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Tom Ptak can see IVCC from the deck of his home in downtown La Salle.
The St. Bede Academy graduate has followed the IVCC basketball programs for years, and he’s always wanted to be a head basketball coach.
So when Ptak had the opportunity to coach the women’s basketball team at IVCC, he jumped at the chance.
“It’s been a lifelong dream (to be a head coach),” said Ptak, whose hiring was announced Tuesday. “(IVCC is) literally in my backyard. For the last 10-15 years, I’ve been watching the program. I always thought it would be fun to try to get an all-star team from local high schools. … I’m thrilled. I look forward to the challenge.”
Ptak, who served as an assistant coach at St. Bede for 13 years, was hired to replace Pat Cinotte, who recently resigned after four years coaching the Lady Eagles.
“I am very excited he is on board,” IVCC athletic director Tommy Canale said in a press release. “I was very impressed with his passion and desire to lead our program and I look for great things from someone so well respected in the IVCC community.”
Ptak was an assistant coach for the St. Bede boys basketball program the last two years under Mike Kilmartin. Before that, he served as an assistant under Tom McGunnigal for the girls team for 11 years. During that time, the Lady Bruins won three regional titles and advanced to the Sweet 16.
Ptak has also been a head coach for the IV Starz AAU team. He coached a 17-and-under team for three seasons and this year he is coaching a 14-and-under team.
“The loss of Tom to our boys program is as big as it was to our girls program in 2008,” McGunnigal said in a press release. “His knowledge of the game and his love for St. Bede will be hard to replace.
“This is a great pickup by IVCC and for women’s basketball in our district. He will pick up where Pat (Cinotte) had the program and run with it.”
Ptak, who previously coached IVCC sophomore Kara Kistenfeger and incoming freshman Marissa Gama in AAU, takes over a program that went 103-29 in four years under Cinotte.
The Lady Eagles won two NJCAA Division II Region IV championships, a co-Arrowhead Conference title and made two NJCAA National Tournament appearances in Cinotte’s tenure.
“I have a little bit of a challenge ahead of me,” Ptak said. “Two out-of-district girls were released from their Letter of Intent. Right now, we have six girls who are all in-district. I really can’t go out and recruit because the cutoff day is Friday. Out-of-district is out of the question right now. I have a couple names of people I’ll be calling. I’ll do the best I can.”
Ptak said he hopes to play an aggressive style but will adjust to the strengths of his roster.
“I love man-to-man, hard-nosed, in-your-face, deny the passing lanes,” Ptak said. “I would love if we can push the ball and score in transition every time. I don’t believe in having to have so many passes before you shoot the ball. I want to score and obviously, I want to play good defense at the same time. I want to gear (our style) toward our talent.”
While Ptak said he likes an aggressive style of play, that’s not the type of demeanor he’ll have as coach.
“My coaching style would probably be considered laid back,” he said. “I’m not an in-your-face kind of guy. I like praising players. I don’t think it’s right if they’re constantly looking over their should if they make a mistake. Basketball should be fun. We’ll have pride. We want to win. My job is to make them better at the end of the year than they are in the beginning.”
Ptak, who graduated from St. Bede in 1975, said it’s difficult to leave his alma mater.
“Obviously, St. Bede’s in my blood so it’s tough to leave, but I’ve always wanted to be a head coach,” Ptak said. “The IVCC job has always been in the back of my head. The call to Mike Kilmartin was tough, but he made it easy. He said he supports me 100 percent. It makes it easy when you have support. Tom McGunnigal called to congratulate me. They know it’s something I wanted.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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