MINOOKA – John Belskis says Minooka football fans will notice one obvious change in the fall.
"The biggest difference from last year to this is I will go out for the coin flip instead of Terry [McCombs]," he said.
Belskis was approved by the Minooka School Board on Thursday night as the Indians' new head coach, at a salary of $12,490. He joined the staff when McCombs got the job last year and asked him and Bob Williams – all three Hall of Famers – to be two of his assistants.
McCombs led the Indians to a 9-3 record and a state quarterfinal appearance in Class 8A. Their run ended when they dropped a 28-25 decision at Edwardsville.
After the season, McCombs was hospitalized for about week with heart issues, and soon afterward, he announced he was stepping aside for health reasons, although he did not rule out the possibility of serving as an assistant for the next coach.
Belskis indeed plans to have McCombs and Williams on board. In fact, he wants the entire staff to remain.
"We're always looking to add new young coaches," he said. "But for now, there will be very little difference last year to this. That's what Minooka was looking for. They have excellent young coaches at the school right now."
Matt Harding, for example, was the defensive coordinator under McCombs and Belskis expects him to be in that role next season. Belskis plans to continue as the offensive coordinator.
"Looking at the future, Minooka was not looking at bringing in some up-and-coming young coach from outside because they already had good young coaches in the building," Belskis said. "Even on our lower levels, nothing changes."
Belskis spent 33 years at Downers Grove South, including 24 years as its head football coach from 1989 to 2012, during which time he had a 201-62 record with 22 playoff appearances.
After that, he coached his son Johnny at Aurora Central Catholic, serving as that school’s head coach in 2015 and 2016. Williams was one of his assistants in 2016.
McCombs assisted on Belskis' staff at Downers Grove South for 10 years while McCombs was the athletic director. Williams, meanwhile, was an administrator at Minooka for 10 years, primarily as the principal, after he coached at Yorkville for 15 years.
"When I got done at Aurora Central Catholic, I was fully prepared to ride off into the sunset," Belskis said. "When Terry called me, he caught me by surprise. I said yes, and we really enjoyed working with the coaches and the kids at Minooka.
"So many things have to be in place for a program to be successful, to be in a position where you can compete for a state title in 8A year in and year out. Those things are there at Minooka. The whole administration is committed to providing the necessary resources, and the community support is tremendous.
"There are some facility issues that are being addressed."
Belskis said he does not anticipate "coaching 10 years, or anything like that. They have great young coaches already there. I'm so impressed with the knowledge and ability these young coaches have.
"Some day, Terry [McCombs] and I will be sitting in the brand new stadium stands at Minooka and watching a program that does things the right way and contends for state championships."
"John brings a lot of experience and a history of success, and he knows our kids and works great with our current coaches," Minooka athletic director Bob Tyrell noted. "Terry did a nice job with our staff and kids, and John will, too. Moving forward, it will be a good thing to have him in charge of the program."
Belskis said coaching to him is about building relationships with fellow coaches and the kids.
"I'm not just talking wins and losses, but the expectation level for these kids," he said. "We prepare them how to do things the right way, safely, and hopefully they learn life lessons along the way. The wins and losses are residual effects from doing things the right way. When their football days are over, they take something away to make them successful in life."