Dave Lay was always drawn to the idea of coaching at a bigger school, but the thought of moving and starting over didn’t appeal to him.
He found the best of both worlds at Oswego.
Lay, the head girls basketball coach at Plano for the past four seasons, has been hired for the same position at Oswego. He replaces John Carlson, who stepped down at the end of last season.
The 47-year-old Lay, who lives in Yorkville, is a graduate of Waubonsie Valley, where his dad was a teacher and coach. Lay will continue on as an eighth grade math and science teacher at Plano Middle School.
“I grew up with an awareness and fondness of Oswego and what they do,” Lay said. “I’m established here, I live in Yorkville, teach in Plano. The opportunity opened that was close, didn’t have to move, I wanted to kick the tires on it. The more I looked into it and talked to the people there, I got really excited about it. It was not an easy decision but at the end of the day it was the best decision for me.”
Oswego and Lay’s Plano team mirrored themselves in some respects this past season.
Both teams were quite young, and on top of that dealt with injuries. Plano finished 3-28, while Oswego struggled to a 2-26 finish.
But Lay doesn’t look at his new position as a long-term rebuild, and recent program history supports that thought. Oswego won back-to-back regional titles in 2019 and 2020 with a sectional title the first year, after a three-win season in 2017-2018. at Oswego, Lay will have three times as many girls and more athletes to work with than at Plano.
“When I was doing my research for interviews one of the people I talked to was John Carlson – we have a lot of mutual respect – and when I asked him the pros and cons he had nothing negative to say, it was all positive,” Lay said. “It’s striking to see the parallel of our seasons. The youth, the injuries on top of it. Just like at Plano, there’s a lot of good pieces, and the future is bright. I can’t wait to get to work with them.”
Oswego athletic director Darren Howard said that Lay was impressive in his presentation, and felt like he was the “answer for the next step we need to take for the rebuild.” Howard acknowledged that the past couple years have been challenging with COVID and budget concerns creating a perfect storm that affected all sports, “but we’re coming out of it.”
“He [Lay] basically hit all the steps we were looking for – working with the junior high, building a comprehensive, cohesive situation with our junior and feeder coaches, building a knowledgeable high school staff, connecting with the girls in the school and incoming freshmen both in a basketball sense as student-athletes and as people,” Howard said. “We liked his experience, the things he has done at Plano and feel he will do a nice job. It feels like a natural progression to what John has accomplished.”
Lay admitted that his head is still spinning with the whirlwind of just being offered the job last Friday. His goal is to meet with his new players in the next week. Siarra O’Neill is going to stay on as an assistant, but Lay needs to figure out the rest of his staff. He’s also working on the team’s June calendar.
“My first focus is establishing the culture, the family vibe that I really pushed at Plano,” Lay said. “We have each other’s backs, pulling from the same rope. If we do everything right the wins will come. The reality is we’re not going to go from 2-26 to 26-2, but we can make strides. The focus has to be on doing the little things and working hard day by day. The rest will take care of itself.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle