Manual graduate takes over for Limestone HS team

Willie Coleman will be back on the sidelines this winter, swapping orange and black for blue and white.

The former Manuel Boys basketball coach will take on the same role at Limestone, accepting the job on Wednesday morning.

Coleman resigned earlier this month from his coaching job at Manual High School. He was 60-58 in his five seasons at the helm of Peoria’s iconic program, including a state finals appearance in 2019. At Limestone, he replaces Tony Thomason, who resigned in May.

Coleman will also serve as a guidance counselor at the Bartonville-based Mid-Illini Conference School, a key reason he pursued the job. While coaching Manual, Coleman worked as a counselor at Trewyn School in Peoria.

“It’s a plus to be with the kids and get to know them. It’ll be helpful,” Coleman said. “Definitely a good choice for me there.

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Limestone sporting director Brian Clausen said Coleman’s resume “speaks for itself”, but he’s more excited about what Coleman brings as a mentor.

“Education is a big part of him and his family,” Clausen said, mentioning Coleman’s wife, Annette, the principal of Peoria High. “He loves kids and education. I’ve only heard positive things from a lot of people.”

Clausen said about nine people applied for the position. He and Limestone Superintendent Allan Gresham discussed Coleman’s hiring with the school board Tuesday night, getting his “blessing,” Clausen said. Coleman’s hire will be official at the July meeting, Clausen said.

Coleman is expected to start at Limestone in early August, he said. Coleman should then meet with the remaining assistants and determine his staff and meet the team.

“I will always be on the south side,” Coleman said. “I’m just moving on to put what I learned at Manual somewhere else.”

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Limestone was 9-20 last season and last won a regional title in 2013 en route to third place statewide in Class 3A under coach Temple of Eddie Mathews fame. The Rockets last won MI in 2014, the program’s first conference title since DeAaron Williams led the Rockets to three straight MI titles from 2002-04.

Mid-Illini’s balance of power has recently shifted to Washington and Metamora, who have won or shared seven of eight titles since winning Limestone in 2014. Metamora is coming off a runner-up finish in the 3A State Finals.

“It’s a different style of play, but if the guys accept it will be fine,” Coleman said. “The Mid-Illini are always competitive. … I hope to play at pace, but we’ll see what the squad and chemistry looks like.”

Background:Manuel boys’ basketball coach quits after 5 seasons at Peoria school

Coleman played at Manual from 1992 to 1995, the first three of those seasons under legendary coach Dick Van Scyoc. He was the starting guard for the Manual State Champions in 1994. In 1995, he played for Wayne McClain and the Manual State Championship repeat team.

Coleman followed Derrick Booth as manual head coach, taking over in 2017-18 and leading the Rams to a fourth-place finish in the state in 2018-19.

Wes Huett is sports editor for the Journal Star. Email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @WesHuett.

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