Hall of Fame Coaches
John Cullick - Basketball, 1988
John Cullick was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988. In 1975, Coal City School District hired a young teacher and coach from Gardner Grade School. When Mr. Cullick was first hired in 1975, he spent two years coaching middle school basketball before being promoted to the head varsity coach of the Coalers, which is a position he held from 1978 through 1986. In 1981, Coach Cullick’s team won the IHSA regional title and made it to the regional title game again in 1983 and 1985. In his 9 years as the varsity basketball coach, he racked up 120 wins. As a middle school coach at Coal City, Verona Grade School, and Gardner Grade School, he won three District titles and led his teams to 172 wins. In the Fall of 1986, Coach Cullick was hired as the Coal City School District Athletic Director. Not only did Mr. Cullick oversee an athletic department that experienced significant growth and success, but he also dedicated the extra time necessary to take the outdoor athletic facilities to a level of excellence no one thought possible. Mr. Cullick officially retired from his Athletic Director position in 2003, but the school district was lucky enough to hire him back as a part-time athletic groundskeeper. In honor of what he has done for the school district, his name will forever be recognized at John H. Cullick baseball field.
George Dare - Wrestling, 1994
George Dare was inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994. In addition to the 20 years he dedicated to coaching the wrestling program, he also spent one year as the head baseball coach and 8 years as an assistant track coach. In 1973, Coach Dare began his storied wrestling coaching career at Coal City High School. He served as the assistant wrestling coach for 3 years and then took over the program as the head coach for 17 years. In a conference that included state powerhouses like Plano, Sandwich, Wilmington, Reed-Custer, and Yorkville, Coach Dare’s teams secured 5 conference titles; 7 regional titles; and 3 sectional titles. His 1993 team finished in 4th place at the IHSA State Wrestling meet, and his 1984 team finished in 2nd place behind then-wrestling power Mahomet-Seymour. His 1981 team also finished in second place losing to the eventual champion, Providence Catholic. His 1979-1980 team finished with a dual-team record of 23-0. Competing in what was then the most competitive wrestling conference in the State, and when there were only two IHSA classes for wrestling, his teams compiled an overall team record of 314-64-2, which results in a winning percentage of 83%.
Dennis Best - Track & Field, 1996
Denny Best was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996. In Coach Best’s 30-year career as a teacher in Coal City School District, he coached the Coaler cross country team for 12 years, girls track for 15 years and boys track for 26 years. In total, he coached all 30 years he taught at Coal City High School. His track and cross country teams combined for eight Interstate-8 conference titles; 25 invitational titles, 2 IHSA regional titles, 2 sectional titles, and a total of 401 dual meet wins. He coached 121 individual state qualifiers in track and field and 4 in cross country. Five of those track and field state qualifiers went on to become state champions. In track and field, his 1993 boys team placed 3rd at the state meet and in 1989 his girls team placed 7th. In cross country, his 1992 Coaler boys team finished in 3rd place, and he also led other teams to 12th and 15th place finishes at the IHSA state meet. He has been the “Prairie State Games” track and field regional director, the track coach for “Sport for Understanding” for the Netherland’s team, the Franklin Insurance National High School Track Coach Silver Award recipient, and was named as the 1992 Class A Cross Country Coach of the Year.
Ken W. Miller - Football, 2013
Ken W. Miller was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013. Coal City High School’s first varsity football team took the field in 1978. From 1978 through the 1985 season, the Coalers never made a playoff appearance. In 1986, Coach Miller’s first year of building the program, his team went 1-8, but in his second year, they finished 6-4 and the Coalers qualified for the IHSA playoffs for the first time...and from that point forward, under the leadership of Ken W. Miller, the Coalers never looked back as his teams then made 13 consecutive playoff appearances which took him to his retirement from coaching following the 1999 season. During his illustrious tenure, Coaler football captured 6 Interstate-8 conference championships, and Coach Miller was chosen as the conference coach of the year five times. In 1993, Coach Miller led the 14-0 Coalers to our only football state championship, and that year he was also chosen as the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Coach of the Year. During his 21-year football coaching career, his Coaler teams compiled a record of 108 and 41, and overall his teams captured 160 wins against only 61 losses for an amazing average of 7 and a half wins per season. During his 28-year career as a teacher in our school district, he also coached freshmen basketball for 8 years, 6th-grade basketball for 5 years, and served for 5 years as the grades 3-5 intramural supervisor.
