Tom Sloan, recently hired as the new Lyons Township boys basketball coach replacing Conte Stamas, certainly knows about breathtaking basketball crews with catchy sobriquets.

As a freshman at the University of Illinois in 1989, Sloan was a walk-on for the famous “Flyin’ Illini” squad which won 31 games and made it to the Final Four featuring future NBA talent like Kendall Gill, Nick Anderson and Marcus Liberty.

Just a few weeks into his coaching gig at LT, Sloan is focused on finding the Lions’ identity for next season while preserving the storied tradition of the program’s past.

The 38-year-old said his coaching philosophy is rooted in a fundamental approach influenced by excellent mentors like John Quinn at Fenwick High School in Oak Park and Lou Henson at Illinois. Sloan flourished as a student-athlete at Fenwick.

“Anybody that’s gone to Fenwick knows how much of an impression it has on your life,” Sloan said. “In terms of basketball, the coaching that my teammates and I received really taught us how to play the game. We learned how to read and react offensively to see what’s on the court, and we learned how to take away an opponent’s strengths. Those lessons have served as a huge influence of how I coach.”

During his final Friar campaign, Sloan teamed up with fellow senior captains Jerry Sutton and Jason Abramavicius, along with juniors Ed Gad and Artie Walker to capture third in the Catholic League and a regional championship.

Quicker than a Sutton-to-Sloan fast break, Sloan carried his basketball acumen and desire from Lawless Gymnasium to Assembly Hall in Champaign. A business major at U of I, Sloan soon discovered the bottom line talent discrepancy between scholarship players and himself on the court.

Although Sloan didn’t travel with the team to the Final Four in Seattle, he dressed for every home game and even played in five games during his career.

After brief coaching stints at Naperville North and Fenwick, Sloan’s big bench break arrived when he accepted the Montini job. While coaching the Broncos, Sloan amassed an 83-117 coaching record.

“Coaching at Montini was a great experience and a lot of fun,” Sloan said. “My first year, we had a good senior class and we won 18 games. With a growing family, it just became too difficult to teach at one school and coach at another.”

Several of Sloan’s coaching colleagues believe LT hired the right man for the job.

“When Tom coached at Fenwick, he really didn’t want to leave, but the Montini job was a good opportunity for him,” Quinn said. “At this point in his maturation process as a teacher and coach, he’s ready to coach a program like LT. He’s a very intelligent, organized person who has always been the captain of everything he does.”

Pat Maietta, who played with Sloan at Fenwick and is now the head coach at Argo, also offers praise for his teammate and friend.

“I think Tom has tremendous character and a tremendous passion for the game,” Maietta said. “He has a great drive to be successful, but he’s also an outstanding teacher of the game.”

Although LT graduated eight seniors from a 24-5 team that lost to eventual Class 4A State Champion Richards 70-57 in a sectional final, key returnees Colin Allodi, Kevin Dunne and Kevin Muldowney will provide leadership and poise for the expectation-filled Lions.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...