May 13, 2010
JOLIET, Ill.—John Baines, who recently finished his 10th season as an assistant coach for the highly successful program at Elmhurst College, has been named just the third head men’s basketball coach in the 38-year history of the University of St. Francis program. Baines will replace 34-year veteran Pat Sullivan who retired in March at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season.
Baines, 34, is a native of Bloomington, Ill., and played basketball at Illinois Wesleyan University for Hall of Fame coach Dennie Bridges. He was a member of the Titans’ 1997 NCAA Division III national championship team.
He began his coaching career in 1998 as the sophomore basketball and baseball coach at Bloomington (Ill.) High School. He moved to Elmhurst two years later where he began a 10-year association with Bluejays’ head basketball coach Mark Scherer. During his 10 seasons under Scherer, Baines helped the Bluejays compile a 176-107 record. Additionally, Elmhurst posted the five best won-lost records in school history, captured its only College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin title and reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Division III tournament in one of two national tourney appearances during that time.
“We are extremely excited that John Baines has accepted our offer to become just the third head men’s basketball coach in the 38-year history of our program,” said USF Director of Athletics Dave Laketa. “John has turned down other offers in the past because they weren’t the right fit for him at the time. He believes and we believe he is the right fit for St. Francis at this time.
“To come out of this search as the top candidate out of the better than 320 that applied is a pretty big accomplishment in itself, especially considering how experienced the committee was and how diligent and thorough they were throughout the process,” continued Laketa. “It speaks loudly for the person that John is both from a coaching and values standpoint.”
In his first season at Elmhurst in 2000-01, Baines helped Scherer direct the Bluejays to a school-best
22-5 record and the only CCIW title in the program’s 63-year history. The team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Division III tournament that year and was ranked as high as sixth nationally during the course of the season.
That marked just the first of six times in a 10-year span when Elmhurst placed either first or second (five times) in the prestigious CCIW. The Bluejays added two more seasons with 20 or more wins – 21-6 in 2006-07 and 20-8 in 2008-09 – and returned to the national tournament again following the 2008-09 campaign.
“If the success with former Elmhurst College coaches at the University down the road (neighboring Lewis University in Romeoville who hired former Elmhurst coaches Jim Whitesell and Scott Trost) is any indication,” added Laketa, “the future of the men’s basketball program here at St. Francis is very bright. Elmhurst has served as a tremendous entry point in the coaching careers of many young assistant and head coaches that have gone on to do great things in the profession.”As the chief recruiter on Scherer’s staff, Baines helped lure 16 Illinois All-State players to Elmhurst. All of his four-year and transfer recruits have either graduated or are on track to earn their degrees from Elmhurst. Emphasizing academics as well as basketball, Baines helped to oversee an Elmhurst team that posted a cumulative 3.00 grade point average this past year.
“No matter who we talked to in the coaching and recruiting circles,” said Laketa, “to a man they said that they always saw John Baines in the gym recruiting, whether it was during the season or over the summer.
“He not only knows the top seniors,” continued Laketa, “but Mark Scherer says that John also already has a beat on the top 30 sophomore and junior Division III prospects in the state. The guy certainly does his homework.”
Baines’ duties at Elmhurst were not limited to coaching basketball. During his decade at EC, Baines has served at various times as Assistant to the Athletic Director (2006-present), head women’s golf coach (2003-06) and head men’s tennis coach (2000-04). He coached a pair of All-CCIW golfers in his three seasons with the women’s golf program and directed the men’s tennis squad to its second-best record in school history in 2004.
Baines has been a part of successful small college basketball programs since he enrolled at Illinois Wesleyan in 1994. As a four-year player for Bridges and the Titans, he was part of teams that compiled an overall record of 103-14, participated in two NCAA Division III Final Fours, three Elite Eights and four Sweet Sixteens. As a junior in 1997, Baines was a forward for IWU’s national championship team. The Titans had placed third in the nation one year earlier in 1996.
“In closing,” said Laketa, “I know I can speak for the entire search committee when I say that we feel very strongly that the program Bob Penosky started here in 1972 and the one Pat Sullivan built on that became respected both in and outside the arena is in good hands with John Baines.”
Baines graduated from Illinois Wesleyan in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in secondary education. He earned a Master’s in sports administration from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2003.
Baines is single and resides in Chicago.