The man on the bench leading the Rockridge boys basketball team as its head coach next season will look mighty familiar to Rocket fans.
Andy Saey, the assistant coach to Toby Whiteman the last three years at Rockridge, was officially approved as the man to replace him Monday night.
Whiteman, who stepped down after six seasons to spend more time with his family, is happy to see Saey get the nod. Saey was his assistant when Rockridge took second in the state in Class 2A in 2016 and third in 2015.
“He’s been a big part of our program the last three years, and I’ve always made comments that he’s always been like a co-head coach,” Whiteman said Monday night. “I think he’s going to do an unbelievably good job.”
Saey, 30, has head coaching experience, having been the head man at Galva one year before opting to join Whiteman at Rockridge three years ago. The coaches first met when Saey was coaching Whiteman’s son, Gentry, on an AAU team when Gentry was going into eighth grade.
Gentry was a senior all-stater for the Rockets this past season. Saey is the current coach of the Quad City Elite AAU 17-under team. Recent team members such as Tyler Hall (Montana State), Nicholas Baer (Iowa), former Rockridge star Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), C.J. Carr (SIUE) and Isaiah Roby (Nebraska) have gone on to earn Division I scholarships.
Saey is a Western Illinois graduate. He teaches special education at the middle school level at Rockridge.
Saey believes the work ethic displayed in his three years at Rockridge, along with the fact that he has a similar vision and outlook for the program to Whiteman, were all pluses in his hiring.
“The vision and the outlook for the program doesn’t change very much,” Saey said. “My views and my hopes for the program are kind of parallel to Coach Whiteman’s.”
Like Whiteman, he plans to utilize the strengths of the players he has.
He welcomes back 6-foot-8 Jesus Vargas and Riley Fetterer, a pair of second-team all-Three Rivers Conference players, as well as Dalton Wolf and Michael Griffin plus a sophomore team that won the conference.
“And we have a good incoming freshman class for next year,” Saey said.
Saey is clearly excited to be the head coach and likes the community and support he’s seen in his three years there.
“It feels like home to me,” he said. “I enjoy being around the kids. I enjoy the parents who value the hard work and dedication that goes into this program and allow the coaches to do their jobs and coach, and the teachers to do their jobs and teach. And the administration has been pretty much perfect.
"It’s a really good environment, and it’s a really good culture and I am glad to be a part of it.”