There has been significant change in recent years in the educational structure at Cardinal Stritch High School, and the Cardinals' athletic program has also undergone a recent transformation.
The latest change on the sports front is in the basketball program, which this month hired new head coaches for the boys and girls varsity teams following the resignations of Jim Sheehy and Gary Lemle, respectively.
Leading the Cardinals' boys squad will be Dave Rieker, a former prep star and University of Toledo player whose most recent coaching post was as head coach at St. Ursula Academy in the City League the past three seasons.
"This is a great opportunity," Rieker said. "When I came out to apply for the job and saw the resources, I was excited."
Rieker, 49, starred at Findlay High School, earning first-team All-Ohio honors while a senior with the Trojans in 1978-79. That led him to a basketball scholarship at UT, where he played four seasons for Rocket coaching legend Bobby Nichols.
Guiding the Cardinal girls will be a first-year head coach, Terry Murnen, who has 13 years of experience as a girls assistant, including 10 at Central Catholic and the last three as a varsity assistant at Maumee.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity," Murnen said. "For one reason, we're going to be a K through 12 building, and we'll be able to have some influence on the younger kids coming through the program. I've spent some time working with the kids and they're great young ladies. I'm looking forward to it."
Murnen, 55, is a 1973 graduate of Central Catholic who played basketball and baseball for the Irish and later played basketball at Adrian College. He is one of the six Murnen brothers who played basketball at Central and in college, and he also officiated high school basketball for 28 years, eventually being inducted into the Ohio officials hall of fame.
"The Cardinal Stritch athletic program is fortunate to have two successful basketball coaches lead our varsity teams," Joe Gutilla, athletic director and head football coach, said.
What formerly was just Cardinal Stritch High School has become a kindergarten through 12th grade educational facility, which includes the Kateri Catholic Academy for the primary grades (K through 8).
Rieker and Murnen will also be charged with overseeing the Kateri basketball programs.
Rieker's departure from St. Ursula was not on his terms. He was not renewed for a fourth season with the Arrows.
"I was disappointed," Rieker said of leaving the St. Ursula post. "I would have liked to have been able to finish what I started, but so be it. There's a lot of opportunity out here."
Rieker inherits a varsity team that struggled to an 0-18 start last season before finishing 2-19 overall and a last-place 1-11 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference.
The conference has upgraded significantly in boys basketball in recent seasons. Toledo Christian, conference co-champion, reached the Division IV regional final in 2009, and outright champion Ottawa Hills got to the D-IV state semifinals this past season.
Sheehy's Cardinals were 12-10, 8-4 in 2008-09, and 16-6, 8-4 in 2007-08, and routinely contended at the top of the conference during his eight seasons.
"I don't think [Sheehy] left the cupboard bare here," Rieker said. "I see an opportunity. The biggest problem right now is our strength and our mental attitude. We're not very mentally tough, and we're not physically tough.
"So, we've been getting them in the weight room and trying to understand the mental aspect of the game. We've worked on defense and being able to guard a guy one-on-one."
For leadership on the first prep boys varsity team he will coach, Rieker will rely on seniors Justin Staler and Matt Guy and juniors Michael Blazevich and Kyle Hatfield.
Rieker's prior posts in boys basketball included six years in the Northern Lakes League as an assistant under longtime coach Jim Robinson at Maumee and four years in the City League at St. Francis de Sales under Nick Lowe.
The Stritch girls fell to 6-15 (6-6 TAAC) in Lemle's seventh and final season but were runners-up in the conference at 12-8, 10-2 in 2008-09 and TAAC champions at 15-6, 11-1 in 2007-08.
"I applied for this job seven years ago and I was a finalist with Gary [Lemle] at that time," Murnen said. "My wife [Bernadette] went to Stritch, and my in-laws lived in their backyard [near Stritch]. I just think it's a very unique situation, especially now with the changes being made there.
"I think we can be competitive. There are some obstacles that we'll have to overcome, but I think the kids are willing to listen and learn. They're pretty excited. We'll have four seniors and a junior with varsity experience, and we had a very nice freshman class last year. Everybody's coming in with a clean slate."
Murnen will be counting on senior Marissa Zaborski and junior Marisa Katafiasz to lead his first varsity unit.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org