When Mark Kleemann began his career in education during the 1973-74 school year, he could hardly imagine the impact he would have on high schools, students, athletes and athletics in general over the years. But now in his forty third year of education, the list of accomplishments and achievements is quite impressive. Recently, the boys’ basketball program honored Kleemann for his contributions and dedication to OLCHS with a ceremony and commemorative plaque on Alumni Night.
The plaque reads, “For your 10 years of excellence with great appreciation and gratitude for your loyalty, wisdom, hard work and positive spirit, your friendship, humor and mentoring will be missed.”
It really meant a lot to the veteran coach.
“It is difficult to put into words,” Kleemann said of the ceremony. “It was such a special night. Jason Rhodes was so generous with his comments and kind thoughts. It meant a great deal having him, Jim Lamb, Chris Newton and our players there.
“It was also special to receive so many kind emails from the former players dating back to the 1970’s. I heard from some of our Hall of famers like Lou Canelis, Jim Bocinsky, and others. It also highlighted the last ten years working with Scott Atkins, Mark Sevedge, Tom Murphy, and Shawn Neubauer in addition to the previously mentioned coaches. There are few things in this world more significant than being recognized by one’s peers.”
As for Rhodes, he wanted to thank Kleemann for his contributions to the program.
“For me personally, Mark was extremely helpful six years ago in the transition to taking charge of the basketball program here, helping me become familiar with the conference, and aiding me in beginning to develop relationships with our players,” he said. “Mark has a good heart and a wealth of experience, two attributes that made him a huge asset to our program and OLCHS as a whole. The best moment from me was having Mark with us in the locker room after a conference win and having him address the team as only he can.”
This celebration of Kleemann’s career comes as the veteran teacher and coach plans on retiring at the end of the school year. It is ending a career filled with involvement in the school and in athletics. Kleemann is a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Basketball Association, and he is a board member of the Basketball Museum of Illinois. He had a distinguished coaching career before coming to OLCHS with includes his 1991-92 team at Driscoll Catholic, which went 27-3 and fell one victory short of a state tournament appearance.
In addition, Kleemann has held many positions at OLCHS including seven years as Athletic Director, nine years as assistant boys’ basketball coach, three years as Spring Athletic Coordinator and one year as assistant girls’ basketball coach. With so much involvement at OLCHS, it was hard for Kleemann to pick just one highlight to remember, so he lists his “Top Five Favorite Memories.”
“Number five is a tie,” he said. “It was beating Reavis in football on a game-ending field goal. It was at Reavis in 2002 on their twentieth anniversary of the state championship team. Our coach Art Panka was a member of that team. Being able to enjoy that win with him and his staff was special.”
“The 2005 Richards football game is right there. We had portable lights and hosted nearly 5,000 people on both sides. It was quite an event.”
Kleemann then continued his list.
“Number four was watching the girls’ basketball sectional in 2003 against Mother McAuley,” he said. “It was one of the best games I’ve ever seen – even though we lost – in was an awesome event to be involved with. Number three was opening night at the Spartan Athletic Complex. This was the culmination of the efforts from so many talented people. It gave many of our sports a quality home after years of bouncing from place to place.”
“Number two was attending IHSA State Finals for wrestling, tennis, track, cheer and dance,” Kleemann said. “I am always excited to see our athletes perform on the highest stage. And my number one memory is knowing that for seven years, I was the AD and we earned nearly 30% of the conference, regional, sectional titles and state finalists won by OLCHS. Working with the coaches and athletes to achieve this was awesome.”
Kleemann will again be honored on Feb. 3 by the girls’ basketball program during Senior Night for his contributions as freshman coach this season.
“Coach Kleemann has been a tremendous asset for the school, for our basketball program, and for the Oak Lawn community for many years,” girls head coach Mark Sevedge said. “I greatly appreciate his dedication as a coach and a mentor to the young ladies in our program. Coach Kleemann’s finest trait, however, is his heart. He genuinely cares about everyone he comes in contact with, and that is what we will miss most as he begins this next chapter of life.”