When Marty Hammond was asked his year of graduation from Alden-Hebron, he went for the school’s most famous class ever.
“I was on the ‘52 team, does that work?” Hammond said.
Hammond actually was born six years after the Giants became the smallest school ever to win the IHSA Boys Basketball State Tournament. Still, Hammond believes a large part of A-H has always been with him, and now he is back.
Hammond and Todd Mathis were approved as girls and boys head basketball coaches by the School District 19 board at Tuesday’s meeting. Hammond graduated from A-H in 1976, and Mathis has previous ties with the Giants as head girls basketball coach and, this season, as sophomore boys coach.
A-H athletic director John Lalor said both coaches planned on implementing some kind of traveling program to get young players more games at earlier ages.
Hammond was fired by Woodstock after nine seasons with a 75-122 record, although the Blue Streaks won a Class 3A regional championship this season. His former Woodstock player, Jen Nichols-Hogle, who had been A-H’s girls coach, took over at Woodstock, which left the A-H job open.
“I always wanted to stay with coaching, and when the opportunity came, I was happy to put my name in,” Hammond said. “When you grow up in a town like that, the town is part of you and it never leaves you.”
Neither Hammond nor Mathis teaches at the high school.
Mathis was girls head coach for four seasons and was excited to take over for Tom Duffy, who coached A-H's boys team for one season.
“I grew up in a small town in central Illinois [Rushville] and can relate to the community,” Mathis said. “I like their attitude and work habits. We have some good boys returning and some good ones coming up from the sophomores. We’re raising the bar.”
Mathis wants to work with former A-H coach Dale Jandron and get a travel program for younger players in place. He started something similar for girls players, and this year’s senior class benefited from that program.
“I hope to have them going this fall,” Mathis said. “It depends on the numbers with the kids.”
Lalor liked that Mathis and Hammond both wanted to get more going with younger players.
“Todd’s all fired up,” Lalor said. “He’s going to get us help with the lower programs like Dale did. Our kids need to play more. We have a few who play a lot, but not enough.”