Lee Monroe has taken two years off from coaching since 2003. And after both of those seasons off, he was ready to get back on the sidelines.

Lee Monroe has taken two years off from coaching since 2003. And after both of those seasons off, he was ready to get back on the sidelines.

This time, it will be as the head girls basketball coach of his alma mater, Kewanee High School.

“I think it’s really cool to go back and coach at the school you graduated from and participated in sports at,” he said.

As a junior in high school, Monroe was part of a Boilermaker basketball team under head coach Mike Kirkham that went 27-2 and won a AA regional championship, before falling to Moline. The 27 wins from the 1979-1980 Kewanee team is tied for the second-most in school history. They finished the season ranked 14th in the final AP poll, behind mainly Chicago schools.

“That’s the only gym (KHS’ Brockman Gym) in the state where I can take my team into a hallway and show them a ball that says ‘27-2’ and has my name on it,” he said referencing his junior year team. “I want to be part of something like that again. It’s home. Kewanee is home to me.”

Monroe takes over for Kurtis Smyth, who resigned last month after accepting a job as the dean of students and athletic director in Galva. Smyth led the Boiler Girls to a 14-15 record this past season, which was his only year as head coach.

Monroe served as the Central 8th grade boys basketball coach from 2003-2012. After taking a year off, he became the head girls basketball coach at Galva. In three seasons with the Lady Cats, he went 47-36 and was above .500 in each of the three seasons.

After resigning from Galva following the 2016 campaign, he was a volunteer assistant for the Kewanee boys basketball team that made it to the sweet 16 in the winter of 2017.

Monroe, who retired from the Kewanee Police Department in 2013, was set to hold his first practice as the KHS head coach Tuesday night.

“We’ll be in the gym today (Tuesday) for about two hours,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We’ve got quite a few contact days left and we’re gonna spend a lot of time in the gym working on fundamentals.”

Defensively, Monroe wants to instill a tough man-to-man defense.

“I’ve always liked to coach an aggressive, half-court man-to-man defense. I’m not big on pressing,” Monroe said. “Offensively, we’ll run a pattern offense. We’re going to get into that a little bit breaking it down in the summer, but probably won’t go through a total offense.”

The Boiler Girls have a handful of games left on the summer schedule, providing Monroe an opportunity to learn a little bit about his personnel.

“I would have loved to have been in here two weeks into May and see if there’s some things I wanted to tweak,” said Monroe. “It’s going to be real tough starting the season off in November, installing everything new. By Christmas, we’re going to be playing some pretty good basketball I hope.”

As Monroe takes over a Boiler Girl program that hasn’t won a regional crown since 1991, he wants to set a foundation of hard work and form an identity as a scrappy team.

“The best compliment you can get is that you get the most out of the players you have on your team,” he stated.

Kewanee graduated five seniors off of last season’s team, including 1,500-plus point scorer, Mitrese Smith.