Through his 17 seasons as coach at Elmhurst College, Mark Scherer believed there could be something special about Millikin basketball.
Now the veteran coach will get his chance to make it happen.
“I'm excited to be at Millikin,” said Scherer, who was introduced Tuesday as the new Big Blue coach. “I always thought it would be a great opportunity, a great privilege to coach here.”
Scherer became the winningest coach in Elmhurst history, compiling a record of 245-189 during his stay at the school.
He won a CCIW championship and had seven top two conference finishes with the Bluejays. His teams made two trips to the NCAA Tournament.
But he left the school is 2013 to attend to family matters.
“I stepped away because we had some serious illness in our immediate family,” Scherer said. “We needed to address that over a period of years.
“My family is healthy now and doing well so I feel like it is appropriate for me to get back in.”
Millikin Director of Athletics Craig White was more than ready to make that happen as Scherer fit the parameters outlined by White, especially his ability to win in the CCIW.
“I think men's basketball is the toughest from top to bottom and nationally, if there is a tougher conference, I want to hear about it,” White said. “Take this year for example, the top six or seven schools just beat each other up. It was impressive to watch. And it's a young conference. It's only going to be tougher next year.
“So I thought it was important to know what you're taking on. You have to know there is no easy road. There is no easy way. And coach Scherer absolutely knows what he's getting into. He has beaten these teams.
“And that made him so attractive.”
Scherer replaces Matt Nadelhoffer who left after a 3-22 season. Millikin has not won more than nine games since the 2008-09 season. But Scherer said he was not discouraged by that.
“Let's be frank. There's a lot of opportunity for improvement to be made,” he said. “I saw it as an opportunity to come in and make a difference. I saw the struggles the program has had as a chance to come in and make a positive difference and impact young people's lives.”
He also turned a couple of other perceived negatives into reasons for taking the job.
Lack of support from school officials:
“When I met with them, I felt not only a desire to succeed and to get better, but I saw a plan of action that I was confident would work,” Scherer said. “So when I saw that commitment from the administration I knew that Millikin was the place to be.
“I wouldn't be here otherwise.”
“I think that Millikin is the big house on the corner in the CCIW which means that we're the only CCIW school in the area,” he said. “It's a great launching point for recruiting. And we can recruit areas other conference schools can't. And we can be successful at that.”
Scherer pointed to his success recruiting central Illinois while at Elmhurst, including getting Zack Boyd of Warrensburg-Latham and Nick Sanford of St. Teresa to attend the school.
Scherer will take over his new duties on Monday when he will have to play catchup on the recruiting trail.
Prior to coaching at Elmhurst, Scherer spent four years as an assistant coach at Valparaiso. He also was an assistant at Western Illinois for two years.
His coaching career began as junior varsity coach at Sullivan High School after a brief professional basketball career overseas.