Jerry McDowell - Baseball, 2014
Jerry McDowell was inducted into the Illinois Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2014. Coach McDowell served as a Coal City School District teacher for 29 years, and he served as a coach for all 29 of those years. His coaching experience at Coal City includes 3 years as the 6th-grade boys basketball coach; 3 years as the freshmen boys basketball coach; one year as the sophomore baseball coach; 22 years as the varsity baseball coach; and all 29 years as the 8th-grade baseball coach. During his coaching tenure, his high school teams earned 14 conference titles, 10 regional titles, 2 sectional titles, 4th place in the IHSA tournament in 2008, and a total of 527 wins. During his 22 years as a varsity head coach, his Coaler baseball teams averaged an incredible 24 wins per season. His middle school baseball teams captured 12 conference titles, 15 regional titles, 9 sectional titles, 4 IESA State championships, and 557 total wins. In summary, Coach Jerry McDowell led Coal City baseball teams to a total of 1,104 victories. 14 times he was chosen as the conference coach of the year. In 2008 the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association voted him as their Class 2A Area Coach of the Year, and in 2002 the same association voted him their Class A Coach of the Year.
Ken P. Miller - Football, 2016
Ken P. Miller was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2016. Coach Miller started his teaching and coaching career at Cornell High School in 1968 where he coached basketball and football. Four years later, he came to Coal City School District and started a career that resulted in him being the longest-tenured coach in the history of Coal City athletics. During his storied career in Coal City, he coached basketball for 10 years, baseball for 17 years, and football for an incredible 37 years. During those years the teams he head coached won 3 conference baseball titles and one basketball title. He was also an assistant coach for Ken W. Miller on the legendary 1993 football state championship team. In 2002, after 31 years of teaching and coaching for CoalCity School District, Coach Miller retired, but his career and contributions to education were far from over. He continued to serve as an assistant football coach under fellow Hall of Famer Lenny Onsen. In total, Ken P. Miller coached our Coaler student-athletes for 43 years.
Lenny Onsen - Football, 2019
Lenny Onsen was inducted into the Illinois High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 2019. Coach Onsen’s name is synonymous with Coaler football as not only did he coach here for 30 years, he was also a player on the very first varsity Coaler football team in 1978. During his 32-year career as a teacher at Coal City High School, he coached middle school wrestling for 5 years; middle school track for 20 years, but Coach O is obviously best known for the 30 years he spent coaching Coaler football. In his first 13 years, he was an assistant coach under Hall of Famer Ken W. Miller where he was part of the coaching staff for the 1993 state championship football team. Upon Coach Miller’s retirement, Coach Onsen took over as the head coach and continued to build on the standard of excellence that defines Coaler football. As the head football coach, he led the Coalers to 127 wins, which is an amazing average of 7 and a half wins per year. His head coaching resume includes 14 IHSA playoff appearances, 4 conference championships, 6 IHSA quarterfinal appearances, 4 semi-final appearances, and one appearance in the state finals in 2004. He was also the leader of the renowned Coaler strength program for all 30 years he was involved in the football program. He has been recognized as the Interstate-8 Conference Coach of the Year on two different occasions.
Mark Masters - Wrestling, 2022
In 1994, Mark Masters was hired to teach elementary school PE and coach football and wrestling. He taught PE at the Elementary School until the fall of 2006 when he transferred to his current home to teach PE at Coal City Middle School. After being an assistant wrestling coach for 6 years, Coach Masters took over as head wrestling coach in 2000. From 2000-2003, his teams compiled a dual record of 44-17. After 3 years away, Coach Masters returned as the head coach in 2006 and has been in that role since, making the 2022-2023 season his 20th year as head wrestling coach. Over those 20 years, Coach Masters has coached 17 state champions, 158 state qualifiers, won 9 conference championships, 9 regional championships, 8 sectional championships, and has 3rd place state trophies in 2015 & 2018 and 2nd place runner-up trophies in 2016, 2019, & 2020. In 2023, Coach Masters led the Coalers to the IHSA 1A State Championship. He has over 400 career dual meet wins and has also coached football and track in Coal City for over 20 years.