At a meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, La Salle-Peru superintendent Steve Wrobleski heard plenty of feedback about the school’s choice for athletic director.
And it made him feel better about the decision.
“I was with some prominent Ottawans and all I kept hearing was that we stole a good one, that it’s going to be a big loss for Ottawa and they’re going to miss him,” Wrobleski said. “It’s nice to hear things like that about how an individual is recognized and perceived.”
At a special board meeting Thursday, L-P hired 2002 Ottawa graduate Dan Le as its next athletics and activities director.
Le has spent the last 10 years as a teacher, coach and administrator at his alma mater.
“It’s really humbling and exciting,” Le said. “There’s a lot of emotion running through me being an Ottawa guy and stepping into a role at La Salle-Peru. It’s exciting and I look forward to seeing what I can do for the La Salle-Peru athletic program.
“There’s going to be quite an adjustment period, but I look forward to the next step in my career. I look forward to serving the L-P students, coaches and community to the best of my ability. I’m ready to get going.”
Le spent his first eight years at Ottawa as a math teacher before serving the last two years as the district instructional coach, which Le described as a “curriculum director type role.”
He’s coached freshman boys basketball, served as an assistant varsity girls basketball coach and coached boys and girls tennis at the JV and varsity levels for his entire tenure at Ottawa.
Le, who played basketball and was a conference champion in tennis while a student at Ottawa, also served as the school’s super fan coordinator.
“I’ve always been interested in taking on a leadership position at a school,” said Le, who attended the University of Illinois. “Being from Ottawa, I have a familiarity with the La Salle-Peru community and school. I think the two communities and schools are very similar. Based on my experience here at Ottawa in a variety of capacities, I thought it would be a good fit.”
Wrobleski and the hiring committee felt Le was a good fit for several reasons.
“Dan was a finalist who stood out with the interview team for a variety of reasons,” Wrobleski said. “His personal and professional value system came through very strongly. I think he’s very servant-minded in his beliefs. He’s incredibly organized. I think he has a very positive attitude in terms of how he approaches situations.
“One other factor that stood out for us is Dan is from the area. I think he knows the culture of the Illinois Valley. He understands L-P vs. Ottawa and the amazing relationship between our schools. We’re excited about him taking the reins and leading the department.”
Wrobleski also was impressed with Le’s involvement with Ottawa’s super fans, and Le is excited to join another passionate fan base.
“I’ve seen a lot of energy there,” Le said. “I’ve always been impressed with the number of kids that come to the Ottawa vs. L-P games. There’s a sense of school pride and support. That buzz that comes with the Ottawa vs. L-P rivalry makes for a heck of an environment whether it’s inside a gym or on the football field. The last two years at the Ottawa and L-P football games, seeing the involvement and sound level the kids have brought, that’s been impressive. I hope to see it continue and continue to grow. Nothing is better for student-athletes than a lot of student support.”
Le said he hopes to bring some continuity to a position that’s seen a lot of turnover in recent years.
After Greg Sarver held the position from 2004-12, L-P has gone through D’Wayne Bates (2012-15), Randy Gunia (2015-16 school year), Chris Kirkpatrick (2016-17 school year) and Kevin Parker (2017-19).
“Hopefully, I can bring, No. 1, some stability,” Le said. “I really look forward to getting to know the coaches and student-athletes and getting to know the community as well. I want to help our athletic program progress and move forward as best as possible. Talking with some of the coaches, they seem like a group that wants what’s best for the kids, which I would expect at any school. I’m looking forward to overseeing the progress of L-P athletics and serving the coaches, athletes and community in the best way I can.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.