JOLIET – The Joliet West football team has a new head coach.
Bill Lech was approved at Tuesday night’s District 204 board meeting as a physical education instructor and the Tigers’ head football coach. He succeeds Jason Aubry, who remains West’s boys track coach but stepped down as football coach after the fall season.
If Lech’s name sounds familiar to followers of local high school football, that’s because he was an assistant under Bill Wienke for three years when Wienke coached the Joliet Township combined program. But as Lech noted, “That was 20 years ago.”
A 49-year-old York graduate who lives in Sugar Grove, Lech comes to West from West Chicago, where he was been assistant athletic director for six years. This spring will mark his fourth season as the school’s head badminton coach.
He coached football at York until resigning after the 2011 season. His career record at his alma mater was 51-23 with six trips to the playoffs in seven seasons, highlighted by a Class 8A semifinal appearance in 2006. His teams won West Suburban Silver championships that season and also in 2007 and 2010.
Before his tenure at York, Lech was head football coach at Dixon for two seasons and at Leyden for three seasons. His career record is 73-49 in 12 years.
“We went thoroughly through all the candidates and we’re obviously excited about Bill’s experience,” West athletic director Steve Millsaps said. “Having success at an 8A program stood out, and he also had success at other schools.
“He is familiar with the Joliet Township program and with our school district. And with him being an assistant AD and a badminton coach, that all plays into what we feel will be a very good coach for our program.”
Lech was on Wienke’s Joliet Township staff in the 1996 through 1998 seasons. He coached quarterbacks, wide receivers and was the offensive coordinator. He also coached baseball on Tony Juarez’s staff in the spring of ’97 and ’98.
Lech came to Joliet originally because of his association with Wienke.
“I was coaching at Holy Cross in River Grove,” he said. “I was coaching with John Arlis. Wienke was at Romeoville and hired Arlis. John was Bill’s sophomore coach at Romeoville. I applied in the Valley View School District and was hired in ’95 to teach at B.J. Ward Middle School.
“I was going to join Wienke on his staff at Romeoville, but that winter he went to Joliet and I went with him as a football assistant. I never taught at Joliet, though. After that, I coached one year, in 1999, with Phil Acton at Bolingbrook. Then I got the head coaching job at Dixon.”
The Sugar Grove resident and Elmhurst native coached Dixon in 2000 and 2001 and earned a playoffs berth both years. Lech was the head coach at Leyden for three seasons, leading up to being hired at York, and sports a career mark of 73-49 in 12 seasons.
A former quarterback who played football and baseball at Coe College in Iowa, Lech will be working with Aubry’s son Jaxon, who will be a senior in the fall and has thrown for more than 4,000 yards over the last two seasons, when he played for his dad. The Tigers went to the playoffs each of those seasons and have qualified three times in the last four years.
“I want to thank Jason for his time as head football coach,” Millsaps said. “I coached on the staff in Jason’s first year, and the program definitely has taken strides under him. He set up some nice procedures.
“We’ve been making the state playoffs, now we are primed and ready to take the next step.”
When Aubry resigned as football coach soon after the Tigers were ousted from the 8A playoffs last fall by eventual champion Lincoln-Way East, Aubry said, “It’s something that needed to be done. It’s time for a change.”
He did not rule out the possibility of getting back into coaching football some day. When the West job opened, meanwhile, Lech decided the time was right for him to take a shot at returning to the sidelines.
“Honestly, what had been on my mind, in the job I do now, I’m not teaching,” he said. “I miss the classroom, the interaction with the kids that would come from that.
“As for football, I never really was not connected with it. Our head coach at West Chicago is Ted Monken. I’m always talking football with him. The last year or two, I got the itch to get back to coaching. I got out of it mainly so I could watch our kids play. They’re older now. I brought up the possibility of going for the West job with my wife, and she said I should do it.
“I’m familiar with the Joliet area, the kids there, West has good facilities, it’s all good. This is exciting. I’m honored to be given the opportunity.”