Cubs

Cappel resumes his career at Crete-Monee

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Cappel resumes his career at Crete-Monee

Tom Cappel is old enough to be Michael Orris' grandfather. So does that mean that the 64-year-old Cappel is too old to coach the Illinois-bound point guard and direct one of the state's elite programs, that the game of basketball has passed him by?

Not hardly.

Orris did his homework. In fact, he and teammate Marvie Keith served on a committee that interviewed applicants for the head coaching position at Crete-Monee. They agreed that Cappel was the best man for the job.

"He is a Hall of Fame coach. He knows what he is talking about," Orris said. "He has coached a lot of Division I athletes. He has been around for a long time. He had a lot of success at Hillcrest.

"I feel we have some Division I talent on our team and he would be good for us. He will be able to develop us. The age factor is what it is. He has kept up with the culture. I dont feel the age difference is a factor."

In 23 years at Hillcrest in Country Club Hills, Cappel won 502 games, produced two Elite Eight qualifiers and built one of the most successful high school programs in Illinois. Now he is eager to start all over again at another south suburban venue, Crete-Monee.

"I'm excited to be coaching again," he said. "I spent two years as an assistant coach at St. Xavier, at the NAIA level, but I missed the high school game."

After taking an early retirement option at Hillcrest, he left in 2007. But it wasn't so easy getting back into the high school ranks. He sent out several resumes, had a lot of interviews and, for a time, he was uncertain if he would get another coaching opportunity.

"I thought high school coaching was pure, innocent. The kids aren't tainted at that age. I found it to be exciting," Cappel said. "I was going crazy at home. You can hunt and fish and play golf, which I do a bit, but in the winter there isn't much to do. I don't like ice fishing. And you can take only so many trips. I have four grandchildren, all girls.

"There were jobs all over the Chicago area. But I turned down one school because the job wasn't what I was looking for. I interviewed at Crete-Monee the first time but didn't get it. Then, when it opened up again, I interviewed for a second time. I was looking for a job first. Now it is a dream job."

Cappel, who once studied to be a priest, was a walk-on basketball player at DePaul. After graduating in 1970, he served as an assistant at St. Rita (football star Dennis Lick was on the team) and Oak Forest before landing at Hillcrest. A resident of Orland Park, he was familiar with Crete-Monee, the old Dome, the good teams with Phil Henderson and Kenya Beach.

Crete-Monee was ranked among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason and Cappel is anxious to realize those expectations and achieve even more. He wants to win 600 games and take his team to Peoria. For the time being, he looks forward to returning to the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament at Rich South and a January 24 game against his old school, Hillcrest.

"I'm having as much fun as ever," Cappel said. "I run six miles a day and work out in the gym three days a week. This is everything I hoped it would be. The further you get into it, the more you realize you have a good time. At first, you are hesitant. It's a new school. You don't know anybody. You wonder how the kids will respond."

But he has a good group to work with and they are responding to his old-school approach. Orris is one of the best point guards in the state, Cappel's kind of floor leader, tough, gritty, a pure point guard. He is surrounded by 6-foot-3 senior Maurice Hopkins, junior guard Marvie Keith, 6-3 junior LaQuon Treadwell and 6-foot-8 sophomore Rashod Lee.

Cappel likes what he sees. And he thinks Crete-Monee fans will like what they see, too, an up-tempo trapping defense and an offense hell-bent on getting down the court as quickly as possible after grabbing the ball off the backboard. The philosophy worked at Hillcrest and Cappel sees no reason why, with the talent at his disposal, it can't succeed at Crete-Monee.

"We don't need to change anything," he said. "We have similar type of kids. You do what you are comfortable with. Will these kids respond to me? I don't see any difference with kids today. All kids have problems. All schools have kids with problems. If you don't like kids, you shouldn't be doing this. I treat them like my own kids. If I have a problem with them, I will bend an ear, ask them what they think, get it out on the table."

Cappel has a seasoned staff -- former Blue Island Eisenhower coach Mike Lyman, former Thornridge coach Danny Turner, John Cullnan and Al Hutton. He has 55 in the total program and plans to raise money for some perks -- pregame shirts and practice gear for everyone.

Orris has been through his own soap opera. The son of two ministers, he attended Palatine as a freshman and sophomore, then moved to Crete-Monee.

Cappel is his third coach in three years. On top of that, Orris committed to Creighton last spring, then de-committed in late June and chose Illinois on September 11. Now he believes he has everything in order.

"This is my team. I'm the leader," Orris said. "The state championship is our goal this year. Team first is the coach's message. This is a team game and everybody has to play their role. The bottom line is to win. It isn't about personal rewards."

Last year, Orris was surrounded by other Division I talent so he settled into a pass-first, shoot-second mentality. He averaged 10 points and seven assists for a 25-4 team that lost to Normal Community in the supersectional.

