Mark Redding has never been a coach who is comfortable being praised.
Anytime the longtime area girls’ basketball coach is applauded for his efforts, he is quick to credit his players or mention other coaches who perhaps deserve the attention more.
Yet it is tough to overlook what Redding did this past season. In leading Carroll to its first-ever Summit Athletic Conference title, second-ever regional championship and falling just a win short of a state championship game appearance, Redding and his team have raised the bar of the program, just like he did a decade ago in Elmhurst’s final years.
While other coaches definitely impressed, it was Redding who emerged above the rest.
For that, Outside the Huddle has named Redding as its OTH 2020-21 Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
“I don’t know if I deserve it over others like Akilah Sims, Rod Parker and Eric Thornton, but it is an honor,” said Redding when told about the award. “There are a lot of local coaches who did a very good job this year under the circumstances.”
Just over a decade ago, Redding coached Elmhurst to the top of the SAC – beating out elite foes like Concordia Lutheran South Side to now only win the conference, but in 2009 capture a state championship.
Now with Carroll, Redding has done it again in a new-look SAC. Gone are Elmhurst and Harding, with the Chargers and Homestead the relative newbies. Yet Redding has taken a second league program to the top of the heap. Knocking off Homestead in double overtime on Dec. 4 not only handed the Spartans their first-ever SAC regular-season loss, it also laid the groundwork for Carroll to climb to the top of the league, replacing its rival as THE team to beat.
“The hurdle was Homestead, but you have to remember that we still had good teams to play in the conference,” Redding said. “Bishop Luers and Concordia were tough, and we kind of lucked out by playing South Side without Olivia (Smith).
“It’s a tough league, one of the toughest in the state. For us to win it is a testament to our girls.”
There is that selflessness again. Redding has won 334 games over 26 season as a girls’ basketball head coach, so he knows a thing or two about coaching teams up to their potential. This past year’s group was headlined by a mix of experienced upperclassmen and some talented youth. Under Redding’s tutelage, the group came together to finish 25-3 and set countless program records – including most wins in a season, most total points, highest scoring average and most overall offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, steals and more.
Redding is quick to point out that it is not as if Carroll was void of success prior to his arrival in 2012.
“My goal when I took this job was to be at the level that Coach Lisa Miller (now Lisa McBride) built it up to, and I have been fortunate enough to do that,” Redding said. “The coaching is there, but you have to have players to get the job done.”
Redding points to earlier coaches as a catalyst, but the truth is that Carroll has won more sectional titles (six) under his leadership than the program won in the preceding 35 years before him (five).
And while this past year’s team fell just short of its ultimate goal of making a 4A state title game, the future is bright. Emily Parrett and Delane Sheets will graduate, but a core group that includes the Jackson twins, Taylor Fordyce, Lexi Castator and others will return.
Expectations will be high again, and it will be Redding’s job to lead the way.
“We were like this at Elmhurst where in 2009 we won state and brought almost everyone back the next year,” Redding said. “But we didn’t accomplish what we wanted. There were a lot of distractions with Elmhurst set to close, but we cannot take for granted what we did. We have to work twice as hard to be that team again in the SAC and set our sights higher.”
With Redding in control going forward, the SAC may have its new dominant force atop the standings. The challenge will be great to stay there, but the pieces are in place.
Just do not expect Redding to take any credit for it.