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Gatton replaces Czarnecki at Oak Forest

Thursday, October 08, 2009  
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October 8, 2009
BY PAT DISABATO
 
After months of uncertainty, the Ron Czarnecki era is officially over at Oak Forest High School.
 

The school named Thaddeus Gatton its new varsity baseball coach.

"It's a tough way to go out," Czarnecki said. "It's time to move on."

Czarnecki compiled a 160-76 mark over seven seasons, which included five consecutive conference titles, five straight 20-win seasons and three straight regional championships.

His ouster stemmed from the complaints of a player's father. Scot Costello notified the school in May that Czarnecki chewed smokeless tobacco during games and in his classroom. Tobacco products are prohibited on school grounds.

Costello conceded he had an ax to grind after his son, Packy, was denied an opportunity to play in front of family on Senior Day.

Despite support from the community and his colleagues, Oak Forest suspended Czarnecki for a year, although it allowed him to coach the team during the summer. The suspension took effect in August.

Czarnecki, however, doesn't expect to be asked back. Calls to Oak Forest seeking comment were not returned.

"The way I see it, I'm out," the 49-year-old said. "This has been a nightmare. All the time I spent in the program and to go out like this is tough. But I've got to accept it. I have a family and other things to think about."

He does hope to receive a chance to coach at the varsity level again.

"I hope to coach somewhere," Czarnecki said. "If that means leaving Oak Forest, I'm willing to do that. I think I mix well with kids and get the most out of their abilities.

"Our priorities have always been God and family, then school and sports.

Looking back, Czarnecki said he regretted his decision to violate a District 228 rule.

"Obviously, if I knew the implications were going to be this I would have never brought that stuff to school," Czarnecki said. "I want kids to do the right thing and I want to do the right thing by them. It's a bad habit."

Gatton is a physical education teacher at Oak Forest and a member of the football coaching staff.

He has been an assistant baseball coach for the Bengals for six seasons, most recent as the freshman coach. A former baseball player at Rockford College, he is the former head coach at Manteno High School and was an assistant for three years at Providence Catholic.

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