After 40 years as an assistant football coach, Maciejewski now calls the shots
Every so often Lee Maciejewski brings up the topic of retirement to his wife, Nora.
"She just shakes her head and says, 'Sure, Lee.'"
She's a skeptic. Both are retired teachers, but as a high school coach Lee Maciejewski is a lifer.
Other than a lapse last spring, since 1978 he has coached a sport every fall, winter and spring -- football, boys basketball, softball.
He's a past head coach in softball and basketball, in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame for his work at West Chicago, Glenbard West and as an assistant at Hinsdale Central and now Downers Grove North.
For decades he's been an assistant football coach -- the pervious nine years at Lisle; more than 30 years at Glenbard West; and at Wisconsin Dells High School close to his hometown, Milwaukee.
Maciejewski can only read so many books and wax his car so many times. Rest doesn't work for him.
Surely, though, at age 74 he wouldn't take his first head football head coaching job.
Being fit and as old-school as they come, with Nora's blessing ("I don't mind," she said), Maciejewski did. He's the new coach at Westmont, where the Sentinels have had six winning seasons in 50 years.
"My job is to turn the program around, get it on a good, solid base and then, hopefully, bring in a young guy that wants to be the head coach," he said.
"I always thought I'd make good head football coach, but when I was head coach in two other sports, in the way football was going, year-round, I couldn't coach those other sports and be a head coach."
Maciejewski liked a brief taste of it in 2021 when he led Lisle for three games after his buddy, Paul Parpet Sr., another coaching lifer, had a midseason heart attack. He also appreciated Parpet's willingness to let Maciejewski do his own thing as an assistant.
A regime change at Lisle sent both men packing -- leading to two of several interesting football coaching scenarios.
Maciejewski said he'd love to be on the Metea Valley sideline watching Parpet serve as an assistant to his nephew, John Parpet.
It's an about-face from when John left an assistant job at Plano to join his uncle at Lisle, before John Parpet took over the Metea Mustangs in 2019.
Retired Hall of Fame Kaneland coach Joe Thorgesen now has two sons leading teams: Boone, in his third season at Geneva; and Michael, in his first year at his dad's old haunt, Kaneland. Too bad they don't play each other.
As Dick Quagliano previously wrote in the Daily Herald, Brent Pearlman rejoins the head coaching ranks at Grayslake Central. A three-time state champion head coach for Prospect, as an assistant Pearlman helped both Elk Grove and Wheeling break playoff dry spells.
Speaking of Prospect and Elk Grove, after taking the Grenadiers from an 0-9 season to the playoffs former Prospect all-stater and Fighting Illini Miles Osei returns south of I-80. Osei takes over high-scoring Kankakee, which hosts Nazareth and former Driscoll coach Tim Racki in its Aug. 25 opener.
Osei is a young man, Pearlman a little older. Then there's Maciejewski, who retired as a Glenbard West physical education teacher after the 2006-07 school year.
He's got the genes. Maciejewski's 100-year-old father, Joe, a long-retired DeKalb Police chief, still goes to the gym and plays cards with his pals.
Age is just a number -- to Lee and a panel of Westmont High administrators, players and even a team mom who interviewed finalists for the head coaching position.
"He's been outstanding. He's already brought a lot of our young athletes together, inspired them, and he's got some great assistant coaches working with him," said Westmont Principal Kevin Weck.
"He's really helped us get on track in terms of developing our program, and has helped us set the tone for a culture where kids believe in themselves. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our program that will positively impact our young athletes," Weck said.
The pertinent numbers for Westmont, Maciejewski and his hand-picked assistants are creating a consistent 25-man roster from a current working group of 21 players. Already it's an improvement over last season's 17 players.
Planning on running a Wing-T offense and crowding the line on defense, Maciejewski was pleased to inherit 275-pound linemen Taj Lewis and Tyerre Freeman, and 220-pound center Rafael Castrejon, to aid wingback Lucas Hicks and first-year quarterback Lucas Fears.
"We're going to do our best to coach them up, be fundamentally sound and play rock 'em, sock 'em football," Maciejewski said.
Ultimately, through decades of experience, his goals are timeless. Teach players lessons through sport. Instill pride in school, community, themselves.
"I want to provide an atmosphere that the team can feel comfortable in and enjoy while creating memories that will last a lifetime," he said.
Like the man himself, that never gets old.