FRANK E. LENTI: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF A LEGEND
There are many superlatives that have been used to describe Frank E. Lenti - “The Greatest of All Time,” “One in a Million,” “The Dean of High School Football Coaches” - but these barely skim the surface of the legendary coach who dedicated his professional life to the student-athletes of Mount Carmel High School - not just the football players, but the runners, the swimmers, and the golfers, too. His pursuit of personal excellence and dedication to the team could translate to any sport. He studied the best coaches - the difference makers - and like many of them, developed a philosophy of developing athletes who were good people and good students first, and good players second. All Men of Mount Carmel were welcome in his office, and their problems, concerns, hopes, and dreams became his as well.
Frank E. Lenti is a member of the Mount Carmel Class of 1969. Baseball was his athletic passion, and he was chosen the captain of the team for his senior year. Under beloved coach Tom Lyons, Frank earned All-Catholic League Honors to cap off his high school career. He continued his studies at Loyola University, completing his Bachelor’s Degree in 1973, and then going on to receive a Master’s Degree in Education from Chicago State University in 1980.
In 1982, Frank joined the Mount Carmel faculty as an English teacher and assistant football coach. In April 1984, he was named the 18th head coach of the Caravan football team. The huge responsibility of taking charge of the program was not lost on him. He methodically constructed a plan – a process with due regard for tradition, regimen, self-discipline, and teamwork – that became a benchmark of excellence in coaching high school football. He understood the importance of bringing in coaches who were as committed to and inspired by, high school football as he was. The hours were long, the practices were intense, but Frank would not let mediocrity or complacency taint his vision. If you were in, you were in all the way: no excuses, no regrets.
Mount Carmel Football evolved into the premier football program in the state. People admired the championships that Lenti-led teams were racking up, but they were more impressed by the man himself: tough, firm, driven, and content to have found a calling in coaching high school kids. Job opportunities from up the coaching ladder presented themselves frequently, but Frank felt that by choosing the life of a college or pro coach, he would subject his family to an unstable and uncertain future. The connection he had made with his coaches, his players, and the entire Mount Carmel community was enough for him. He was making a difference in the lives of so many young men at a time when they needed a strong mentor and role model.
In 1988, Frank was named Athletic Director at Mount Carmel. It was then that he expanded his role as counselor to boys in all athletic programs. He relished the opportunity to work with coaches in all sports, to help young coaches learn how to create and maintain a successful program. He developed a philosophy of “coaching the coaches”, which he organized into a presentation that he shared often at speaking engagements. The basis of his theory was that after becoming thoroughly acquainted with a system, individual coaches should be given the opportunity to put their own stamp on what gets put on the field, court, etc. It’s up to the head coach to concentrate on the big picture and offer guidance and encouragement to his staff, without micromanaging their area of expertise. The incredible coaches who made up the football staff over the years were certainly a testament to his way of thinking. Most could be head coaches in other high school programs, and many did leave to accept head coaching positions elsewhere. However, a good number always remained, and their dedication to the Brown and White helped make the Mount Carmel football program the envy of the state.
Coach Lenti amassed three hundred and seventy-four wins (to just seventy-seven losses) during his illustrious career at Mount Carmel, earning him the Illinois state record for the number of wins by a head coach at one school. He has received a myriad of awards for his coaching success, and for the impact, he has had on the lives of the thousands of young men who have played for him. The accolades are great, but he cherishes most the time he spent with his fellow coaches, his colleagues on the Mount Carmel staff, the students, and their families. He feels closely connected to every athlete who trusted his process and his program. It’s apparent that his players feel the same way about him, as evidenced by the number who return year after year, to share stories of personal success with their old coach, or to reminisce about the glory days of their high school careers. They have come to recognize how valuable the life lessons he taught them have been, and how lucky they were to have played for such a legendary coach.
While Frank E. Lenti’s tenure as the head coach of the Mount Carmel football team has come to an end, as all coaches’ tenures eventually do, his legend continues. His legacy is not only a tradition of excellence in the program’s past but also a model for its continued success in the future.
The Mount Carmel community is invited to celebrate Frank Lenti at the Legend of Lenti event on June 30. A scholarship is also being established in Frank Lenti's name. Visit www.mchs.org/Lenti for details and tickets.