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Why he’s Coach of the Year: The Storm’s sixth-year coach saw his program reach a Class 1A super-sectional in 2020 and sought to build off that despite the lack of an IHSA postseason this school year. Russell’s program compiled a 13-0 record en route to capturing the Vermilion Valley Conference title, led by a defense that allowed an average of 27 points per game and never permitted more than 40 points in a single outing.

Russell’s season highlights: “Finishing undefeated in both our conference and our season record. The triple-overtime win over Watseka, which entered the game 14-0, was special. So was a four-point win over Paxton-Buckley-Loda. We finished the season ranked second in the MaxPreps 1A Illinois high school girls’ basketball rankings and fifth in the Associated Press 1A Illinois girls’ high school basketball rankings. And we were the first team in Salt Fork girls’ basketball history to go undefeated.”

A sporting event he needs tickets to see is ... any Final Four championship in both men’s and women’s basketball.

If he wasn’t a coach ... I would have to find a way to stay connected with sports. I have been playing, coaching or officiating sports for my entire life. There are so many benefits that come with being a part of any sport that I would have to continue to do something involving sports.

➜ His favorite motivational tactic is ... having my team read motivational quotes by other athletes and having my team watch motivational videos produced by other people that have been involved in sports.

His favorite subject to study in school was ... science. This is one reason why I am a high school science teacher.

His favorite athlete is ... Magic Johnson. When I was growing up, I always enjoyed watching the Lakers with Magic running the show.

His favorite TV show is ... “NCIS.”

If he could have dinner with any three people from any time period, they would be ... Abraham Lincoln, John Wooden and Pat Summitt.

What he enjoys most about coaching is ... working with the student-athletes, helping them achieve their goals, seeing the looks on their faces when we are able to accomplish something monumental and helping them work and compete at their highest level.

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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