Serena High School AD Dean DeRango set to retire June 3

Many life turns helped lead to more than 2 ‘enjoyable’ decades at the Home of the Huskers

Serena High School athletic director Dean DeRango, pictured here hanging with Huskers mascot Bob the Cob, will be retiring from the position after 20 years on June 3.

In any sport, the game plan isn’t always going work out, and adjustments have to be made.

That goes for the game of life, as well, but some will say the ups and downs of it all is what makes it fun.

For Serena High School athletic director Dean DeRango, the path that led him to what will be retirement from the position after 20 years June 3, while at times uncertain, has made for a tremendous “enjoyable” career.

“I graduated from La Salle-Peru and then went to Illinois Valley Community College for 10 years,” DeRango said. “When I graduated from IVCC the ladies at the desk gave me a plaque that read ‘Student of the Decade.’ I had tied the record for the most credit hours earned in the history of the school, but I hear that’s been passed now.”

DeRango’s main focus at IVCC was studies in a computer programming language called RPG 2. But in a matter of a weekend during his second year at IVCC the program was canned nationwide, and he unenrolled the next day.

From there he said he worked in construction and owned a record store in La Salle for five years, and he took business classes at IVCC. His life then took another turn.

“In a conversation with a friend of mine, they said, ‘You’re always playing sports. Tonica junior high school is looking for a coach and you should apply.’ I did, and in the interview they told me they were really also looking for a teacher, but after a month they called me back and offered me the basketball job.”

“I’ve also been blessed to have some really great coaches and people to work with here. They all made my job much easier and more enjoyable. It’s been great.”

—  Dean DeRango, Serena High School athletic director who will be retiring after 20 years on June 3

He recalls in his first game, Tonica played Oglesby Washington, with the seventh grade squad winning on a last-second shot 14-12 and the eighth grade team winning by 20.

“They thought they hired the next Bobby Knight. Everyone was so excited,” DeRango said. “Then we didn’t win another game the rest of the season. But I really found I enjoyed coaching.”

The next spring he coached track and field, and the next school year added volleyball and baseball. Also helping then-Tonica High School coach Frank Scariot.

During that time he also was finishing out classes at IVCC for his two-year degree. He then quit coaching at Tonica and enrolled at Illinois State University and graduated there after 2 1/2 years at the age of 30. Then started his first teaching position.

“The principal at Tonica had become the superintendent at Ashton-Franklin Center High School and offered me the physical education teacher position,” DeRango said. “Then after three years there I took a job at Pittsfield High School and was there for 10 years, while coaching a number of different sports.”

DeRango said after a decade at Pittsfield he began to have the desire to return to the Illinois Valley area.

“I was ready to start looking for something back here when the PE/health teacher and girls volleyball positions became open here at Serena, and Frank, who was then driver’s education and athletic director, reached out to me. I jump at the chance.”

Just a year later, DeRango took over as AD. He figures between coaching and his job as AD, he has attended over 4,300 athletic events.

In his 21 years at Serena, DeRango has coached boys soccer (19 years), girls volleyball (two years), track and field (five years) and cross county (one year).

“While there are so many people to thank that have helped me along the way, there are two big ones,” DeRango said. “Dan Joyce, former longtime Serena principal and superintendent, and Pat Leonard, former Serena High School principal and current Ottawa High School principal.

“Dan was the best administrator I’ve ever worked for. He was always there to help me and give me encouragement. Pat was also the best at what he did, as well, and spent hours and hours talking over different decisions that had to be made. I can never thank them both enough.

“I’ve also been blessed to have some really great coaches and people to work with here. They all made my job much easier and more enjoyable.

“It’s been great.”

Serena High School athletic director Dean DeRango cuts down the net after the Huskers won the Little Ten boys basketball tournament championship this past February at Somonauk High School.
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