Lenti closes in state's all-time win mark

Frank Lenti said it his success has been the result of the entire Mount Carmel community. Scott Powers for ESPNChicago.com

Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti is in position to become the state's winningest football coach when the Caravan face St. Joseph on Saturday.

Lenti has been Mount Carmel's head coach since he took over for Bill Barz in 1984. In 28 seasons, Lenti has put together a 306-54 record, won nine state championships and played in 14 state title games. His 306th win tied former Richards coach Gary Korhonen.

On Thursday, Lenti talked about his upcoming historic day, his career to date, when he hopes to retire and much more.

What does this record mean to you?

Frank Lenti: I really haven't given it much thought to tell you the truth. I haven't played a down of football in years. To me, it's about everyone who has been involved. It's not just me. I probably had to deal with the pressures more than anybody else. It's about the kids. It's the parents, the Carmelites, the faculty, definitely my own family -- Kim, Frankie, Lauren -- the assistant coaches, in particular my brother David and Pete Kammholz, who have been coaching with me the entire time, so many other coaches who played for me. First and foremost, it's the players and their parents. It's the parents who invested in their son's education to come to Mount Carmel.

Has the record been a distraction this season?

FL: I have never mentioned it to any of the kids on the team. We didn't mention tying the record to the kids last week. I don't want the kids to have any burden. Those things just happen because you have good assistants and good kids and good family. It's always been about the ‘we' thing, not the ‘me' thing as long as we've run the program.

What do you credit to having achieved so much success?

FL: I don't think you can credit that to one particular area. The fact we're always striving to raise the standards. My mantra has never changed. As long as I've been coaching, I've wanted the kids to be the best people they can be, the best students they can be and then the best athletes they can be. Ultimately, when they graduate from Mount Carmel, we want them to be responsible young adults.

What are you most proud of having achieved so far?

FL: I've never thought of anything in regard to a single thing as the greatest achievement. I really haven't. The focus has always been on making the kids the best they can be in those three areas, raising those standards, pushing the kids as leaders from behind or in front and pushing the kids to be the best they could be.

When you began coaching, is this the type of career you had hoped to have?

FL: I never envisioned anything like what's happened. As a young assistant coach, you hope to have the opportunity to be a head coach if it's the right fit. For me to come back to my alma mater and to be an assistant for a couple years and then to take over for Bill Barz was an awesome responsibility. When I took over, people asked me why I wanted to follow coach Barz. He had won a state and was the winningest coach in Mount Carmel's history. They said, ‘You're not going to be able to follow that.' I said my idea was not to maintain what Bill had built, but to enhance it.

How much longer would you like to coach?

FL: We know we're still having a positive impact on the kids. I'm hoping I have another 7-8 years to go.

Anything else you wanted to add?

FL: From my end, it's a big thank you for anyone involved the past 27 ½ years of the program. I wish coach Frank Kiszka was here to see it. He was a statistician from 1965 to when he passed away a few years ago. As his mother said, he was married to Mount Carmel. He was the hockey moderator. He was the football statistician. He and my brother coached baseball for many years. He's one of those deemed Mr. Mount Carmel.