As St. Charles Catholic was gaining a bit of a separation in the third quarter of the Comets’ eventual 59-46 home win Tuesday over visiting J.S. Clark, Christian Montz was doing his thing.
The 6-foot-5 senior center was either scoring down low or pulling down a key rebound, eventually finishing with 15 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Looking on from a few feet away was Jeff Montz, but the elder Montz was no ordinary dad in the bleachers. He’s the coach of the Comets’ boys’ basketball team.
It’s the second stint for the elder Montz as Comets coach – perhaps third if you consider his previous stints as boys and also girls coach as separate stints.
Over a span of 20-plus years starting with the 1982-83 season, Jeff Montz coached either the boys or girls basketball team at St. Charles.
“A couple of those years, I was an assistant, but all the others I was either boys or girls head coach, mostly boys. I think it was six years as girls coach,” Montz explained.
He decided to move away from coaching in 2006.
“I got out of coaching and teaching for a bit in between. The last year I actually coached the boys was 2006. I was in administration here as assistant principal and it was kind of time for me to step away from it,” said Montz.
The administration route ultimately led to his becoming principal of St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Laplace.
“I made a decision six or seven years ago when I had an opportunity to become principal at St. Joan to go ahead and do that,” said Montz. “I knew my son was about to come here (to St. Charles). At that time, I wasn’t coaching boys basketball but I had done it for years.
“I thought it would probably be a good thing for him to start high school with me not around to establish himself. It was an opportunity that I felt God probably called me to do for that period and I said yes and it worked out.”
The elder Montz coached his son in youth basketball, along with several others who are now Christian’s teammates at St. Charles. He also served in a limited capacity, helping out his predecessor, Kemper Todd.
“Coach Kemper had asked me if I would help and kind of came back a couple of years ago and helped when I could and it was kind of limited because I was busy, but at least I was a little bit involved. It was very part-time,” said Montz.
Montz decided to retire as principal of St. Joan after last school year, but at age 60, he said he knew he wasn’t looking to retire from life.
When the basketball job at St. Charles opened up, it seemed a good fit. It meant father would have a chance to coach son during the son’s senior season, but the elder Montz wanted to make sure all was right before making the decision.
“I actually spoke to my son and asked, ‘what do you think about this possibility?’” Jeff Montz recalled. “When he reacted in a positive way, I said I was going to take this.
“More importantly, the young men on this team have really worked hard to get to this point and I consider it a real blessing to be a part of their season. They have put in a lot of time and effort, even before I ever stepped in here, and I just feel like I’m just the next guy that’s helping them reach their goals.”
The Comets got off to a 1-5 start but after getting several players back from the SCC football team that played for the Division III state championship – among them, Christian Montz and point guard Justin Dumas – the team has started to put things together.
The win over Clark improved the Comets to 11-9 on the season.
Like with all transitions from one coach to another, there are always tweaks to the offense and defense, but much was what St. Charles is currently doing is similar to what the Comets have experienced in the past few years.
“We do a lot of the same things they have done defensively that they have done under Coach Kemper,” Jeff Montz said. “We do a little bit more full-court and half-court pressure and press into the man-to-man that we primarily use.
“Offensively, we’ve expanded from just straight motion to some set plays and some tweaks to how they did run motion, but it’s very similar.”
So far, those changes have worked well Owen Bourgeois. Bourgeois had a team-high 20 points, with six rebounds and six assists in the win over Clark.
“I think the offensive scheme is a little different. It’s a lot more of let’s get it to the post and let our shooters get some space and let them knock down some shots. I think I took a step up from last year. I think this offense may suit me a little better. It gives me a little more space to work with and maybe a little more ball screen action,” said Bourgeois.
“The offense is more ball screens and we can utilize our ability a little bit more. Defensively, we have a lot more depth, so we can play a lot faster and can run up and down and get easy buckets,” said Dumas, who played quarterback for the Division III finalists in football.
The Comets will soon enter district play, but that is something that has changed since the last time Jeff Montz coached basketball.
“One thing I miss is the old district rivals, playing schools in the area and developing rivalries because you played them home once and away once and you had district schedule and a district champion. The way they do it with power points, I think that is lost,” Coach Montz said.
Even though the district aspect may be diminished, the preseason slate still serves to help teams get ready for what comes later.
“We have done quite well since we’ve gotten everyone, especially after the first few games when they got the rust out, and we’re just trying to take the positives and the negatives and always grow from them. Learn from what we do well and get better at it. What we are not doing as well, get better at those things so that went it comes time for the end when we want to make a run, we are solid and we can do what we want to do,” the St. Charles coach said.