Back in the spring of 2017, three Woodstock North sophomores asked Thunder athletic director Brady Stromquist for a meeting about the varsity boys basketball coaching job.
Zach White, Ryan Schaffter and Matt Fallaw had a candidate in mind, someone with whom most young players around Woodstock were familiar. They recommended Dale Jandron, who had started the Woodstock Boys Basketball Feeder League and had coached them as eighth-graders two years earlier.
“We talked about why we think he’s a great guy, and why he should get the job,” White said. “I don’t know how much of a factor that was, but we did it.”
Three weeks later, the Thunder players were ecstatic when they learned Jandron was going to be their coach.
“It wasn’t the end-all, but it was a nice factor knowing your athletes are going to be behind and excited about the person leading your program,” Stromquist said.
On Friday night, North made school history with a 67-63 victory over Genoa-Kingston for the championship of the Class 3A G-K Regional, the Thunder’s first such title in the school’s 10-year history.
Jandron was the last one up the ladder to cut the last piece of the net, which he then hung around his neck.
“I’m happy for the kids and the school,” Jandron said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
The players and fans, both from North and Woodstock High School, rejoiced for the program, as well as Jandron.
“It was big for me and the team,” forward Carter Coalson said. “But it was especially big for him. To start the tradition here and win a regional in his second year is pretty big.”
North (17-14) plays Glenbard South (23-6) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in a Marengo Sectional semifinal. Johnsburg (20-13) faces Burlington Central (24-8) in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. semifinal.
Johnsburg and Burlington won regionals and met in last year’s sectional semifinal, which Burlington won. They split in the regular season and Burlington won the Kishwaukee River Conference, with Johnsburg one game behind.
North finished fourth in the KRC and had its first winning season in program history. The Thunder then joined this year’s volleyball team as the school’s only regional winners.
Jandron, 51, grew up playing basketball in Negaunee, Michigan. After high school, he played city league with his older brother, Robby, who died last year at 61. Jandron came to visit his sister, Vickie Spitzer, one summer in Woodstock, met a girl and wound up moving to Illinois.
That girl, Becky Streit, became his wife and usually keeps the scorebook for Thunder games.
Jandron started the Woodstock feeder league about 20 years ago. He worked as an assistant coach at Woodstock under former coaches J.C. Wise and Joe Conroy; he worked at Marian Central as an assistant under former coach Bob Sweeney. He was head coach at Alden-Hebron in 2012 and ’13, and his boys, Drew and Josh, played at Woodstock North. Josh is the school’s career scoring leader and a volunteer assistant with his father.
“I just love basketball. There’s something about it, ever since I played with my older brother, he was my role model,” Jandron said. “We came from a big basketball family background. It was bred into me.”
When Steve Ryan stepped down in 2017, Jandron jumped at the chance to coach the Thunder.
“He has a love for basketball, a love for the kids,” Stromquist said. “Seeing him bring them to a regional championship was awesome.”
Since some players had known Jandron since third grade, they had a good idea what they were getting with their new coach.
“He’s intense, but once you get used to it, you know that intensity’s a good thing,” Schaffter said. “He’s just pushing you to become better and better. I’ve never actually had him be wrong, if that makes sense. The game plan always works, sometimes we stray away from it, but if we stay with it, we always win.”
Jandron thought the team could make a jump last year, but Collin Mergl, who would have been a fourth-year starter, suffered a broken leg toward the end of the football season and missed all but the last few games. The Thunder finished 7-19.
“This year, we came in with a different state of mind and realized we could really get it done,” Coalson said. “Fresh start, new team, new goals, everything, and it kind of worked out.”
Neither Jandron nor the Thunder are surprised with the success. He put tough teams such as Rock Falls, Ridgewood, Byron and Crystal Lake South on the schedule to help toughen North up for the postseason.
“I really wanted us to play some harder games in bigger gyms for us to get ready for what we’ve never really seen,” he said. “The environment [at G-K] was unreal. It was a great thing.”