Long time coming: Lincoln-Way West assistant coach Larry Lokanc inducted into IHSFCA Hall of Fame

Lokanc has been an assistant since 1973 at 3 schools, including Providence and Lincoln-Way West

Larry Lokanc (left) speaks to a player on the sideline during a game.

The term, “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” often is used in sports. Sometimes it’s used for a team that frequently makes the state semifinals without ever winning the title. Perhaps it’s for a racer who always finishes on the podium, but never in first. Or maybe it’s used to describe someone who has been an assistant coach their entire career, but never head coach.

Larry Lokanc might fit into that “always a bridesmaid” category. Last month, however, he finally walked down the aisle to a place most head coaches only dream of reaching: The Hall of Fame.

Lokanc, an assistant football coach for Lincoln-Way West, was inducted into the IHSFCA Hall of Fame on March 23. He was inducted after completing his 50th year as an assistant with three high school programs.

After 50 years as a defensive coordinator and assistant coach, Lokanc wasn’t expecting to get the call that he was going into the Hall of Fame. He said he was honored and humbled to receive it, but would’ve been A-OK regardless.

“I was obviously surprised [when I found out],” Lokanc said. “Most coaches would tell you that you didn’t get into the business to get into the Hall. It just comes as a sideline.”

Larry Lokanc (right) is inducted into the IHSFCA Hall of Fame on March 23, 2024

Lokanc attended Marist High School before playing college football at Illinois State before joining the coaching staff at Carl Sandburg High School. He spent the next 19 years as defensive coordinator before accepting a position with Providence Catholic, where his sons Luke and Lance played. He was there the next 10 years

After Dave Ernst became the head coach at Lincoln-Way West, he offered Luke the position of defensive coordinator. He gave Larry a call to see if he’d be interested in a position, as well. Larry accepted and he’s been there ever since, with Luke serving as the head coach since 2020. He’s had tremendous success at all three stops, including seven state championships at Providence.

None of that is what he remembers the most about his five decades of service.

“The families that I’ve worked with at all three schools were exceptional,” Lokanc said, “great kids, families. I was honored to work with some really great coaches, a few of who are already in the Hall of Fame.”

Of course, you don’t spend 50 years in the business without seeing some special talent come through. Lokanc coached former Notre Dame star and NFL defensive lineman Jeff Alm at Sandburg along with College Football Hall of Famer Pat Fitzgerald. Eight-year NFL veteran Eric Steinbach roamed the field at Providence during Larry’s time, and current NFL linebacker B.J. Bello learned from him at Lincoln-Way West.

Ask Larry about the people who stand out most to him during his tenure, however, and he doesn’t talk about the accolades they’ve earned in football. He doesn’t talk about the teams they’ve played for. To him, it’s about what they’ve done as human beings that matters most.

Larry Lokanc (right) talks to the players at Lincoln-Way West during a game.

“The Koehler family at Sandburg had five boys that are all successful now,” Larry said. “One is a professor, one is a CEO of a law firm, another works for State Farm, one is a chef and the other is a mason contractor. That family stands way out. Kids who have been doctors, policemen, firemen, the main thing isn’t about what they did when they played football but how they took football with them when they left.”

Larry’s made a ton of connections in his career. Former Providence head coach Matt Senffner, Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar and former Lincoln-Way Central head coach Hud Venerable all played a part in getting Larry inducted along with Luke and Lance, who has been at Lincoln-Way East for over 20 years. He’s extremely proud to have made such connections and to see his sons coach the game “the right way” like his father, Al Lokanc, did before them.

Larry said he’s excited about the young coaches in the area, especially at Lincoln-Way West. He’s grateful for his wife, Connie, whom he calls “the true coach of the family.” He’ll continue to remain grateful for as long as he continues to coach.

How long will that be?

“Every year, I say one more year,” he said with a laugh. “I still enjoy doing it, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing it, so chances are it’ll be one more year.”