Football: Gene Nudo era begins at Fenwick
Updated: August 9, 2012 5:42PM
The tumultuous season of 2011 seems so long ago for some Fenwick players.
There is a new coach at the Oak Park school this year and his arrival has brought a completely new atmosphere to the corner of Washington and East streets.
Gene Nudo built Driscoll into a perennial power more than 20 years ago and now he hopes to do the same thing at Fenwick. He has spent the last two decades in the Arena Football League as a coach and front-office administrator, but has had a recent stint as a lower-level coach for a high school in Arizona.
“He runs things way more professionally now,” said Fenwick senior linebacker/running back Pat Hart.
That’s exactly how the players like it after last season when Joe DiCanio was fired after three games and then athletic director Scott Theis stepped in as the interim coach the rest of the season. The Friars went 4-6 overall, 2-1 in the Catholic League White last season.
“(Nudo) has got such command with everything right on the field,” Hart said. “There is no messing around, but he makes everything fun.”
Fenwick players got to know Nudo better during summer workouts. On Wednesday, Nudo took the practice field for preseason double sessions as a varsity coach for the first time since 1991. Driscoll went undefeated and won the Class 3A state championship that year. After speaking with the sophomore team and before joining the varsity, the always colorful Nudo cracked that he would like to keep his 21-year-old winning streak alive this season.
“It’s awesome that I would be able to do this. I like coaching kids,” Nudo said. “The kids have worked hard all summer. We put in our 25 days and had the chance to use 14 days in 7-on-7s against different schools.”
Nudo left his position as the president and general manager of the Chicago Rush to become Fenwick’s new coach in December. The Norridge native claims that he has always been interested in coaching the Friars.
“I’m trying to change things here,” Nudo said. “Joe did a nice job, but I did not come here to rebuild.”
Defensive end Dubem Ikedi said he noticed a new attitude within the program beginning with spring weightlifting and conditioning. Ikedi, who wrestles and plays rugby at Fenwick, missed last football season to attend to some family issues. He was the first senior on the practice field Wednesday at the Priory in River Forest, arriving nearly a half hour before the rest of the team for the 3 p.m. practice.
“He has helped us improve in so many different levels,” Ikedi said. “He really brought us together. He wants us to be the best team that we can be. I feel as the summer progresses, we’re going to be better and better as a team.”