“Let It Rip.” That’s the motto emblazoned on the Oak Lawn Community High School Boys Basketball player’s pregame warmup shirts. Since head coach Jason Rhodes took command of the program in 2011, the Spartans have been ripping off regular-season wins, tournament titles, and most recently back-to-back South Suburban Conference Red Championships. In fact, this year they are hunting down a possible three-peat as conference champs.
But Tuesday night as the Spartans took care of business in a convincing win over rival Reavis on Senior Night, Rhodes reached a milestone of his own. He notched win number 200 as the head man at Oak Lawn.
Taking over a team that had a spike in wins over the last few years of his predecessor Scott Atkins’ tenure, Rhodes focused on building team culture from the beginning. Tenacious defense, a dedication to the program, and the introduction of a grueling preseason boot camp paved the way to consistent success for the Spartans.
“The wins are the byproduct of having some really good players who are bought into the team concept and committed to the identity we’ve tried to build here that starts on the defensive side of the ball,” Rhodes said. “I’ve also been fortunate to have some incredible assistant coaches that have been incredibly invested in the development of our players and the continued improvement of our program: the work that Colin Altenburg does with our guys every day is nothing short of exceptional, and his daily input is so highly valued and appreciated. He’s helped take our program to another level. Nate Haubenraiser before him built strong relationships with our players and imbued them with confidence and belief. Jim Lamb before him helped us lay the foundation for what was to come, putting in countless hours with our players and youth programs.”
Rhodes is securely second on Oak Lawn’s All-Time list for coaching wins with the boys, following only famed Len Scaduto, who guided the Spartans to 411 wins in his 29-year career. Rhodes has amassed his 200 wins in just 13 seasons.
“All we want to do is play the game in a manner that makes our school, community, and alumni proud,” Rhodes said. “We try to pour our hearts into every season, give our players the tools they need to succeed, and improve on the margins wherever we can. We want it to mean something to be a part of the Oak Lawn basketball program. It’s been fun to see that vision come together, especially in recent years, and all the credit is due to the kids who put on that uniform and go to battle for us every Tuesday and Friday night.”
The Spartans will continue to chase down a third-straight conference crown Friday night against Tinley Park in Spartan Gymnasium. The Spartans certainly will be ready to “Let It Rip.”