnaround similar to when Lake Zurich reached the Class 7A state semifinals in 2002.
STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer
Buffalo Grove was the Mid-Suburban League's model football program for nearly four decades.
Winning division titles and making playoff appearances were a regular occurrence under Grant Blaney and Rich Roberts. BG was the first MSL team to play for a state title with its 1978 runner-up and the first to win one with its undefeated 1986 team.
But the program has fallen on hard times the last eight years with only one winning season. So BG has turned to a coach who has proved he can rebuild and consistently bring his teams to the postseason by announcing the hiring of Mike DiMatteo on Friday.
DiMatteo was 71-45 with eight playoff appearances in 11 years at Lake Zurich and Hinsdale Central, where his 2008 team finished second in the state in Class 8A.
"214 is a great district and for me personally it's a lot closer to home (Cary)," DiMatteo said Friday evening from a teacher's conference he is speaking at in Spain. "Buffalo Grove is a school that's had a history of outstanding athletes in a variety of different sports. When the football job opened up, how do you not put your name in the ring to take advantage of that opportunity.
"It's a great opportunity for me to grow professionally and to try to bring Buffalo Grove back to what it's known for and that's hard-hitting football."
DiMatteo replaces Jim Farrell, who was fired after going 13-23 in four seasons. BG's 1-8 finish last year was the worst in program history.
Lake Zurich was 1-8 in the two years before DiMatteo arrived but in his third season there in 2002 his team went 11-2 and reached the Class 7A semifinals where it lost to eventual champion Prospect.
"He is a proven leader in rebuilding a program and taking programs with success to the next level," said BG assistant principal for student activities Mark Schaetzlein. "His rapport with kids is one of the major criteria we were looking for along with his success on the football field."
His final three Lake Zurich teams also made the playoffs before he left for Hinsdale Central. His first four teams there made the postseason and in 2008 the Red Devils were 11-3 and lost 41-21 to Maine South in the 8A title game.
"Mike is the perfect fit for our program," said BG boys athletic director Kip North. "He has a proven track record of success behind him.
"We are excited for Mike, the staff and especially the kids in our program and building to have an opportunity to be impacted by such an accomplished coach and educator."
The 48-year-old DiMatteo played at Walther Lutheran in Melrose Park and also coached at St. Patrick, Morton East, Morton West, Leyden and Grayslake. He spent last season as an assistant to Chad Hetlet at Glenbard West.
"In the back of my mind I didn't think I was done being a head coach," said DiMatteo, a 2010 Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction who will join BG's Social Studies/World Languages department. "I wanted the right opportunity and BG presented that opportunity.
"It's a process and what that process is you really don't know because every school is different," DiMatteo said. "Lake Zurich was a different entity, Hinsdale Central was a different entity and Buffalo Grove will be a different entity."
The addition of DiMatteo at BG and the return of Brent Pearlman at Wheeling is part of a significant turnover in the MSL East. Brian Doll has been at Elk Grove for three years, Dragan Teonic has been at Hersey for two and Rolling Meadows' Matt Mishler and Prospect's Mike Sebestyen just finished their first year.
"The MSL East is having a resurgence and it's fun to be part of that," DiMatteo said.
"We're really excited," Schaetzlein said. "When you look at the (MSL) East with the coaches who are in place, it's going to be fun to watch."