Matt Ryndak did a lot of encouraging this past season.
Though he could be tough on his Crete-Monee basketball players when the need arose, Ryndak was always the first to praise someone for a screen or boxing out under the basket. He wasn't always so complimentary about his own efforts.
Even after leading the Warriors to a school-record 25-4 season, which included the program's first-ever sectional title, Ryndak sees the need for improvement in himself.
"I don't think I did a phenomenal job," Ryndak said. "I think I could have done some things better. You learn as you go along, and I was fortunate to have great players and great assistant coaches."
Despite his tough self-analysis, Ryndak has been chosen as the Times Coach of the Year for leading the Warriors within a game of the Class 4A Final Four. Crete had been in Class 3A prior to this year.
"He was the big difference for me," said senior Greg Mays, who didn't see much floor time as a junior. "He told me I was a good player, then went out and pushed me to get better. I can't say enough about him."
Senior guard Kentrell King missed much of the season with a hand injury, but he still credited Ryndak for making the 2010-11 campaign special.
"The greatest season in my life," King said. "We had a lot of fun, and Coach made sure we all jelled and played together."
Ryndak praised his players for buying into his philosophy, and assistants Jim Jensen, Al Hutton and D.J. Posley for making sure every detail was taken care of.
"When you have a talent like Jamee (Crockett) and Michael (Orris) as leaders and an extension of what you are trying to do, that makes it real easy," Ryndak said. "We just had that team chemistry, and you give Jamee and Mike a lot of the credit, as well as the others for being willing to work hard."
One of the season's lighter moments was when Ryndak and Jensen raced.
"That should be the headline in the paper -- 'Ryndak loses race,'" Crockett said. "You should have seen it. We all laughed."
Added Ryndak with a smile: "Crockett, I won, (but) I guess that I better re-evaluate my fitness and dietary habits."
In the midst of the fun, Ryndak has had to deal with some off-the court-concerns.
The night the Warriors beat Thornton to win the Class 4A Thornwood Sectional, his uncle Ken died. Ryndak didn't learn of his death until the following Wednesday -- the day after Crete fell to Normal in the Class 4A Illinois State Supersectional.
His maternal grandmother, who helped raise Ryndak, has also fallen ill, so the East Leyden graduate has spent a lot of time driving back and forth to see her.
"It has been rough on me," Ryndak said. "I was pretty close with my uncle. We'd go to his place in the summer. My grandma and I are also very close."
One of the turning points of Crete's season was a one-point overtime loss at home to Rich South in the Warriors' Southland Athletic Conference opener. The players were understandably down, and it wasn't so much what Ryndak said to them afterward, but what he didn't say that really resonated with them.
"I just told them to keep their heads down for a few minutes and (then) let's put this one behind us," Ryndak said. "We let it get it away, but we had a lot of games left."
Crockett said Ryndak's assurance was a key in the Warriors coming back to win the SAC title outright.
"He didn't get on us," Crockett said. "He knew we felt bad. He focused more on us getting ready for the next game and making sure we were together."
"Together" is the key word. The team ate pregame meals at Aurelio's and reached out into the communities that feed into the high school.
"There was a craft show and we, as a team, helped clean up after it," Crockett said. "(Ryndak) doesn't just teach basketball."
Mays echoed Crockett's sentiments.
"Grades, community, being a good person off the court -- he stressed all of that," Mays said. "You see that he is that kind of person. Coach will do anything to help you."