Mike Dunn may have not had the chance to go into York High School during his interview process, but he knows the school well.
Dunn's great-grandfather was Clarence D. East, York's first athletic director, a coach and teacher there for 36 years. The football field is named after East, the school's first coach. Dunn's grandmother attended York.
"I have family ties that go back generations in Elmhurst," Dunn said. "For me to get the opportunity, it was a dream."
That opportunity became official this week, as Dunn – formerly the head coach at Yorkville – was approved as York's new boys basketball coach. He replaces Vince Doran, who stepped away in May after eight seasons as head coach.
Doran is a good friend of Dunn's, and told him he was stepping down at York. Dunn, a 2001 Wheaton North graduate, recalled being in the Elmhurst area a lot growing up. A couple uncles have lived there. Dunn remembered watching former All-Stater Tom Kleinschmidt and Gordon Tech play in a sectional championship game held at York in 1990.
Dunn, 37, was a head coach at Yorkville for 14 years, the last five as boys basketball coach.
"For me, telling my Yorkville kids I was leaving, it was very difficult; it was a bittersweet moment," Dunn said. "It's a dream come true for me but I love those kids. It's difficult, a hard thing to do, a dream for myself and my family, no doubt about that with the connections and the legacy, something very attractive to me."
Also attractive was leading a program that mirrors the hard-nosed, defensive-minded style that Dunn hung his hat on at Yorkville.
"Vince, his coaching mentality and philosophy is the same as mine, building a winning culture, winning on and off the court," Dunn said. "We've both prided ourselves on good team defense and offensively very similar philosophies, sharing the basketball. We've tried to model the same thing at Yorkville. For me I want to maintain what was built and grow it."
It's good timing. Dunn takes over a program that's won a combined 57 games the past two years, the two most winningest seasons in school history.
The Dukes graduate Suburban Life Player of the Year Nate Shockey off last year's 28-5 team, but his backcourt mate Jeff Grace will be back for his fourth year varsity season. Nick Hesch, a 6-foot-6 rising junior, is among several underclassmen who received significant varsity minutes last season.
"The program is in a great place," Dunn said. "The record speaks for itself. I watched a lot of their tape from last year. The one thing that stuck out is they play with relentless effort. I'm very excited. Hopefully we'll get a chance to get back in the fall and see what happens."
Dunn in five seasons as boys basketball coach at Yorkville won 64 games, and in 2018 won the program's first conference championship since 2005. Prior to that he was Yorkville girls volleyball coach from 2007-2015, winning a school record 160 matches, three conference championships and one regional title.
York Athletic Director Rob Wagner said that trying to replace Doran was "big shoes to fill." York had over 30 candidates apply for the position. Wagner said that Dunn's personable nature stood out to the selection committee in three rounds of interviews done over Zoom calls.
"Talking to Mike, you feel like you've known him for years," Wagner said. "That quality really sold me on him."
Wagner has already witnessed first-hand how Dunn interacts with his kids, as York started its boys basketball camp this week.
"He does a great job with the kids, is personable and student-oriented," Wagner said. "Mike and Vince are very similar in regards to their approach in terms of game-planning. Doing some reference checks, we found that not too many people outwork Mike. He is a workaholic and a grinder like Vince. Every minute he's not with the kids he's planning. That is very evident."
Dunn looks forward to getting to know his two players in camp the next few weeks, even if it a little different during the coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm excited about it, getting the chance to meet the kids in whatever way we can," Dunn said. "We'll just do some skill stuff, be safe and take the cautious approach because we have to."