BETHALTO — Nick Smith received an early birthday present Monday night. And Luke Angelo got the gift he wanted.
Both were named head coaches at Civic Memorial High School. Smith, who turned 38 on Tuesday, is the new baseball coach. Angelo, 39, is the new softball coach. The school board approved both of them at its Monday meeting.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Smith, a 1996 CM graduate and former assistant coach for the Eagles. “Any time you can come back to your own school and be a head coach, it’s a great feeling.”
Angelo, a 1995 Marquette Catholic High grad and CM assistant since 2005, is equally enthused.
“I want to thank the school board for this opportunity,” Angelo said. “I’m very excited about it and hopefully, we can do some great things.”
New Eagles’ director of athletics Adam Miller, formerly the AD at East Alton-Wood River, figures that Smith and Angelo will keep the Eagles flying in the right direction. Smith replaces Gary Bruening and Angelo takes over for Mike Eddy.
“Both Nick and Luke have big shoes to fill of legendary CM coaches,” Miller said. Bruening compiled a 352-266 record in two stints — covering 20 years — as the head baseball coach and Eddy sported a 250-189 mark in 14 seasons of softball.
Miller added, “Nick has years of experience and that will serve him well. His passion and love for baseball is obvious and extremely important in a high school coach. Luke is a longtime assistant and was part of the program when it brought home a state trophy (fourth in Class 3A, 2011). Luke has some great ideas for the program and we are looking forward to him putting his stamp on our program.”
Smith also will serve as assistant football coach this fall. He works at Fitness and Fun in Bethalto and has spent his whole life in sports. His dad, Dan, was a CM assistant coach.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” said Smith, working this summer as an assistant coach for the American Senior Legion Metro East Bears. He previously was manager of the Bethalto Legion team and was an assistant coach for Todd Haug at Alton High the past three years.
Smith noted, “It’s a good fit for me to be involved with coaching football in the fall and then go over to coaching baseball in the spring. Being an assistant baseball coach the last three years at Alton has helped me all-around to prepare for becoming a head coach. The experience there was absolutely the best.”
CM logged an 18-16 record last season in the Mississippi Valley Conference and Smith seeks for the Eagles to maintain their competitive ways.
“I want to have a good mix of things,” he said in regard to his style of play. “We will play some small ball and I’m big on details. We want to be fundamentally sound.”
He expects the Eagles to be in the thick of the things in the rugged MVC.
“The conference is extremely strong from top to bottom,” Smith said. “It’s tough, but being successful is something that can be done. You can point to Highland, which has won a couple of state championships.”
Angelo aims to stir similar success in softball. The Eagles went 30-7 in 2011 and 24-13 a year later. They haven’t enjoyed a winning season since 2012.
“I think we are going to have some big numbers with the incoming freshmen and that’s encouraging,” said Angelo, a fourth-grade teacher in Meadowbrook. “We want to have a junior varsity program, along with a middle school one. We have a varsity-only program now.”
He senses that the Eagles can fly high if they can accelerate their game.
“I love to have speed on the bases and put pressure on the opponents’ defense,” Angelo said. “We want to be aggressive and have a Rachel Keller-style of play.”
Keller was a key cog for success-driven CM teams and then went on to a solid college career at SIUE.
It’s the first high school head coaching job for Angelo, once a junior high head coach in Virginia. His dad, Steve, is an assistant baseball coach at Marquette, so Angelo comes from a sports-minded family. He intends to play with defending champion Westco, now Peel Wood Fried Pizza, in the upcoming Illinois ASA Class C Co-Ed State Tournament at Gordon Moore Park in August.
As for what Angelo expects from the Eagles, he said: “I want the players to have a good attitude, work hard and give everything they have every day. Anything is possible and our first goal is to win the conference.”