Photo by Bill Roseberry
CM athletics director Steve Carey doing what he does best, being hands on and dragging the softball field Bethalto Sports Complex. After 33 years working in the Bethalto School District, including the last 23 as the AD, Carey is retiring at the end of the school year.
Steve Carey is retiring as the Civic Memorial High director of athletics before the end of the month. But those who know the 56-year-old Carey figure he will stay as active as ever.
There will be no rockin’ chair for the robust Carey.
“His energy level is unsurpassed by anybody,” said friend Mike Harmon, an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer. “Steve must have the metabolism of a hummingbird.”
That inner voice driving Carey certainly earned him ample respect from his peers.
Harmon said, “He set the gold standard for athletics directors. Others ADs were always asking him how to do things.”
Jersey director of athletics Scott Tonsor, a former CM coach, plus EA-WR athletics director Adam Miller, who will take over for Carey at CM, can attest to that.
“Mr. Carey always treated me with respect and gave me great guidance while at CM,” Tonsor said. “He was so dedicated to every athlete at both CM and Trimpe Middle School.
Tonsor added, “He wanted each and every kid to succeed. His commitment to the kids, whether it be on the field or around the horseshoe at lunch, was greatly admired by everyone.”
Miller realizes he has big shoes to fill at CM, but he said working with Carey has helped him for things to come.
“Steve is the dean of local athletics directors,” Miller said. “For those of us that started out as ADs recently, he is the one guy you can always go to who knows why something is done a certain way, or how to make something for your school.”
Miller noted, “Steve has been the embodiment of CM sports for so long, it’s hard to imagine a time when he wasn’t there. He’s the ultimate pro. Whether it’s interacting with other ADs, officials, teams, coaches, players and parents, Steve is always professional and provides a great model for how other ADs should do things.”
Some of it has been a learning process for Carey, and other times it’s just a natural progression. He is a Bethalto guy from beginning to end.
Carey was a standout baseball and basketball player at CM and graduated in 1978. Once he earned a degree from SIUE in 1983, he turned to his hometown to teach and coach. Carey stayed 33 years and served as director of athletics the final 23 of those years.
No doubt, he will miss some things, including overseeing the Bethalto Sports Complex, which he tended to as if it were his garden.
Now, Carey will get to play more golf, one of his loves. He coached the boys’ team for 30 years, recording 277 wins along the way. He will hand over those coaching responsibilities to Ty Laux this fall.
“I’ll miss always being on the move,” Carey said of his daily school duties. “With 18 sports and the levels within each, the job keeps you busy.”
Yet those busy days provided him with a sense of joy. The gregarious Carey enjoyed mixing with students and fellow coaches.
“What I’ll remember the most is the relationships with the kids,” he said. “My basketball players are all grown, married and have families. The friendships that develop are priceless and last a lifetime.”
He went on, “As an athletics director, it’s working with ADs across the state. You develop relationships so that you can maintain competition throughout the years.”
The Eagles have enjoyed their share of success in the Mississippi Valley Conference and Carey took pride in all of their championships.
“Working in the MVC has been really enjoyable,” he said. “It’s a great group of guys that work very well together. It’s also a group that has always been flexible and ready to help when unforeseen conflicts arise. I really appreciated that aspect of it.”
Harmon guided the CM boys’ basketball program from 1985-1994 and Carey was with him for most of the time. Harmon wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Without him, we wouldn’t have won as many games as we did,” Harmon said, pointing to those 149 victories, including three 20-win seasons. “Steve was like a co-coach and my right-hand man — absolutely. I can’t say enough about him.”
Harmon pointed out, “He was AD my last year as head coach. And if you think about the things he has done for the program, it’s amazing.
“Since he became AD, there’s a new gym, weight room and a sports complex. They go directly to him and his vision for sports at CM.”
Carey picked up some of his sports insight from his dad, Jim, the Eagles’ head basketball coach from 1964-74. Younger brother Doug has served as CM’s head coach the past four seasons.
“I don’t think there was any one person that influenced me the most,” Carey said. “But with my dad teaching and coaching for 10 years at CM, and being able to hang out at practices, games and in the locker room when I was a little guy, I’m sure that had some sort of influence as far as my direction toward education and coaching.”
The biggest thing is that Carey always had a sense of security in Bethalto. After all, it’s his home.
“It was just a very comfortable fit from the beginning,” he said. “Although I really wasn’t ready to give up coaching basketball, I knew the opportunity to be an AD wouldn’t come around again very soon.”
Carey added, “The learning curve regarding the job was a challenge, but already knowing everyone and where things were located made it rather seamless.”
So what will Bethalto’s Man in Motion do next?
“I’ll probably play a little more golf and go to spring training in Jupiter,” he said. “But most important will be seeing my (four) grandkids.”
Miller knows he can call on him whenever needed. Carey is that kind of a dependable guy.
“He will be sorely missed around our area because he’s a great source of information,” Miller said. “He’s always willing to help, but most important, he’s a great person.”
“He was always very equitable in his treatment of people and he always treated me with respect and gave me great guidance,” he said.
And Tonsor took a bit of CM with him when returned to Jersey High, his alma mater. There were those life lessons he absorbed from Carey.
“As an AD myself now, I take much of what I do from how he did it,” Tonsor said. “I have a few people who complain how I do things and want to accuse me of doing it like ‘CM’.
“My question to them is always the same, ‘Why would I not do it like them?’ Mr. Carey has done a fantastic job there for many years. To reinvent the wheel seems silly.”
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