By Matt Nestor
The Boylan Titans wasted no time in replacing legendary coach Steve Goers, moving swiftly through interviews before settling on former Jefferson coach Mike Winters as their new head man.
Winters, who interviewed and received the job within two days, shocked the coaching world when he stepped down after a highly successful run at Rock Falls.
But after a year off, stepping into a legendary program like Boylan was too good of a situation to pass up.
“It was hard to leave Rock Falls, I really thought it might have been my last game,” Winters said of his decision to leave. “To walk away from a program like Rock Falls and walk into a program like Boylan, it’s unbelievable. To have those options and those opportunities, there are a lot of better coaches than I that never get these kind of opportunities.”
Winters has earned the opportunity by being a huge success at all of his stops. He is nearing 200 career wins and has a winning percentage over .700.
His crowning achievement thus far came in the 2004-2005 season, when he led his alma mater, Jefferson, to a fourth-place finish in the IHSA Class AA tournament.
In many ways, Winters’ rise up the coaching ranks is similar to that of Goers’, who piled up wins and made appearances down state at different stops before turning Boylan into the gold standard for programs in the state.
But Winters does realize the work and years coach Goers put into the program, and knows he has a lot of work ahead of him to keep the program at its own lofty expectations.
“Definitely have to say thank you to coach Goers for making today possible,” he said. “Without coach Goers, nobody cares about what’s going on at Boylan today. I embrace that responsibility, and our players are going to embrace that responsibility, and we’re going to do everything we can to live up to the past.”
And in some ways for Winters, the job at Boylan is a destination job, almost a homecoming of sorts. Winters said he grew up in the parochial system before going to high school at Jefferson, and had opportunities to come to Boylan as an assistant in the past.
While the timing on those situations never worked out, the timing now is perfect, despite the pressure of replacing a legend.
“I don’t know if I’m smart enough to feel pressure,” he said. “Rock Falls did prepare you for a lot. We’ve been in a situation where we were expected to win every time the ball went up. In that situation, there is pressure, but I think when you expect a lot of yourself, you probably put more pressure on yourself than anyone else can.”
Winters said that if he is successful, then the program should move along without a hiccup. He wants to carry on the traditions that have been put in place and do something he has never done before.
“I’ve never won in this gym, but I’m hoping to change that soon,” he said. “We are going to carry on that Titan tradition, and we are going to strive to be saints, scholars and champions.”
From June 1-7, 2011 issue