JOLIET – Jeremy Kreiger will readily admit that he doesn’t rank as one of the elite athletes who have competed for the Joliet Township High School District 204 schools during their rich sports history that often have been among Illinois’ best for much of the past 120 years.
But if you’re looking for a representative student-athlete who perfectly reflects what the typical Joliet player has been throughout the years at Joliet Central, Joliet West, Joliet East and the Joliet Township co-op teams, then Kreiger is an ideal selection.
The Central graduate who stood out as an all-conference pick in both football and basketball reflected the tough, hard-nosed competitors who were proud to represent the Steel City and their schools as quality student-athletes who would give you everything they had.
And because of Kreiger’s close ties to Central, West and the Joliet Township teams during his life, as both an athlete and in recent years as an assistant coach, he is determined to become a great role model for kids like him who have pride representing their schools and sports.
That’s why the news of his hiring as the new boys basketball coach at Joliet West is being viewed an a great move by Tigers athletic director Steve Millsaps and West Principal Dr. Teresa Gibson; and his approval last week by the JTHS District 204 Board of Education should lead to excitement over his appointment. He succeeds Nick DiForti, who he served with as an assistant, as the program’s new head coach.
Kreiger has been associated with a great array of coaches during his high school, college and years as an assistant coach.
They include Tim Lester, a coach at St. Joseph’s College, who’s the football coach at Western Michigan University; Linc Darner, who also was at St. Joseph’s and now is the men’s basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; St. Francis’ legendary men’s basketball coach Pat Sullivan; Joliet Township coach Luke Yaklich, an assistant men’s basketball coach at the University of Michigan; and Samantha Quigley-Smith, the talented women’s basketball coach at USF and now Lewis University.
He’s also enjoyed promoting exciting approaches to sports in the business world before getting a master’s degree in special education to add to his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Francis.
“One of the strongest things of why I’m so thankful to our administration and this athletic department and the school is being a grass-rooted person, I want to be an ambassador for our city,” Kreiger said. “Although my position and title is head varsity basketball coach, that isn’t where my role stops. I want the city of Joliet to thrive in all areas. Although I’m employed at Joliet West, I want all of Joliet to win. I want us to be known as a blue-collar city that’s going to work hard, and regardless of how much we compete against each other, at the end of the day, if our city is successful, then we’re all successful and that’s all that matters.”
“One thing that I want strongly to do is bring back a work ethic in this building for academics and athletics, which is not to say that our kids don’t work hard, but it’s more about understanding the work ethic that it takes to be successful at life, regardless of how talented you are or how much money you have. I don’t want to have kids be satisfied, I want them to always understand that there’s growth to be made and every day that we have is a day to get better and to learn more, and that’s why, regardless of what I know or how eloquently I speak, I know that I have room to get better, and I’ll face failures in this job.”
Kreiger, born and raised in Joliet, is a 2004 Joliet Central graduate and played for Bob Koskosky in basketball and Tony Juarez in football in the Joliet Township co-op days. He earned an athletic scholarship to NCAA Division II St. Joseph’s College to play basketball and football, but returned to Joliet and attended St. Francis after his mother, Caryn, was diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian cancer and who passed away in 2007.
He was a point guard and letter winner from 2007-09 for Sullivan at USF, and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Joliet school. Seven years later, he was awarded with a master’s degree in special education teaching, 6-12, from USF.
He’s been a special education teacher at Joliet West from 2016-19 and served as an assistant to DiForti in boys basketball and as an assistant under football coaches Jason Aubry and Bill Lech during the same time span. Kreiger was an assistant basketball coach under Jeff Corcoran from 2009-12 with the Joliet Township co-op teams and Central and an assistant women’s basketball coach from 2014-16 at USF and from 2018-19 at Lewis under Quigley-Smith.
“I think what makes Joliet special is its tight-knit nature of the community and how they care about athletics and the success of their student athletes,” Kreiger said. “When the sports were combined and I was coming up, it was so competitive, since we’d have 300 guys trying out for one basketball team. It was very interesting that back then, since you had kids from two sides of town playing for one team. But our district did an amazing job to pass the referendum by splitting schools that allowed these student-athletes, both male and female, an opportunity to play sports, and that’s what has brought the rivalry back. I grew up in a time when I played with guys from West, but now I’m a Central grad, coaching at West, so that’s very unique.
“I’m not going to be a great head coach on Day One. But I know that no one will ever stop me from being the hardest-working man or woman in the room, and that’s I want to relay to all our athletes and students. I want to be infectious to our staff and let them know that there’s a new ball of energy that’s running through here, so they better be ready. I’m on a mission.”