STERLING – Some couples complete each other, bringing opposite personalities that attract to form a lifelong bond.
Others have similar interests, and can participate in a variety of activities side-by-side.
Coaching has been a common thread in the union of Joe and Deb Salvatori for 30+ years, from leading basketball teams to softball teams. This winter, the pair will have the challenge of taking over a girls basketball program their son-in-law once presided over.
“Thank God she enjoys sports, because I’d be in trouble if she didn’t,” Joe Salvatori said. “We both love sports, so it makes it a lot easier. We bounce ideas off each other at home, and that helps. And for the girls, I think it helps to have a woman in the program. The girls can really respond to her. I wouldn’t have been able to do the things I’ve done over the years without her.”
Joe, a 1972 Newman grad, will be the head coach, while Deb, a 1973 Rock Falls alum, will be his assistant. The duo coached the Comets’ fresh-soph girls hoops team the past 4 years, the last 3 of those while their son-in-law, Brandon Kreczmer, was the head varsity coach.
“We’ve been building the program up since I was a freshman,” senior forward Hannah Wilson said. “Coach [Joe Salvatori] has really helped in adding onto that. He knows what to expect out of us, and we know what we expect from him. It’s really nothing new.”
“It’s the same philosophy. That’s what’s great about having them as freshmen and now as seniors,” Joe Salvatori said. “It’s really about the basics. If we can stay competitive until the end, I think we can win some games.”
Joe Salvatori helped Kreczmer as much as he could with the varsity last year, while Deb helped with the fresh-soph and kept the book. But on April 3 at 11:14 a.m., Kreczmer’s life changed drastically.
Michele Kreczmer – Joe Salvatori’s daughter and Brandon’s wife – gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Brynlee. Brandon Kreczmer coached the Newman girls track and field team this past spring, and Michele Kreczmer was an assistant for the Comets volleyball team this fall while her husband has helped the football team into the 2A quarterfinals as the defensive coordinator. That meant Brynlee spent a lot of time in the care of her grandparents.
Michele has also taken on the task of leading the Sauk Valley Community College women’s basketball team this winter, a logical choice with her having played Division I at Western Illinois from 2009-13. After coaching sports throughout the school year all while holding a teaching job at Newman, Brandon decided to take a step back this winter and hand the girls basketball varsity gig to his father-in-law.
Joe Salvatori takes over a team that will have to replace every stat leader from a year ago. Kelsey Simpson was the Comets leader in points (12.7) and steals (2.4) per game while also averaging 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Mary Jensen was the team’s leader in rebounds per contest (4.8) while chipping in nine points and 1.3 steals. Point guard Mady Ferris led the Comets with 4.3 assists per game, adding 6.7 points and 2.3 steals.
“We’re going to have to do everything in mass. Everybody is going to have to score,” Joe Salvatori said. “With all these girls the past 3 years, we’ve won because everybody has contributed. I’m hoping we can continue that this year so teams can’t focus on one or two girls.”
Madison Craft is the returning leader in points (11.2 per game) and assists (1.2 per game), while Chloe Klein is the returning leader in rebounds (3.6 per game). Craft will lead the backcourt, while the frontcourt is stocked with solid players such as Klein, Hannah Wilson, Payton Murray and Lauren Wilson.
“We’ve had about the same skill level throughout the years,” Craft said. “We have so many assets. Any of us can play any position. It helps that we have such a versatile team.”
The starters and rotations may change from year-to-year at Newman, but the goals of being a family and hoping to win a regional stay the same. Thus far, the new head coach likes what he’s seen early on.
“If there’s someone that’s down – whether that be in school or at home or here at practice – the kids try to help them out and lift their spirits,” Joe Salvatori said. “That’s what gelling these girls together. We’ve had excellent seasons at the fresh-soph level in the last few years, and they’re coming up to the varsity.”