Gene Heidkamp hits a new milestone for Benet Academy basketball

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Earlier this month, Benet Academy boys basketball coach Gene Heidkamp set a new milestone by becoming the winningest coach in program history with 368 victories, breaking the record of Bill Geist, who helmed the Redwings from 1969 to 1987. He has only added to that total thanks to a strong 13-0 start to the season. This accomplishment is no surprise to the school, the basketball team, and the athletic department. This Feature Story is sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health.

“He wins every year, and he wins with whatever he gets. That’s fun to see whether we have big guys, point guards, the whole package. I think he gets the best out of his team every single year. So, as an athletic department, are we shocked that he got this milestone? No. So I can’t wait to see what he does with this group this year, too,” said Benet Academy Athletic Director Scott Lawler. 

“I have been appreciative of all the players and the coaches that I’ve worked with and the tradition of better basketball. I didn’t get too caught up in it because it was just one of those things where I’ve been here for a long time and been very, lucky to have a lot of really good players, and that led to the milestone,” said Benet Academy basketball boach Gene Heidkamp. 

A gamble paid off

It was a bit of a risk when Benet tapped Heidkamp to take the reigns for a retiring Marty Gaughn in 2008 after tallying a record of 24-57 at Nazareth Academy. But since the hiring, Heidkamp has rewarded the school’s faith in his leadership by winning numerous conference, regional and sectional titles, highlighted by three state runner-up trophies in 2014, 2016 and last season in 2023. He’s had the privilege to coach great players in past seasons, but Heidkamp knows it’s all about consistency on the court. 

“My goal is just to have a consistent program to try to be good every year. I don’t I don’t say any goals as far as trying to win a state championship or, you know, win a certain number of games. It’s to try to get the most out of every team and try to be good every year,” said Heidkamp. 

“The players have made the program an have gotten us to this level It’s not just the really good players. It’s also just the regular guys who come to practice every day, give us everything that they have, our scout team players, guys who maybe don’t get as much playing time as they would like. They contribute every day, and they’re a huge part of the success of the program,” said Heidkamp. 

New players same team success

What makes Coach Hiedkamp’s tenure so impressive is being able to field a strong team season after season even when suffering key losses due to graduation. Last year’s runner-up team went 35-2 but graduated four senior starters. Parker Sulaver is the only returning starter, and yet the team is once again amongst the state’s elite, with mostly underclassmen and new varsity team members. Sulaver credits the culture set by the program’s leader and the expectations set by previous generations of Redwings for the success on the hardwood.

“There are so many great teams that have been in the past and overall course of his career. It feels nice to be in the time of when it happened, but I recognize the greater scheme and what it means to be a part of the Benet basketball community, of just all the greatness that came before us,” said Benet varsity starter Parker Sulaver. 

Gene Heidkamp and the Redwings are ready to challenge the best

The Redwings have a lot of work to do if they want to make another run at the 4A state title, but the boys have already been well-tested by the likes of St. Pats, Marist, and a recent overtime thriller against Naperville North. The annual schedule gauntlet will only continue as the Wings take the court in the historic Pontiac holiday tournament that features powerhouse teams like Simeon, Bloom Township, New Trier, and Curie, followed by a mid-January clash with Thornton on the Benet home court. While Coach Heidkamp is happy to continue to add to his own all-time wins record, the focus is always to get his squad ready to face the challenges down the road on the court and off. 

“I think you just worry about what’s in front of you, I don’t get too caught up in how many games we win or, you know, long-term goals for each team. Just more about trying to get better every day and figure out a way to put yourselves in positions that you want to be in February and March,” said Heidkamp. 

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