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Chicago Sun-Times
Bryan Bonato. For Sun-Times Media

The third time proved to be the charm on Tuesday night.

Waukegan's School Board twice rejected a recommendation to hire Juan Anillo as coach of Waukegan High School's varsity football team, then literally ran a double-reverse and unanimously hired him as interim coach for the upcoming season.

The stunning reversal came after the School Board voted 4-2 (one member passed) to not accept the recommendation of athletic director Sam Taylor and not hire Anillo, who most recently worked as an assistant football coach at NCAA Division 3 program North Central College in Naperville. Before that, he had been a high school football coach in Texas.

After the first vote not to hire Anillo, and with those in attendance trying to figure out what was going to happen next, a source at the meeting said Superintendent Donaldo Batiste suggested that Taylor take the job as head coach.

From there, Batiste recommended that Anillo, who had just been rejected as head coach, be named interim coach for the 2014 season.

That recommendation came to a vote and Anillo was rejected again.

At that point, the School Board moved into closed session, and when it emerged, voted unanimously to hire Anillo as interim coach for this season.

Anillo will work with all the coaches currently connected to the Waukegan High program who have been working with the players all summer. That was a requirement to getting Anillo approved as head coach.

School Board President Anita Hanna voted against Anillo twice on Tuesday, and said after he was unanimously approved, "The kids have a leader. And they're going to have people (the current assistant coaches) they're familiar with out there. That was one of the stipulations (of the hiring). The kids are who are important here."

The final result ended a crazy three-week period in which Waukegan High athletic director Sam Taylor twice had his coaching recommendations voted down by the School Board. At the July 22 meeting, it was Mark Morgan, a longtime Waukegan High teacher, who did not get approved.

Taylor has been trying to replace Nick Browder, who coached four years at Waukegan and left in May to take an athletic director's job at a high school in Arizona.

On Tuesday, the original 4-2 vote went against Taylor's choice of Anillo.

Voting against the hiring recommendation were School Board members Cheri Pierson-White, Tommy Rhyan, Victoria Torres, and Anita Hanna. In favor were June Maguire and Michael Rodriguez. Don Elliott passed.

Three weeks ago, the voting against Morgan was almost identical, with Elliott voting that time with Maguire and Rodriguez to make it a 4-3 vote.

In what was almost a repeat of the July 22 meeting, the board room was filled with residents of the community, none of whom spoke up in favor of the recommended coach.

That's exactly what happened on July 22, when support for Morgan waned.

There were seven or eight Waukegan High football players at Tuesday's meeting, and one spoke during open-mic time. Several members of the community - including Melvin Bobo III and Dwayne Springs - addressed the board, and all made the same argument against the process being used by the school in an attempt to get a coach hired. Nobody criticized the candidate; they criticized the process.

When the board rejected Morgan on July 22, the view of many was that there was no time between then and the Aug. 30 season opener at North Chicago to start anew with a new head coach and potentially a new staff that's not familiar with the Waukegan players who have been working with the assistant coaches on hand all summer.

Bobo's talk during open mic focused on the possibility of hiring an interim coach for this year among coaches who've been working with the players all summer. Bobo's son - Melvin Bobo IV - has been Waukegan's starting quarterback the past two seasons, and is expected to run the team's offense this fall.

Taylor did confirm that the Waukegan football program will hold practice on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Besides Anillo, Waukegan's practice on Wednesday will include the school's assistant football coaches currently under contract. That list includes Ardray Jarrett, Ryan Stewart, Wayne Cook, Travis Carnes, Cameron Campbell, and Chris LaCivita.

Last season, Jarrett was the varsity defensive coordinator, Stewart was the head sophomore coach, Cook was freshman B-team head coach, Carnes was sophomore defensive coordinator, Campbell was varsity wide-receivers coach, and LaCivita was varsity linebackers coach.

Also helping coach are Eric Heard and Arnold McGee. McGee was freshman-A head coach, and Heard has been involved in football in Waukegan for many years.

After the first vote against Anillo, Elliott, a strong supporter of the school's athletic director and the hiring process that's in place, expressed frustration with how this entire thing has unfolded.

"We're in business right now of telling our administration how to do things," Elliott said. " Mr. Taylor has been our athletic director, and he's done a great job. When we tell him we don't like what he's doing, that doesn't give him a lot of wiggle room.

"We have a candidate who has a great record, and he has great experience with other schools who have been winners.

"Ms. Maguire, at our last meeting, asked that we give our last candidate for coach a chance. What is wrong with that idea? That's what we want to do for our students. We want to give them a chance to excel. We don't reject them. We look for improvement.

"This isn't Pop Warner football. We should be contenders for championships. Can I get an 'Amen?'"

He got one half-hearted Amen from the audience.

One of the board members who didn't support either of Taylor's recommendations was Rhyan.

"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them," Rhyan said. "We need to strive for better than that, and we need it to come from within.

"I have a problem with the process, not with the people they've chosen. The process, to me, is flawed. When you have a flawed process you're going to have a flawed result. That's why we're at where we're at."

And then, less than an hour later, "where we're at" turned out to be in a completely different place.

Waukegan High has a football coach. Juan Anillo: Wait until you hear all about the North Chicago/Waukegan sports rivalry.

Game on!

Last year, Anillo was tight ends and special-teams coach at North Central, which went 13-1. Before that, he was an assistant coach at several high schools in Texas, Tennessee and Georgia.

This will be his first head-coaching job.


August 13, 2014




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