Orris knows he is a pure point guard, what Illinois coach Bruce Weber desperately needs. That means he is a quarterback on the floor. He has to know where everyone is on the offense, every play, when and where to get them the ball, how to put them in position to be successful on the court, to do whatever it takes to lead them. And, if necessary, to score.

"I'd rather make a cool pass than a basket, so long as we win," he said. "That's what I have to do at Illinois. But I'll have to score more this year, maybe 15 to 20 points per game for us to be successful. This year probably won't be pass first for me. Next year, it will be."

Orris also believes the 2011-12 Warriors will get a helpful boost from 6-foot-6 senior Jordan Perry, 6-foot-5 junior Mark Connor and 5-foot-11 senior guard T.J. Morris, a transfer from Seton Academy.

"No," he said, summing up his expectations for the upcoming season, "(Cappel) doesn't seem like a grandfather to me."

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

Why Cubs might not lose again and other musings in strange, short season

As if things weren’t already going well enough for the Cubs during this strange, short season of baseball in a pandemic, now the baseball gods are dropping gifts into their laps.

The Cardinals’ lengthy shutdown because of a coronavirus outbreak has the Cubs’ arch rivals restarting their season Saturday in Chicago with a patched-up roster and eight games over the next five days, including five games against the Cubs.

And although that means the relative hardship of two doubleheaders for the Cubs in three days, all five of those games Monday through Wednesday are against a decimated Cards roster that won’t have the front end of its rotation for any of the games.

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They catch the Cardinals at their weakest point of the early season a week after catching an otherwise formidable Cleveland team at a moment of clubhouse crisis involving protocol perps Zach Plesac and Mike Clevinger.

That one resulted in a two-game sweep by a combined score of 14-3.

This one already has resulted in all 10 games against the Cardinals now being scheduled for Wrigley Field.

Combine that with the three road games against the White Sox next month, and it means that the team with baseball’s best record on the field, the perfect record in player COVID-19 testing and no significant injuries to key players so far will play 60 percent of its games within its Chicago bubble if the Cubs and MLB pull off the full 60-game season.

If the Cubs were positioned any better to make the playoffs, they’d already be there.

“You can look at it that way if you want,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We’re just doing our thing.”

No other way to look at it from here. Have you seen the rest of the schedule?

The Cubs have 43 games left, including 29 within a National League Central Division that doesn’t include another .500 team three weeks into a nine-week season. Nine more games are against the Tigers and White Sox.

The best team on the schedule is the Twins, and all three of those games are at home and not until the second-to-last weekend of the season.

With all due respect to Ross and his fear of “bad juju,” the Cubs can’t lose.

“It’s still early on,” the manager said.

Nothing’s early in a 60-game season. And the Cubs already have matched the hot starts of their 2016 and 1908 World Series champions.

“We’ve still got a long ways to go in the season,” Ross said.

The Cubs did have to scratch Tyler Chatwood from his scheduled start Friday night because of back tightness. And Kris Bryant has missed the last two games because of a sore finger after rolling his wrist trying to make a diving catch in left field in Cleveland Wednesday.

But Alec Mills looked good in short-notice replacement duty Friday until a rough four-pitch (and three-run) sequence in the sixth. And Chatwood might be ready for one of Monday’s games — or possibly one of Wednesday’s.

“Things falling in our favor?” Ross said. “We’re playing good baseball, and that should be the focus for me and not the other stuff.”

Granted, they still have to play the games. Granted, Bryant wasn’t available off the bench with the bases loaded in the eighth Friday, and Josh Phegley struck out instead.

And, yes, they actually lost a game to the Brewers Friday night.

But if you still don’t believe the baseball gods are stirring the Cubs’ pot so far this season, you weren’t paying attention in the ninth inning when Craig Kimbrel struck out Avisail Garcia swinging at a 98-mph fastball to start the scoreless inning and Manny Piña swinging at a 96-mph fastball to end it.

What closer problem? Bring on the Cardinals, right?

These guys might not lose another game.

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Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

Cubs' Colin Rea to start on Saturday, Tyler Chatwood possibly Monday

The Cubs plan to start swingman Colin Rea on Saturday against the Brewers, manager David Ross said after Friday's game.

Alec Mills was originally slated to pitch Saturday but was bumped up to Friday because Tyler Chatwood was scratched with mid-back tightness. The Cubs will evaluate Chatwood to see if he's an option to pitch on Monday, when they're scheduled to play a doubleheader against the Cardinals.

Rea, 30, has made two appearances this season, allowing no runs and one hit while striking out three in three innings. He was named the 2019 Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year, sporting a 3.95 ERA in 26 starts.

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Rea's last big league start was July 30, 2016 with the Marlins. He allowed one hit in 3 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out four with no walks.

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